MIMARU Hotel Osaka Namba Station: the #BoardGameHotel you won't get bored at
I think, if you ask people why they stay at city centre hotels, the location's always a big factor. They aren't private resorts tucked away in some scenic remote village, but that's a plus in this case. You don't have to lug your luggage far from the nearest station. And after you've checked in and settled in, there's plenty to see and do right outside.
The newest (as of this blog post) MIMARU hotel in central Osaka is in a great spot for tourists. It's a short walk from Nankai Namba and Osaka Metro Nipponbashi stations, Den Den Town and Ota Road, the Dotonbori area, and Kuromon Ichiba market. It's also right across the road from a Dragon Quest-themed Lawson convenience store.
The weird thing is, the way this hotel's designed... you might not want to go outside.
See, the theme of MIMARU Osaka Namba Station - gotta get that full hotel name in there for SEO purposes! - is board games. (And puzzles, but mostly the board games.)
Disclosure time: you can only do all the fun stuff I'm going to explain below if you're a hotel guest (i.e. you've booked a room). I wasn't compensated (financially or otherwise) or given a free stay by MIMARU Hotels for writing this post, but I was granted full access for a few hours without needing to book. I appreciate them letting me do that, because it was awesome.
And a bit of a heads-up: this post is LONG and includes a lot of photos.
If Osaka's a playground, this hotel's the library corner
Your first 'clue' (see what I did there) to the hotel's complete commitment to the theme is just inside the front doors.
This oversized board game box isn't just for decoration - you can take a photo inside it. Obviously I did that, who wouldn't?
Did you spot that this game is for up to 429 players? This is a decently-sized hotel, with some rooms offering enough space for 6.
Head up to the lobby, take a left out of the elevator, and the check-in desk is straight ahead. You can't miss it. But you're totally going to get distracted by the open plan games area on the left-hand side.
I mean, look at it. You expect a good hotel to keep the communal spaces neat and tidy, but this is board games (and card games) we're talking about. Some of these things have tens or hundreds of pieces to make sure you put back in the box. There wasn't even a stray token hiding under a table.
This space has 2 areas, including a more traditional-looking 'engawa space' where you need to take your shoes off. It's got plenty of seating, loads of games to choose from, and free soft drinks and coffee during the day. If you fancy an alcoholic drink, you can pay for craft beer on tap at the front desk and bring it back to your table.
I played a board game in here - and lost, which is typical - and then it was time to explore the rest of the hotel. There's something to see and do (and go 'oh hey, wow, that's kinda neat' at) everywhere you look.
Not many hotels boast this much attention to detail
For starters, while you're waiting for the elevator to arrive in the lobby, you can 'gamble' on how many people will exit. There are markings on the floor like spaces for roulette chips, place your bets by standing in the right spot. On the guest room floors, there are quick and simple games (a different game on each floor) set up in front of the elevators.
Standard facilities include: a compact fully furnished kitchen and dining space, a bathroom with separate bath, toilet and sink areas, TV, free Wi-Fi, an air purifier, hair dryer, and generous amounts of towels, toiletries and hangers.
It's a very new hotel, and these are seriously nice rooms. The mix of modern design and traditional Japanese sliding doors and flooring works really well.
Some rooms have different custom themes - I'll come back to that in a bit - and several feature yet more games in the 'living' space, near the kitchen area and TV. You can also borrow 2-4 more games at a time from the area downstairs, depending on the size of your group.
Without completely spoiling it, there's something else that every rooms has in common: a hunt for numerous hidden objects.
I'm not going to tell you what they are, what they look like, where they are, or how many. Just that... if you're anything like me, trying to find them all will drive you mad. You'll be late for dinner. You won't go straight out sightseeing around Osaka, because knowing that you still haven't found the last one will keep you in that room.
It took us (a group of 3) over half an hour, and we needed hints. Good luck.
That sounds like a long time to spend examining every inch of the carpet. In fact, I'm nowhere near done with the reasons to stay indoors at this hotel.
This isn't just a place to drop your bags and get some sleep
Okay, there's one important exception to mention. You can stay slightly outside if you book the exclusive 'Terrace' room (there is only one room with a terrace and it's a popular choice, snap it up):
That patio space is almost as big as my whole apartment, it has nicer chairs, and it gives you a far better view of the city.
If you're in a bigger group, you can pass the time accusing each other of fake murders, shape-shifting tendencies, and other mean things in the 'Werewolf'-themed game rooms:
You may know the game 'Werewolf' better as 'Mafia', or from playing Among Us. (Both MIMARU Hotels and I take zero responsibility for the state of your personal relationships by the time you check out.)
And if you're travelling with a child, good luck trying to prize their determined, stubborn tiny hands off of the bed slide you get in family rooms.
I really wanted to go on that slide...
Have you ever wandered around your hotel just to look at it properly? You will...
Now, let's say somehow you finally make it out of your room and back down to the lobby. Are you any closer to getting outside and exploring Osaka? Honestly, no. There are still things you haven't done, and we can't have that.
There's a hotel-wide 'spot the difference' game. There's a timed 'solve these clues to find a hidden mystery thing' game. There's a 'roll the dice to win prizes' game. There's a logic puzzle in the drinks vending machine, for goodness sake.
Let's say you complete all of that. (Or you decide to come back again another time and complete it then.) You're finally heading out into Nipponbashi. What do the hotel staff do to see you off? They give you a challenge.
Specifically, they give you a card with 'see if you can spot X nearby' on it. X could be... 4 people wearing band T-shirts. 10 restaurants that have 'Osaka' in their name. Things that encourage you to pay attention to your surroundings. It's a great idea, as long as you don't accidentally point and stare at too many people.
And now, the bit where I go into full PR mode
MIMARU Osaka Namba Station is a roomy, entertaining base for families and friend groups. I'd include solo guests who want a bigger room all to themselves, but you really need a travel companion to make the most of the games.
The furnished kitchen space in each room makes up for the hotel not having an on-site restaurant. Some MIMARU hotels offer breakfast service, but not all of them. To be honest, Osaka is Japan's food capital - you've got more than enough dining options for every meal. And if you're too caught up in a game to venture out for food, you can order takeout to the hotel lobby.
I didn't stay over this time, but I'd sure like to at some point (and it'll absolutely be in a 'Werewolf' room, assuming I can rope in enough friends). It's decently priced per night for the facilities and location, you have a lot of space and amenities, and the service is top notch.
The Apartment Hotel MIMARU chain has locations in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto (for now). MIMARU's other concepts in Osaka include a 'matsuri' festival theme and a Pokemon room at Osaka Namba North, and a projector room at Osaka Shinsaibashi West. I have yet to review either of those hotels (nudge nudge).