Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Hotel Kabuki is a quiet, relaxing alternative to touristy San Francisco areas, but the amenities are minimal, and there aren't a lot of nightlife options.
Kabuki is a highly stylized Japanese costume drama, so it's a bit ironic that the San Francisco hotel sharing its name is so serene. Located in the heart of Japantown, the Hotel Kabuki offers an escape from the drama of high-traffic city areas. At the Kabuki, you won't hear the clanging of a cable car, the partying of the Castro, or the braying of the tourist hordes at the Wharf, but you will hear the "aaahhhhhs" as guests lower themselves into their deep, in-room soaking tubs. Visitors who plan ahead can also get their Zen on -- free of charge for hot and cold pools, and a large steam room and sauna -- at the nearby Kabuki Springs & Spa, which draws folks from all over the city. Or, they can simply meditate amongst the bonsai trees, pigeons, and koi in the hotel's Japanese garden.
Overall, the rooms are in need of an upgrade, but the bedding is fresh and details like the fusuma panels, rice paper shoji screens, and teakettles takes the mind off the neglect. The bathroom layout is odd, but that's because of the deep soaking tub, so it's a fair trade-off. The staff oozes "Serenity Now!" but they don't take themselves too seriously.
Amenities are few, and the downturn in the tourist industry has led to a scaling back of perks, but the killer views, traditional Japanese decor, laid-back ambience, and warm solitary soaks are what the Hotel Kabuki has to offer. The Kabuki's Japanese baseball-inspired O Izakaya Lounge is a favorite of local foodies who come for the creative shared plates (an izakaya is basically Japanese tapas), sake flights and shochu cocktails. It's not the the most happening spot in town, but it's one of the more intriguing.
The same can be said for Japantown, which offers quiet nights at a reasonable price in a small authentic neighborhood. The Kabuki can cost less than $150 a night, a great deal considering it's only a mile from Union Square and under 2.5 miles from the Fell Street entrance to Golden Gate Park. The hotel, and Japantown itself, offers visitors a unique San Francisco experience for less yen. Maybe that's why the Kabuki seems so Zen, and so lacking in drama.
Like the vibe, the service at the Hotel Kabuki is low-key.
There is a Buddhist saying, "do not speak, unless it improves on silence," which is the vibe at the Kabuki. Everyone was gracious and attentive, but for the most part, the staff takes a low-key approach. The Hotel Kabuki is steeped in serenity, so the staff's presence is understated. It's not the kind of place where joke-telling bell captains take charge (try the Serrano Hotel in Union Square for that), but it isn't unfriendly either.
However, the Kabuki isn't staffed to the gills, and the recession has put a hold on turndowns and dinnertime room service. There's also no on-site concierge, but the parking attendants can set up an airport shuttle, no problem.
Hotel Kabuki is tucked away from the crowds in the heart of Japantown, but not far from major attractions.
Following the 1906 earthquake, a sizeable Japanese community grew out of the rubble at the southern end of Pacific Heights, but the internment during World War II devastated the area. It never regrew to its prewar size, but Japantown has steadfastly held onto its core, a roughly six-block area with designer Yoshiro Taniguchi's five-tier, 100-foot Peace Pagoda as its centerpiece. The commercial district of Japantown is made up of the three buildings housing the Japan Center. Connected to the Kabuki through a shared entryway, it's a mall without chain stores that has plenty of inexpensive restaurants, a Kinokuniya Bookstore, and shops with Japanese items like antiques, bonsai trees, toys, and cat-themed knickknacks. Other than a few lackluster bars, there isn't a lot whole lot to do in the neighborhood after 8 p.m.
For more interesting nightlife options, the Fillmore District is a short walk. A historically African-American neighborhood, the area has seen hard times and is still rough around the edges, but it's been revitalized in the last few years. The Fillmore is now home to a number of shops, eateries and music venues, most notably upscale jazz club/Japanese restaurant Yoshi's. Producer Bill Graham's legendary Fillmore Auditorium, the place back in the psychedelic rock days, remains an intimate spot with shows almost every night.
Until 2007, the Hotel Kabuki was the Radisson Miyako. San-Francisco-based boutique hotel company Joie de Vivre has made a lot of improvements, and in 2011, Joie de Vivre joined forces with Thompson Hotels to form JT Hospitality, Hotel Kabuki's current proprietors. New 26-inch LCD televisions, Serta Concierge bedding, and accent vinyl on the wall behind the bed, come together with the traditional touches like the lacquered fusuma panels, rice paper shoji screens, and teakettles for a comfortable night's stay with Nipponese highlights. The coolest features are the Japanese soaking tubs. They're 3.5-feet deep and come with eucalyptus bath salts. (For a decadent cleansing, hire the bath butler to fill the tub, or get a package with champagne, flowers and a souvenir of your soak.)
The Kabuki offers two ways for guests to find their inner Zen: hanging out at the bonsai garden and koi pond -- although there's nowhere to sit -- or taking a soothing bath at the Kabuki Springs & Spa around the corner. The Kabuki Springs is a clean tranquil spot with a large steam room, sauna, hot and cold pools, and a gong of silence to bang when squawky folk are ruining the meditative bliss. It's men-only and women-only on alternative days; Tuesday is clothing-mandatory coed day. There hotel also offers in-room massage servicesfor a fee.
Other than a 480-square-foot family suite, there isn't much for families.
The Hotel Kabuki has a 480-square-foot, two-room Family Suite with a king and two futons surrounded by tatami mats. Other than that, however, the hotel doesn't offer anything special for families.
Highly touted Japanese small plates restaurant O Izakaya is closed for dinner on Monday and Tuesday; breakfast is available every day.
An izakaya is the Japanese equivalent of tapas and the Hotel Kabuki's version comes recommended by the San Francisco Chronicle and the neighborhood residents who come in for the fancy cocktails and extensive sake list. O Izakaya's decor is built around a Japanese baseball theme with cards adorned in the walls and on large window screens, and seven flat-screens playing games from the "land of the rising sun." O Izakaya also serves a decent breakfast buffet daily, so guests can take a look at the unique space dedicated to "Pro Yaku."
Oyster's room had wallpaper tears, lampshade stains and spots on the walls. The balcony, in particular, is grungy and the Astroturf needs to be resodded. The bathroom air filter, and the oddly placed opening to the pipes, were both in major need of a dusting. Most guests probably wouldn't open the small door, but it didn't shut all the way and curious minds want to know. On the upside, the white tiles surrounding the soaking tub were spotless.
Kabuki is exceedingly pet-friendly.
There are no weight restrictions. All rooms, minus the Japanese Suite (it features a sand garden), are available, and guests can bring two pets.
Off-the-beaten-path in Japantown, the 218-room Hotel Kabuki is a low-key alternative to the crowds and noise of downtown. It's got a serene vibe and traditional Japanese decor highlighted by the in-room soaking tubs. But the rooms are a bit worn, amenities are minimal, and the neighborhood gets quiet early.
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