Our Free Ritz-Carlton Stays In Japan

Other Japan posts:

Spend your money on fun experiences.  Not hotels.  You can cruise around one of the world’s greatest cities in a Mario cart!

Japanese Ritz-Carlton sampler

 

Advertiser disclosure: The Miles Genie has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products.  The Miles Genie and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

We didn’t really intend to book all Ritz-Carlton properties, but we had lots of Marriott points and these properties were a good value!  We stayed at Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, Ritz-Carlton Osaka, and the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo.

One thing I want to point out is that you can easily travel between Kyoto and Osaka by train.  If you plan to get a Japan Rail pass, you can take trains between the two cities, including bullet trains, at no extra cost.  If you don’t have a rail pass, the fare is less than $14 USD each way.  This will get you between Osaka and Kyoto in as little as 12 minutes.

I knew this when we booked, but I was so indecisive about our Japan itinerary that I waited until the last minute (about a month before) to book hotels.  As a result, we ran into availability issues.  We would have stayed in Kyoto 4 nights (or 5 nights, since 5th night is free with Marriott), but the Ritz Carlton Kyoto wasn’t available for more than our first 2 nights.

Anyway, if you want to visit Kyoto and Osaka, you don’t really need to stay in both places.  Most of the side trips (such as Nara and Kobe) that you can do from Osaka are also possible from Kyoto.  Ryan and I don’t mind hotel hopping-we’re used to it and we pack light.  But if you’d rather stay in one place, you won’t have a problem visiting Osaka from Kyoto or visiting Kyoto from Osaka.

Bullet train

It’s always tough for me to write reviews and trip reports on hotel rooms because frankly, we just don’t spend much time in our hotel room.  We like to be out exploring.  But I do have some photos I’ll share, and I’ll give as much info as I can!  Later in this post, I’ll discuss how we earned the points.

Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

  • Category 7 (future category 8)
  • 60,000 points per night (when cat 8 goes live, it will be 85,000 points per night)

Redeem Marriott Rewards points for Ritz Carlton Kyoto

This hotel is beautiful and it is in a great location, situated along the Kamogawa River.  We were able to walk to several great areas, including the Gion district.  The Gion district is where you’re most likely to spot a Geisha just after sunset.  Other nearby districts include Pontocho and Kawaramachi.  Lots of restaurants and shopping are in walking distance.

To get to the hotel from Tokyo, we took the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto.  The hotel was about a 15 minute taxi ride from Kyoto station, but we just used Kyoto’s local train network to get there.  If you have lots of luggage, a taxi is probably better. 

There are 4 restaurants, including Mizuki, a restaurant that has been awarded a Michelin Star.  The sushi there was AMAZING.  Expensive, but definitely the best sushi we’ve ever had.  The Ritz Carlton Kyoto also has a spa.

Concierge

Even though we don’t spend much time in hotel rooms while on vacation, we don’t mind splurging on luxury hotels because there are perks that come with a high-end hotel.  One of the most important perks to point out is concierge services.  I always email the concierge prior to a trip because I like to have a list of suggested activities/tours/things to see. They’ll also make reservations and assist with anything else we may need.

We visited the bamboo forest, the monkey park, and several temples, all on our first day in Kyoto thanks to some efficient planning by the wonderful concierge team at the Ritz!

Prior to arrival, the concierge team at the Ritz Carlton Kyoto emailed me a detailed plan so that we could see all of the best things in the area during our short stay.  Then once we arrived, we went to the concierge desk to ask about a few more places we knew we wanted to visit.  She changed up the plan slightly and we were able to squeeze in even more!  

There is no way I would have been able to map out a plan like that on my own.  By the end of the first day we felt like we had been in Japan for 3 days already because we were able to do so much!

Street food was delicious

The room

The room was so nice.  We had a nice view of a Japanese zen garden.  The shower and bathtub also had a nice view of the garden.

We enjoyed our tea and coffee in our kimono robes.  Speaking of coffee, most Ritz Carlton properties have Nespresso machines in every room and now I’m obsessed.  I asked for one for Christmas.  I know I’m probably late to the party on this one, but ever since our Keurig broke a few years ago, we’ve learned to love drip coffee instead of single brews.

The staff left a “Happy Honeymoon” treat in our room. It obviously wasn’t our honeymoon but it was very nice!  We also received 2 vouchers for drinks at the bar for having Marriott Gold status. 

Rates and value of redeeming points

Rates are often over $1,000, and the lowest rates I could find for any dates between now and the end of 2019 was around $750 USD after taxes and fees.  The average rate for our dates was $1258 per night, not including taxes and fees.

  • Total points redeemed: 120,000 Marriott Rewards points (40,000 Starwood points earned pre-merger)
  • Total value: $2,400

Marriott points aren’t as valuable as Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Amex Membership Rewards points.  I normally wouldn’t expect to get 2 cents per point out of a Marriott point.  

This is an exception, since rates are so high.  60,000 points for a $1200 room is actually 2 cents per point!  Our points came from SPG points, so 60,000 MR=20,000 SPG points.  If you look at cent per point value on the SPG points, it’s 6 cents per point!  I’ll explain more about that at the end of this post. 

Ritz-Carlton Osaka

  • Category 7
  • 60,000 Marriott Rewards points per night

We LOVED Osaka. Great nightlife, great food, great people.

Rate-wise, this was the cheapest of the 3 properties. The location is excellent and the service is what you would expect from a Ritz-Carlton.

The Ritz-Carlton Osaka is connected to Osaka station underground.  This makes traveling throughout the region super easy.  We were able to do a day trip to Nara and we went to dinner one night in Kobe.  Because we were so close to the train station, we wasted minimal time in transit.

The room

Ritz Osaka Marriott Rewards

Our room had a nice view of Osaka.  When I emailed the concierge prior to arrival to get information about things to do, I mentioned that it was Ryan’s birthday.  They had the room decorated with a balloon, towel animals, and a card signed by the staff with personal messages.  Also, they had chocolates and fruit for him.

We also received drink vouchers for being Marriott Rewards Gold members. 

Rates and value of redeeming points

The average rate on this hotel during our stay was about 56,000 yen per night, which would be well over $500 USD after taxes and fees for our dates.  The average rates at this property are sometimes pretty reasonable, though.  I found several dates that would be around $250 USD.  I realize that is still an expensive hotel room, but what I’m trying to say is that 60,000 Marriott points may not be worth it when the rate is $250.

If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, a $250 room would require 20,000 or ~16,700 Ultimate Rewards points, depending on which card you hold, if you book through the Ultimate Rewards booking portal.  So you’d definitely want to use the booking portal rather than transferring 60,000 Ultimate Rewards to Marriott.  Click here for more info about using Ultimate Rewards points to book Marriott hotels.

Remember how I said you usually wont get 2 cents per point out of a Marriott point? This is a great example.  60,000 points on a $500 room is less than 1 cent per point!  Normally I wouldn’t even think about using 60,000 points on a $500 room, but, our Marriott points came from pre-merger Starpoints.  So, I think of 60,000 Marriott points as 20,000 SPG points per night.  That makes the cents per point value at least 2.5 for the rates on our dates.  Since we had such a large stash of points and the rates happened to be high for our dates, we decided to just book with points.

  • Total points redeemed: 120,000 Marriott Rewards points  (40,000 Starwood points earned pre-merger)
  • Total Value: $1,000

Ritz-Carlton Tokyo

  • Category 7 (future cat 8)
  • 60,000 Marriott Rewards points per night

The Ritz Carlton Tokyo begins on the 45th level of the tallest building in the city, Midtown Tower.  The views are amazing.  You can see Tokyo tower, and on a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji.  There are 7 restaurants, and the bar on the 45th floor has some of the best views you can get in Tokyo.

The hotel is connected to the Roppongi train station.  Midtown Tower itself is also great and there are many shops and restaurants.  They had an exhibit celebrating the 90th birthday of Mickey Mouse while we were there.  The Christmas lights display was also pretty impressive.  From the train station, it was easy to get to many of the other popular districts of Tokyo.

The room

The views from our room were probably the best we’ve ever had in a hotel.  The pictures don’t do it justice, but I tried to get some.

We did not receive drink vouchers at check in and I didn’t think about asking.  But, the staff left chocolates and a bottle of champagne in our room on our first night to celebrate Ryan’s birthday, which is even better than 2 drink vouchers!

Rates are often over $1,000 per night, and the lowest rates I could find for any dates between now and the end of 2019 was around $650 USD after taxes and fees.  The average rate for our dates was just over $1000.   As you can see, peak dates such as cherry blossom season have rates of over 100,000 yen per night (which is over $1000 USD).

 

  • Total points redeemed: 120,000 Marriott Rewards points  (40,000 Starwood points earned pre-merger)
  • Total Value: $2,000

Nespresso and tea

Redemption costs and how we earned the points

Marriott’s redemption table:

new marriott award chart 2018

Currently, all 3 of these properties are category 7 so the redemption cost is 60,000 Marriott Rewards points per night.  Since I had lots of Starpoints pre-merger, I think of that as 20,000 SPG points rather than 60,000 Marriott points.  More on that in a moment.

None of these hotels had any resort fees to worry about, and hotel stays entirely booked on points usually have no taxes and fees.  One of my reservation confirmations did show some sort of fee for 400 yen (which is the equivalent of less than $4).  This definitely would not have been a deal breaker, but the fee never showed up on our final hotel bill.  The only charges we had were from the hotel’s restaurant.

Ritz-Carlton Tokyo and Ritz-Carlton Kyoto will eventually become category 8 hotels.  Category 8 pricing will not go live until 2019, so until then, these properties are available at category 7 standard pricing!  Standard pricing for category 8 will be 85,000 points per night, so we saved big here!

How we earned the points needed

We used Marriott points to book this (obviously), but those Marriott points were available to us as a result of the Marriott/Starwood merger.   Starwood was our go-to for paid hotel stays.  Also, for non-category bonus everyday spending, we used our SPG Amex cards for almost everything.   As a result, we had lots of SPG points prior to the merger.  When the merger happened, those points were multiplied by 3 and converted to Marriott points.  

Sidenote: Redemption costs for many luxury properties were not multiplied by 3.  Translation: big savings if you had SPG points prior to the merger!! Click here for more info.

20,000 pre-merger Starpoints equals 60,000 Marriott points 

Prior to the merger, SPG points were significantly more valuable than Marriott points.  It would have been a huge blow to SPG members if Marriott moved SPG points to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio.   Fortunately, Marriott realized there was a large disparity between the 2 currencies, so they came up with a solution.  The solution was that 1 SPG point would equal 3 Marriott points.

The way we earned the points needed for our Japan hotel stays is no longer possible due to changes from the merger.

  • When SPG and Marriott combined in August of this year, any SPG points were multiplied by 3 and moved to Marriott.  SPG points basically became extinct.  
  • It is also important to note that the earn rate on the SPG Amex has devalued, so I no longer suggest using that card for everyday spending.

Program changes are nothing new in the miles and points world, and finding ways to adapt is just part of the game.  It is certainly still possible to book these Ritz properties on points, but it would take more than just a couple welcome bonuses to earn enough points for a multi-night stay.  

The easiest and fastest way to earn lots of points or miles is to open a credit card to earn a welcome bonus

The current offer on the Marriott credit card is 75,000 points.  That is only enough for 1 night. If you are in 2 player mode (if you travel with a partner who can also open his or her own cards), each person opening a Marriott card would give you 2 nights at the top tier Marriott/SPG properties.  1 or 2 free nights is better than nothing, but if you’re starting with 0 points, I would focus on a different hotel program first.

The loyalty program I would focus on for Japan hotels is World of Hyatt.  Hyatt has luxury properties such as the Park Hyatt Tokyo that are comparable to Ritz Carlton hotels.  You can earn the points needed for a hotel stay in Japan (or several other destinations) in no time if you play your cards right.

The order in which you should prioritize credit card applications depends on a few things:

  • Your Chase 5/24 status
  • Ability to meet minimum spending requirements
  • Hotel goals…do you want luxury hotels, mid-tier hotels, or do you just want a free place to stay?
  • Are you traveling solo or with a partner who can also open credit cards?

The welcome bonuses from as little as 2 credit cards are enough to cover several nights in Japan.  Bonus points (literally) if you’re in 2 player mode.  In other words, if your spouse/partner can also open a card or two, you will have even more options!

Credit card strategy

My credit card strategy for hotels in Japan would be to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points and/or Hyatt points.  

The current welcome bonus on the Hyatt co-branded credit card from Chase is 25,000-50,000 points.  This can be a valuable bonus, BUT, if you do not already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card, I highly encourage you to open that first.  

The points those Sapphire cards earn, Chase Ultimate Rewards, can be transferred to Hyatt.  They can also be transferred to airline partners.  So I’d focus on the flexible points first.  After meeting the minimum spending requirement for the Sapphire card, you can open the World of Hyatt card.  Both of these cards are Chase 5/24 cards, so they are cards I would recommend to most beginners no matter what your goals are.  

Amex points for flights to Japan

Final thoughts

The Ritz properties are all GREAT properties, especially if you already have lots of Marriott points or if you had SPG points prior to the merger.  Due to changes with the Marriott/SPG program (and their co-branded credit cards), it would take a while to earn the points needed for a multi-night stay at these properties if you are starting with 0 points.

There are plenty of ways to get nice hotels on points in Japan.  I’m not ruling out SPG and Marriott, but if the goal is luxury properties in Japan, there are better options.  

The best program for hotels in Japan is probably going to be World of Hyatt, but like I said earlier, I’d get an Ultimate Rewards earning card before the World of Hyatt credit card.  

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred 2019

Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • Bonus: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $4,000 in 3 Months
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Bonus Categories: 2 points per dollar on travel and dining

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • Minimum spend for bonus: $4,000 in 3 months
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Bonus Categories: 3 points per dollar on travel and dining
  • Notable benefits: $300 travel credit per calendar year, $100 reimbursement for TSA or Global Entry enrollment, airport lounge access
 

Advertiser disclosure: The Miles Genie has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products.  The Miles Genie and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

 

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3 thoughts on “Our Free Ritz-Carlton Stays In Japan

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