Getting consumers to part with disposable income has become a national mission, and one success story in this regard is the increasing popularity of higaeri, or one-day excursions where travelers go someplace, enjoy that place, and return home without staying the night. Morning news and information programs are filled with suggestions for higaeri, and one of the most talked about destinations is the Hilton Odawara Resort and Spa, located on the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture. Until Feb. 28, the Hilton is offering a special higaeri deal on weekdays. For ¥4,000, a person can partake of the resort’s lavish all-you-can-eat lunch buffet and use all of their spa facilities, which includes onsen (hot spring), sauna, Jacuzzi, an Olympic pool and more. Normally, the buffet itself is ¥3,850 and access to the spa facilities is as much as ¥3,000 for the day. In addition there’s free shuttle-bus service to the hotel from the JR Odawara or Nebukawa stations on the Tokaido line, about an hour from Tokyo Station.
A lot of resort hotels have higaeri deals, but what makes the Odawara one appealing is the Hilton name. In fact, it appears that many young women are taking advantage of the deal simply because they think it’s the only chance they’ll ever get to patronize a Hilton Hotel; and that, of course, prompts another question: What is Hilton, one of the grandest luxury hotel brands in the world, doing with a hot spring resort in the mountains of Shizuoka?
Hilton, in fact, doesn’t own the resort. It’s owned by Odawara city, which purchased the property from the Koyo Noryoku Kaihatsu Kiko (Employment and Human Resources Development Organization), one of those national bureaucratic organs whose main purpose is to justify its own existence. Nominally, the EHDO is charged with managing the funds collected through the workman’s compensation insurance program. In the not-so-distant past these funds were used to construct concert halls (Nakano Sun Plaza is one of the more famous EHDO projects) and other white elephants, the vast majority of which never made money. In fact, almost all of them lost money, a lot of money, including the elaborate hot spring resort they built in Odawara.