Unfortunate and gross hotel review: Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport.

My family was recently in Japan for a couple of weeks. We spent our last night at the Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport so that we could easily catch a morning flight the next day.

I wasn’t planning on writing a review of the hotel, mainly because Lucky’s review of the property seemed more than comprehensive, and I couldn’t imagine that I would have any additional info to add.


Turns out that’s not the case. In fact, my experience at the hotel compelled me to send a letter to Hilton, as well as to write this unplanned post. If you are planning a trip that includes a stay at this hotel, consider yourself warned! Personally, I would never stay there again, unless they make some pretty major changes. But of course you can judge for yourself.

We booked connecting rooms for our stay, because there were four of us (due to different occupancy regulations in Asia, it is unusual for hotels to allow more than 3 people per room). I booked one room using 20,000 Hilton points, and paid for the other in cash (cost was approximately $140).

When we first checked in, everything seemed great. We had requested non-smoking rooms, and the air was indeed clean and fresh when we arrived. However, as the evening wore on, things began to change.

Our kids fell asleep in their room, with the connecting room doors closed. At around 11 pm, we started to smell drafts of cigarette smoke wafting in from the air conditioner in our room. We opened the connecting door to check the kids’ room, and the same thing was happening there, so we turned off the air conditioning in both rooms. We knew we were in for a warm night, but for us it was preferable to the (now heavy) smell of cigarette smoke. We also didn’t want to wake our kids and move rooms in the middle of the night.

We decided to get ready for bed. This was when the worst part happened: when we opened the door to the bathroom, we were assaulted by the stench of raw sewage! It was unbelievable.

A quick glance under the sink revealed the problem.

lack of p trap

There was no p-trap installed! I wouldn’t have thought this small part would make such a huge difference, but apparently it does. The bathroom in the kids’ room suffered from exactly the same fate.

Sinks are normally installed with a u-bend (otherwise known as a p-trap) in the pipe. The reason for the u-bend is that it stops sewer gasses from leaking into the room. This is what it looks like:


Every sink should have one.

We shut the bathroom doors in both rooms and prepared ourselves for a long, hot, stinky night. And indeed it was.

The next morning at check-out, we described the issues we had to the front desk agent. He didn’t seem surprised, but offered us a 50% discount ($70) on the room we had paid for in cash. His gesture was almost procedural, so it leads me to believe that this is a common complaint at this hotel. Since the issues we had were structural, I am actually surprised that I didn’t see these problems in any of the reviews I read before booking the hotel. The only thing I can think of is that the smell changes due to a variety of factors, and that not everyone is compelled to write reviews. 🙂

At any rate, the question, “Do your sinks have p-traps?” is absolutely not something I would have ever thought to ask before booking a room. I can’t imagine asking in the future either…but maybe I should?

Have you had any nasty hotel surprises recently? What were they (and where)?


  1. It is usual for a sink (lavatory, lav) to have a visible P-trap, but there are exceptions.

    In some locations, the trap will be farther down the line…perhaps located behind an access panel in the wall.

    I’ve seen lots of bathrooms in South America where the lav drains (with no trap) into a floor drain in the bathroom, which then drains (through a P-trap) into the building sewer.

    I don’t know why your bathroom had the awful odor.
    – One possibility is that the trap serving the lav (wherever it was located) had dried out. That would let sewer gasses back up into the room. Pouring a couple of glasses of water down the drain is enough to fix that.
    – Another possibility is that the wax seal under the toilet had shifted or otherwise failed.
    – Another is that a sewer vent line in the wall had corroded through.
    – Another is that a device called a “mechanical vent” had failed.
    – Or maybe your idea was correct, that a dimwitted plumber had re-piped the lav without a needed P-trap.

    Whatever the cause, I’m glad you got compensation.

    • Points Pixie says

      Miles – You know a lot about sinks! 🙂 Since there was no p-trap in the other bathroom either, I think that this is actually a design flaw throughout the entire hotel.

  2. Wow!

    Yup, p-traps are plumbing 101.

    I’ll be flying in to NRT in November & had planned to stay @ this very property because of the low HHonors point cost. Maybe this is the reason it’s so cheap! There’s an entrepreneurial idea here: Travel P-traps!

  3. My family and I stayed at the Hilton Narita in April and didn’t encounter that problem, however the first room I was given did have some sort of odor. (I wouldn’t call it sewage.)

    I had them switch my room and the second one was better. Sounds like a horrible night. You were definitely right to complain.

  4. Interesting – the wife and I stayed here a little over a year ago and had no problems. We were only in the room for about 12 hours (waiting for an onward flight from NRT) but had no issues with sewage or smoke smells. Sorry to hear that your stay was *ahem* crappier than ours!

  5. SonomaWine says

    Several years ago we stayed at the Bairro Alto Hotel in Lisbon for several nights. The last night the tide came in and we we had sewer gas in our room at 2am! Management knew about the issue, but the hotel was full. Gross, yuck, gross! They knew they had an issue with the second floor rooms, yet still sold them. I will remember the smell to the day I die.

  6. We stayed at this hotel last year and had no problems. Although it was a rather bland Hilton, I think I would stay again based on the low points level. Sorry you had a bad experience.

  7. Quite a few years back we were driving to visit family in Texas and hit the exhaustion point in Odessa. We never spent a lot on hotels in those days and so we grabbed a by-the-freeway motel to grab some shut eye. It was summer. It was hot. It was muggy.

    As we collapsed onto the bed we realized the air conditioner made a great deal of noise but did not work. We were too tired to try and change rooms. We just sweated.

  8. Just a note on terminology..here in the UK we call them “U-bends” because, well, they look like a U (as opposed to an inverted P with a gap in it’s head)

    • Points Pixie says

      Neil – I think we use both terms here in the states…but I’m not a plumber so I can’t say for sure!


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