Staying in a Capsule Hotel in Japan is definitely an experience in itself and well worth a try, especially if you’re travelling solo or with a group of friends.
Capsule hotels were originally conceived out of Japanese salarymen/women in need of a place to sleep if they’d missed their last train home. In Japan, it’s common for people to work late into the night and also go out for many drinks after work.
So small hotels filled with claustrophobia-inducing pods sprang up to fill the need for a cheap night with a bed and pillow.
Budget tourists soon cottoned onto to this money-saving idea in a country that is known for its expensive accommodation. But tourists come with luggage which doesn’t always fit in the traditional capsule hotel space. So many tourist-friendly capsule hotels have popped up in recent years to fill this demographic. Many tourist hostels also opted to maximise their space and switch from bunks to pods.
Here’s a couple of capsule hotel chains and individual operators to look out for in Japan, if you want to save some money on accommodation.
Nine Hours Capsule Hotel
Nine Hours provides the smallest amount of space out of the tourist-friendly capsule hotels. It makes a great option for a quick one-nighter, especially at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, where you’re only 300m from check-in!
You can check-in to Nine Hours quite quickly, receive a locker key and your little bag of towels, pajamas (Japanese size) and slippers. Then slink past an inconspicuous male or female door that leads through to a locker room, bathroom and showers. Leave your luggage in the lockers and only take the necessities into the darkened capsule room. Locker size is: Width 36cm x Depth 57cm Upper level 84cm Lower level 90cm, and fit a large suitcase easily.
Once inside the pod area look for the capsule number on the floor that corresponds to your locker key and that’s your space for the night!
There’s just enough room to sit up in them, with pods measuring 110cm wide by 220cm deep by 110cm tall.
Bathroom and showers were very clean and shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes and hairdryers are all provided.
If you’re at Narita Airport you can also use Nine Hours for naps between 9am and 6pm for ¥1500 or to have a shower-only for ¥1000 any time, day or night.
Consecutive stays are permitted. However, you and all your items need to be out of the pod between 10am-1pm for cleaning. You can leave your items and luggage in the locker though. Overnight stays from 1pm till 10am are ¥4900 a night.
You can find Nine Hours at Narita Airport, in Tokyo at Shinjuku North, Asakusa, Akasuka, Kanda and Kamata. There is also a Nine Hours in Kyoto and Sendai.
First Cabin Capsule Hotel
The First Cabin franchise offers a number of different sleeping options that revolve around airplane speak, starting with their Premium Economy Class Cabin, which is essentially two rows of pods on top of each other, to the Business Class Cabin, which provides a high overhead space and a larger bed. All beds are 210cm long and at least 120cm wide.
You then have the First Class Cabin which provides walk-in space next to the bed along with a small table and a reasonable TV on the wall. The most spacious is the Premium Class Cabin that is effectively a small hotel room and the only one to allow double occupancy.
The facilities at First Cabin are pretty awesome. Clean showers and toilets and some even have their own hot onsen! In the women’s makeup area you’ll find all sorts of free toiletries along with hairdryers and even hair curlers in some places!
Pillows are on the thin side but search around there’s usually a spot nearby with extra pillows that you can use. Sleeping areas were very quiet. Laundry facilities are available and there are also vending machines on the premises
The downside to First Cabin is, surprisingly, the air! In both their Kyobashi and Namba hotels, I found the air to be super dry and overly warm. I noticed my skin was crazy dry, my sheets moist with sweat (which is abnormal for me) and I felt quite dehydrated when I woke up in the morning. You can ask for a humidifier in your room, some already have them. I’d probably steer clear of First Cabin in Japan’s hot and humid summer months though.
You can find First Cabin capsule hotels all over Japan. The Kyobashi branch in Tokyo is great for when you have to use the Shinkansen at Tokyo Station. The Namba branch in Osaka is conveniently right next to Namba station and just a few minutes walk from Dotonburi. If you’re flying out early from Haneda Airport, consider staying the night at their airport branch.
The Millennials Hotel
Ahhh, my favourite capsule hotel! The thick mattresses and bedding here were sooo comfortable! Millennials provides a huge 120cm wide bed that retracts into itself to create a very large and comfortable sofa for when you don’t want to lay down. (At least 200cm long when flat.) Some pods even have a giant 80″ projector screen to watch TV on or connect to Apple TV with.
Luggage is kept underneath the bed on a roll out tray (for large suitcases just open it and lay it down flat.) A pull down screen that goes all the way to the floor, gives you privacy.
There’s a lounge area perfect for socialising, along with a kitchen and tables to eat or work at. They even have free beer happy hour!
Sleeping areas are split into female only and mixed. Pods have individual cool/heat fans and also provide both power sockets and USB charge ports.
At check-in you are given a small iPhone which is your remote to move your bed up and down. It also sets silent wake-up alarms (it vibrates), use the TV, set the air temp and dims or turns-off the lights.
Non-Chain Capsule Hotels
This is my favourite cheap place to stay in Tokyo, especially since it’s in the heart of Asakusa and right near Sensoji Temple. There are plenty of restaurants and shops around and while Nakamise Street heading up to Sensoji can get crazy crowded, the streets and laneways that come off it are a lot thinned out.
At night, the whole neighbourhood becomes quiet and calm but you can still find rows of outdoor Izakaya to eat from. Or shop at a huge Don Quijote for all your souvenir needs.
The hostel itself is very clean with a large social area in the lobby and a smaller kitchen area and roof top table. The roof has great views over Asakusa to the Tokyo Sky Tree.
Pods are available in either female only or mixed dorms. They measure 1m wide x 2m long and include a small lockable cupboard inside the pod and a luggage area with wire hoop to secure. Inside the pod is a small fold down table, shelf area, towel rack and coat hook. You can also get a giant pod for groups of four.
Bathrooms and showers were clean with hairdryers and basic toiletries provided.
Samurai Hostel is my first choice for cheap accommodation in Tokyo as I’m a big fan of staying in Asakusa.
MyCUBE by MySTAYS
Located in the Kurumae end of Asakusa, MyCUBE offers newly built, spacious ‘cube rooms’. The space is clean and offers a lot more head room than the traditional pods. Bed length is 200cm long.
Each cube has a safety deposit box, personal storage, an electric socket, flatscreen TV and USB charger socket. High-speed Wi-Fi, and nightwear are also provided.
Floors are split into male and female sections, there is no mixed area. Showers supply shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Breakfast is also available at extra cost.
My Cube is located right near Kurumae Station and is a 10 minute walk from Sensoji Shrine.
Similar to First Cabin, Hotel Zen provides a range of beds that start with a ceiling high, 100cm wide capsule. You can then upgrade to a larger 120cm wide pod or the small room style pod with window.
All pods come with a safe, free-wifi, clothes hanger, towel and an impressive collection of toiletries. Lockers in a separate area keep your larger bags safe. Free breakfast is also provided.
Hotel Zen is located right next to Ningyocho Station where a number of train lines are available. It’s also just 5 minutes walk from Suitengumae Station. The TCAT ( Tokyo City Air Terminal ) is also a 5 minute walk from the hotel. The Narita and Haneda Airport buses stop here.
Sadou Hostel is located right near Okachimachi Station and within walking distance to Ameyoko Market and Ueno Park and a number of other stations.
They provide male, female and mixed dorms each with double layer pods and lockers for your luggage. Each dorm has their own fridge, kettle and microwave.
The hostel also hosts activities such as calligraphy and tea ceremony.
There are plenty more out there but these will give you a good idea of the standard you can find.
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