Do you want to try a different kind of accommodation when you visit Japan? If so, then capsule hotels may be perfect for you. They offer a unique experience for travelers who are looking for an affordable, yet cozy place to stay.
If you are curious about what it’s like to spend the night in one of these hotels, read on! In this article, we will explain what capsule hotels are, how they operate, how much they cost, and where to find them in Japan.
What Are Capsule Hotels?
From cute Hello Kitty themed hotel rooms to more somber themes like with the prison hotel in Okinawa, Japan has its fair share of unusual accommodations.
And then you have Japanese capsule hotels. They are exactly what they sound like – a hotel made up of individual capsules that you commonly can find at a convenient location such as near a train station or even at Narita airport with First Cabin.
The first capsule hotel opened in Osaka in 1979, and there are now over 3,000 of them throughout the country. Capsule hotels have been recently growing in popularity all over the world and you can find them in many other countries like Russia, Singapore, New Zealand and the Philippines. Outside of Japan, they are best known as ¨pod hotel¨.
These little compartments are popular among traveling Japanese businessmen on a tight budget. The pods themselves are typically just large enough for a bed or futon. They are usually arranged side by side and look a bit like the inside of a human-sized beehive. This kind of accommodation is usually used for single night stays.
It goes without saying that capsule hotels, no matter their uniqueness, are to be avoided if you are not comfortable with tiny spaces. There is no doubt a pod will make you feel claustrophobic!
Apart from their small dimensions (roughly 2m long – 1m high – 1.2m wide) and low prices, most capsule hotels provide the same basic amenities and services as a regular hotel such as free Wi-Fi, alarm clock, air conditioning, TV screens and power outlets.
Each pod also comes with a simple mattress, sheets and a pillow. Of course there is no real door at your cabin for safety reasons but a simple curtain. You might also receive slippers and a cool Japanese style yukata pajama for the night.
How Much Does a Night Cost at a Capsule Hotel?
It is important to note that capsule hotels are not as widespread as other types of accommodation, so it may be more difficult to find one in rural areas. However, most large cities in Japan will have at least a few of them.
Prices for capsule hotels vary from one city to another, but they typically cost between 3000 and 4500 yen per night (between $25 and $40). Also, keep in mind that hotels might raise their tariffs during the peak season around April/May and July. You might also need to pay an extra tax per night and per guest, but it usually doesn’t cost more than one or two hundred yen.
If you plan on staying the night in a capsule hotel, be sure to research your options ahead of time as prices can vary significantly depending on the facilities offered on-site. For example, a Spa & Capsule hotel with special facilities such saunas might cost you over 6000 yen the night (so the average price would be around $ 53).
Where To Store My Luggage and Other Belongings?
Since capsule hotels are so small, they typically do not have much room for guests to store their luggage. Some might have a small space under the bed, but it is not a given. Besides, we recommend you not to leave any valuable belongings in your pod.
In fact, curtains or doors typically used to open and close your pod are only here for privacy purpose and are not meant to be locked. So, while you won’t receive any card or room key, you might be given a key for a private locker for example. They will always provide you with a mean to secure your things like a locker or storage room where you can leave your belongings safely while you explore the city.
If you wonder why pods cannot be locked, it is because capsule hotels are technically not considered as real hotels in Japan, thus not requiring a locking system. By law, a capsule hotel is a ¨simple accommodation¨. The needed legal regulations to open a true inn or hotel are a hassle capsule hotel don’t need to deal with, which enable them to offer better prices.
Showers and Bathrooms
Obviously, there is neither shower nor toilet in the pods. In pod hotels, you will have to share public bath, toilet and laundry facilities with the other guests. Of course, male and female guests use separate areas.
Most of the time, guests have the option between taking a shower using private stalls or washing in the traditional Japanese communal bath area. If you choose the bath, know that you have to wash before entering the water. Just go to one of the lined-up head showers, sit on a stool and wash yourself thoroughly. Amenities like towels, soap and shampoo will be provided on-site. Be careful when entering the water though; Japanese shared baths are usually very hot.
Furthermore, note that you will have to be naked to enjoy the bath since swimsuits are not allowed. If you feel embarrassed at the idea of taking a bath with other people, be sure to check ahead of time what kind of washing facilities the hotel has to offer.
It is worth mentioning that capsules hotels have much more to offer than just common washing facilities.
Generally speaking, you will have access to a number of other facilities such as drinks vending machines and coin laundry rooms. Moreover, most capsule hotels have areas where guests can relax and socialize. Some even include restaurants, lounges, communal kitchens and working spaces.
Are There Capsule Hotels for Couples?
The idea of a capsule hotel sounds rather fun, and it is indeed a fun experience. However, it might not be what you think. To be honest, capsule hotels are not the most romantic place there is to spend a night as a couple. Booking a capsule hotel for a family trip with children is not a good idea either. Actually, many of them don’t accept children to begin with.
They are mainly designed for one thing: offer a place to sleep for one adult, usually for a single night. This means you have only little privacy, especially when it comes to noise. As a matter of fact, pods are far from soundproof. You will be able to hear your neighbors and even their neighbors as well. Not to mention the fact guests will come in and go out during the night. This is why many of those hotels provide you with earplugs.
Moreover, know that being demure is part of the Japanese culture; hence the need to avoid public display of affection between couples. Clearly, intimacy in a pod is out of question.
The majority of capsule hotels in Japan are men-only hotels, or female only capsule hotels, or offer floors reserved for either men or women. If you don’t mind sleeping in a different floor than your partner, one easy option is to stay in a mixed capsule hotel. Although you won’t share the same pod, you will be able to meet in the common areas to enjoy time together.
There are also mixed capsule hotels which give the possibility to at least sleep on the same floor as your partner and book two pods next to each other. One example is The Millennials, located in Shibuya and Kyoto. Although they are a bit more pricey, The Millennials offer very comfortable smart cabins with a bed reclining and even a storage space under the bed. A regular pod will cost you 5100 yen per guest (around $45).
In the end, finding capsule hotels that offer one pod for two people in Japan seems to be an impossible feat.
Where To Find a Pod Hotel in Japan?
Capsule hotels can be found in most major cities. Tokyo is home to the largest number of them, but there are also plenty in other regions such as Osaka and Kyoto. They are often located close to train stations such as JR Shinjuku station. In fact, a lot of Japanese staying in capsule hotels book a pod simply because they missed the last train home and need a place to rest until the next day.
There are numerous types of capsule hotels to choose from in Japan, so you are almost sure to find one that fits your budget. Some of the most famous capsule hotel chains include Nine Hours, Capsule Inn and First Cabin. Those are present in big cities across the country.
You will find below a list of unique and foreigner-friendly capsule hotels you might find interesting:
This futuristic capsule hotel located in Akasaka is one of the many others Nine Hours hotels scattered around the country. The hundreds of lined up pods inside look like they came straight out of a science-fiction movie and give you the feeling you are staying at a space station. The hotel is open 24/7 and offers two separate pods areas for both sexes.
What is unique about Nine Hours is it provides an analysis of your sleep: ¨Our capsule unit will scientifically measure your sleeping condition¨. You will later on receive a report which will let you know about your health condition based on the capsule’s analysis. One night will cost you 2400 yen (about $20).
Resol Poshtel Tokyo Asakusa is a very beautiful establishment where you can find both modern and Japanese traditional touches. They offer no less than 110 large cabins of 3 m2 with Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, a space for your luggage under the bed, and all the amenities you could need for the night.
You will have the choice between mixed cabins or men/women only cabins. It is located in the Asakusa district, not too far away from Tokyo station and the Sensō-ji Temple and Tokyo Sky Tree. It will cost about 2500 yen (around $21) the night
Capsule Inn Osaka is a very particular capsule hotel. It was actually the first one to be opened in Japan back in 1979. It has all the basic facilities expected from a capsule hotel plus some extra such as a spa and a sauna. Unfortunately, it is a male-only hotel, so women will have to forget about it.
It is located in Umeda, a popular and animated district with a lot of shopping streets and restaurants. Prices for one pod vary from 2600 to over 4500 yen ($21 to $40).
We recommended you a good men-only capsule hotel in Osaka; now it’s the ladies’ turn! A-Style Shinsaibashi is a unique women-only capsule hotel close to Shinsaibashi station with its huge shopping complex, and to Dotonbori, a popular avenue full of classic Osaka street foods, cafés and restaurants.
This capsule hotel tries hard to satisfy the women’s hunger for fashion and beauty care by providing them with various amenities they can use such as a nano-care facial steamer, hair dryers and curling hair irons, as well as a number of cosmetics and perfumes. With its stylish design, impeccably clean pods and affordable prices (around $25 the night), a-Style Shinsaibashi is sure to please the ladies.
Sui Kyoto is rather small and can welcome only 16 guests. It is a calm and relaxing hotel with wooden cabins which unlike other regular pods open from the side and not the back. Although situated in a quiet neighborhood in the north of Kyoto, it is still a good location for tourists who would like to visit the famous Kinkaku-Ji, also known as the Golden Temple.
On top of regular services like free WiFi, lockers and a laundry room, it also offers the possibility to rent bicycles. Elegant and cozy, Hostel Sui Kyoto will cost you between $29 and $35 for an overnight stay.
This typical capsule capsule hotel boasts a prime location in central Kyoto: right next to the largest shopping street in the prefecture and a few minutes’ walk from Nishiki Market. Men-only, women-only and mixed pods areas are available.
One of the particularities of this hotel is its comfort. Glansit Kyoto Kawaramachi designed original high-quality mattresses based on sleep engineering in order for their guest to enjoy an exceptional night. The hotel also offers a variety of services like a free soft drink bar, a women-only lounge, a small inside convenience store, and many toiletries. Prices for one pod range from 2800 to 4800 yen (around $25 to $42).
Overall, capsule hotels offer a unique experience for travelers who are looking for an affordable place to spend one or two nights in Japan. They are perfect for those who want to try something new, or who are on a budget and do not wish to spend too much money on a hotel room. So, if you are wondering what it’s like to spend the night in a capsule, why not give one a try on your next trip to Japan!
Commonly Asked Questions about Capsule Hotel:
Expect to pay between 1,000 to 5,000 yen per night, though you should remember that they can be much higher during peak tourist season.
Japanese capsule hotels are usually used for a single night but you can stay as long as you want. Note that you can sometimes check in 24/24.