Traveling around Japan is exotic, full of technology, and just plain fun, but with that fun comes a bit of a price tag. It’s not cheap. While budgeting your trip, make sure to take into consideration your cost for public transportation and of course hotels. There are all kinds of hotels in Japan, something for everyone’s budget and comfort level, but for the cheapest, the smallest, and maybe the best, we think everyone should experience the sleeping capsule hotel.
We’ve all heard of them: the legendary capsule hotel. Legendary, indeed! Tiny hotel rooms, no bigger than the underside of a bunk bed, not even tall enough for you to stand in. Nothing more than a Japanese futon mattress, a pillow, and a blanket for your resting needs.
What is a capsule hotel?
Japanese capsule hotels were not designed for the tourist. Travelers typically want to do more than just sleep in a hotel room, but that’s all these sleeping pods were designed for…sleeping. Therefore, that’s what they are a bed, a somewhat private bed, but with little room. Space, land, is expensive in Japan, so this is one way they have found to keep costs down for business travelers.
The pods are usually occupied by businessmen who have been out too late at the company nomikai or work party, too drunk and too late to make the last train home. Capsules are great for getting in at bedtime, plopping down, getting up early and leaving. Not many tourists do this, but it’s an affordable way to spend the first or last day of your trip if you are just in Narita to catch a flight.
What is the price of a Japanese pod hotel?
Capsule hotels are the perfect accommodation for a saving a few dollars on your budget. Most people come to Japan on a 10 day itinerary, and if this is you, it’s a great way to have a uniquely Japanese experience. One night for the cost of one meal allows you can spend more doing something else that day instead of spending it on your room.
Most capsule hotels are extremely small and the prices range from to $22 – $50. The difference in price is directly linked to the amenities provided.
There is a newer type of capsule hotel, called First Cabin, with locations around Tokyo. The difference with this pod hotel is the pods are to the ceiling so you aren’t feeling quite as cramped. They still only have lockers to secure your valuables (although they are located in your room), and screens to pull shut when you are sleeping. So, it’s still not really private.
Who can stay at a pod capsule hotel?
The capsule hotel, originally designed for businessmen, usually caters to men. In the last few years, however, more and more capsule hotels are catering to women. What aren’t allowed is children. Usually the minimum age of a guest is 18. It is not for families.
Are there capsule sleeping pods just for females?
Yes, it’s much easier now to find capsule hotels that invite women. In fact, there are a few that are women only hotels. No matter, the washroom and sleeping floors are always key carded and separate from the men, so safety shouldn’t be a concern.
Are there capsule hotels for couples?
Capsule pods for couples are starting to crop up but still hard to find. One alternative is to stay in capsule hotel that has a mixed gender floor and then book two capsules next to each other. We haven’t been, but we have heard that Moon Station Hotel Tokyo has double-sized pods. Since it is still a room of pods, the facilities are all shared.
What kind of amenities can you find in a Japanese capsule hotel?
Most capsule hotels offer the same amenities. All Japanese sleeping capsule hotels have common showers or public bath facilities, and toilets. Most will offer a public Japanese bath and cleaning area and maybe a sauna. They also have public lounging rooms, many with tables for working or just hanging out. Some will have drinks and snacks available (only for the common area, not the sleeping quarters.)
How does it work?
After visiting the check in desk, you have to take elevators to the sleeping floors. The first room is full of lockers and shoes – each locker no wider than 6 inches, but about a foot and half deep, and 3 feet tall. Upon check in, each guest is provided with a key and a room number. The key opens these lockers. This way you have a safe place for your valuables, and you don’t have to sleep with your toiletries. Also inside the locker, your hotel amenities could be found: a comb, shampoo, a towel, paper slippers, and a yukata and/or pyjamas. I pulled my shoes off and left them in front of my locker, put my slippers on and continued on.
Tips for sleeping in a Japanese pod hotel
As soon as we entered, we were a little confused. The front door to the capsule hotel was locked. Um, what? We weren’t expecting this, and we certainly didn’t want to lug our suitcases all over the city. So we stood at the front door for a few minutes trying to decide the best thing to do with our bags. Luckily, one of the staff saw us and pried open the sliding doors to let us in. She explained that it is common practice to close from check-out (in this case 11am) to check-in (5pm), and she meant completely close.
Everyone is required to check-out each day of their stay, and you are not allowed to go “hang out” in your “room” during those hours. But of course, it is fine to leave the bags; she showed us the lockers available and the pile of luggage left by travelers intending to return after a day of adventuring. We tied our bags to the pile, and went out on our way. We returned after the sun had gone down, and we were pretty much ready for bed. Knowing there wasn’t much to do in the “rooms.”
Size of the Pod
There is not much space in the sleeping pods. You crawl in and out; there is no standing. If you are a bit claustrophobic, this may not be the hotel for you. The pods are decked out with TVs, outlets, an alarm clock, really everything you need for a good snooze.
Closeness of Others
Probably the hardest part of sleeping in a micro hotel, full of 30 or so other people sleeping in pods right next to you is the lack of privacy. The “door” is simply a curtain or slide, which although prevents people from peeking in, does nothing for the noise. If you are a light sleeper, and snoring or beeping or just movement bothers you, don’t forget to bring earplugs.
Other Things You May Need
Don’t leave your charger in your locker, you can charge it in your pod overnight.
You also might want to buy a bottle of water to keep in your locker as you have no control over the climate of your pod. Some do come with air conditioning, so that is helpful in summer.
Fukuoka’s Nine Hours By Devon Vail
I was so excited to try out a capsule hotel, and after my partner and split up to go to our respective floors, I was ready to explore my new surroundings. After inputting my key code to gain access to the women’s facilities. The first thing I did was put my stuff in my locker. Then I came across a set of doors, which I saw were the bathrooms and the shower-rooms, two of each, and almost always in use. I walked through the middle of the bathrooms and into the hall of capsules. Both sides of the hall were lined with 14 capsules, seven on top and seven on bottom. I was relieved to see that I was in a lower one. I don’t think I would have enjoyed climbing into the top bunks. Some guests had chosen to leave their carry-on sized bags in front of their capsules, but mostly it was clear of obstacles.
Each capsule sported the following: a mattress, a pillow, and a blanket. But oh the luxury! Each room also had a TV mounted to the ceiling (which made it a little more complicated getting in), a mirror, light, and radio/alarm clock built into the wall. It was time for bed, so I changed, made my bed and crawled in. I’ll admit it wasn’t the best sleep I’ve ever gotten. The futon mattress, was thin, so it felt like sleeping on the floor. People were constantly coming and going, lights were being flickered on and off all night, and at one point someone snuck a cigarette (even with all of the no-smoking signs all around) so it smelled of smoke. But I can definitely check capsule hotels off my bucket list!
Shinjuku, Tokyo’s 9 Hours by Mikkel of Sometimes Home
I was traveling to Japan to meet my sister in Tokyo and only needed one night to stay solo before she arrived and we moved to a larger hotel. Because of my curiosity and its affordability, I chose to experience what it’s like to stay in a capsule hotel. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised! It was a very clean, modern hotel in a great neighborhood. Check in was easy, wifi accessible and I enjoyed my stay. Shinjuku is easily reachable from any train lines in Tokyo and the area is full of great convenience and restaurant options. The hotel even supplied slippers (very Japanese!) and secure lockers to place items. Their bathrooms were spotless and they had shampoo, conditioner and shower gel available for guests. I would definitely recommend 9 Hours Pod Hotel in Tokyo: for the experience and because it was just all around a great option!
You can read Mikkel’s full post about 9 hours here.
Sleeping Capsule hotels in Tokyo
There is so much to spend your money on in Tokyo like sumo tournaments, sightseeing, eating at themed restaurants, stopping by an animal cafe, or just stocking up on Kit Kats to try that you might want to save a little moolah by staying at a capsule hotel instead of a larger hotel. Although, if that’s too adventurous, at least give it a try for one night!