Japanese capsule hotels are a quintessential Japanese experience, and a great way to travel on the semi-cheap as well (a capsule room is about $30).
“Hotel” is a generous term for these places, as they feature shared bathrooms, lockers for your stuff, and stacked beds that could induce panic attacks for the claustrophobic. Capsule hotels started off made-for- traveling businessmen, but these days they’re quite popular with domestic and foreign travelers.
What to Expect
If you stay in a mixed gender hotel, there will be separate areas for men and women. When I stayed at Asahi Plaza Shinsaibashi in Osaka, you could wander through to the men’s living room in the daytime, but they locked the door at night. Turns out the men’s area is littered with pornography and has an Xbox as well!
The ladies’ area was much more subdued with a 20-year-old TV and no porn. There were several parts to the ladies’ area: a big primping room with sinks, mirrors, stools, fantastic lighting and tons of amenities; a locker room for all your things, locks included; two rooms lined with an upper and lower deck of beds; a small sitting room; a room full of toilet stalls, and the shower room, also stocked with amenities.
When checking in at more budget places, you can choose a bed with an outlet or a TV, or both for an extra cost. If you’re much taller than 5’7”, you might be too cramped to really enjoy the experience. For some reason, I actually thought there was a window you could close and then lock yourself into your bed (I didn’t think about the ability to breathe), but in many places you just pull down a curtain when you enter your bed. The bed is actually quite comfortable, and if you’re on the shorter side, there’s enough room to sit up comfortably. Other guests are generally respectful of the quiet. I got some of the best sleep I’d had in ages in capsule hotels, probably helped by the fact that everyone has to take off their shoes at reception so there’s no clomping about. I kept my phone with me in bed and everything else in my locker, and didn’t have any problems with safety.
Are you shy? There’s not much a place for that when showering. First, you store all your clothes in yet another locker and then step into the shower room. There’s a line of stools facing a large mirror and several shower heads. It really becomes an exercise in averting your eyes, and showering sitting down is weird if you’ve never done it before, but it makes shaving your legs infinitely easier (and then you don’t have to wonder where to look!). There’s usually a jacuzzi and sauna in there too, if you want to prolong the experience.
Have you ever stayed in a capsule hotel? What did you think?