Remarkable Japan – #02 – How Often Did You Bang Your Head in There?

Only once, I promise! And that’s because the TV was unexpectedly in the way. Having said that, you haven’t had the full Japanese Capsule Hotel experience if you haven’t forgotten you’re sleeping in a 1x1x2 metre box and whacked your head on the ceiling of your little home from home (at least once).

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And here’s your room, at the Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo

I’m sure you’ve seen an article about capsule hotels before. Honestly, trying one of these hotels was high up on my bucket list.

But aren’t they cramped and claustrophobic places to stay? If like me, you spend your travelling days covering who knows how many kilometres by foot, you won’t notice much once your head hits the pillow (or the TV, again. OK fine; I banged my head twice).

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Despite it being Japan, not every TV news story was about robotics, I assure you

The capsules themselves are surprisingly well-equipped. The ones shown here are all from the Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo (which I’d highly recommend). Yes, they all have their own TV, as well as an alarm clock and a socket to keep your phone topped up. Not bad at all, though the hotel was alive with the sound of alarms pretty constantly between the hours of 5-9am.

And what about privacy? For safety reasons, each capsule isn’t equipped with a door that can be locked from the inside, so instead you get a roll-down blackout curtain. It works better than you would imagine.

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A control panel for your capsule

And what about noise? Shinjuku is one of the busiest, most colourful, most vibrant areas in Tokyo (or more accurately, the world), and yet the capsule corridors are probably some of the quietest places in Tokyo. Soundproofing is taken very seriously here.

Having said all this, there’s a lot more to these hotels than the capsules themselves (however, maintaining privacy kind of prohibits any photos of the public spaces). An entire floor is taken up by a good 100 capsules, but the other floors contain lockers for your belongings, a social space, a small café and the all-important onsen baths (more in that in another post!).

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A typical corridor of capsules

I was one of the maybe 1% of the hotel’s guests who were western. The rest included natives like businessmen making a quick stopover on their way to another major city. So keep your eyes peeled; capsule hotels tend to congregate around train stations for easy access at the end of a long night.

Some of the capsule hotels had an even more space-age appearance; the 9h nine hours capsule hotel in Kyoto being particularly notable. These capsules even featured a special alarm clock, that silently woke you up by gradually increasing the intensity of the light in the capsules. It worked perfectly.

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Name any sci-fi film; this corridor of capsules would fit right in – 9h nine hours capsule hotel, Kyoto

This particular hotel is a perfect exhibit of one of the surprising features of pretty much all capsule hotels; brilliantly clean and well-maintained bathrooms and public spaces.

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Pristine – 9h nine hours capsule hotel, Kyoto

So all in all, would I recommend trying a capsule hotel? Forget bucket list; the capsule hotels I visited were genuinely nice – and great value – places to stay.

Top tip: pack light if possible; some capsule hotels don’t have a separate secure space for large items of luggage. In which case, you’ll have to squeeze it into the wafer-thin lockers provided! Been there, done that.

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