Review: Japan’s Capsule Hotels

I’ve always wanted to stay at a capsule hotel, so I made sure I took the opportunity while recently in Tokyo. It’s bizarre and uniquely Japanese; the first hotel design was conjured up by a famous architect of the Metabolist architecture movement, Kisho Kurokawa. The hotel reminds me of a future imagined by people from the 1980s that never quite got it right…

Capsule hotels are meant to be the most basic and cheapest of sleeping accommodations, and are typically rented out by curious tourists, Japan’s underemployed and salarymen who’ve worked or stayed out too late drinking to commute back home. The hotels do have their merits; most have access to free internet, A/C, personal television, shower facilities and even the cheapest accommodations usually have a spa area that includes a sauna and spa-quality hair and skin products. I had a chance to check out two very different types of capsule hotel.

There are basic rules that apply at most capsule hotels. You can read about them here.

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Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel
1-2-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0021

Cost per night: ~4,500円 Yen ($45 CAD)

The first capsule hotel I stayed in was right in the heart of Shinjuku. Shinjuku is home to the busiest train station in the world and an important entertainment, business and commercial centre in Tokyo. It wasn’t surprising that I saw all walks of life walking through the doors of the hotel. Since it’s a tourist hot spot, it happens to be one of the few capsule hotels that takes reservations from both men and women (though women are on a separate floor), which is great for everyone due to its incredibly convenient location.

The capsule hotel was relatively clean – well, clean for most hotel standards but missing that “Japanese” sheen I saw everywhere else due to the high level of service in Japan. If you’re afraid of small spaces, I would say the capsule feels bigger than it looks in pictures, but I’ve had a few friends say the capsule reminds them of an MRI Scanner, which freaks them out. I can see how that could happen and depending on your tolerance for small spaces, this capsule hotel might not be for you. It definitely looks like some sort of pseudo-futuristic hospital pod, especially with the hotel provided “robes.”

The amenities were pretty good! The sauna was incredibly relaxing and the shower area was quite clean. They’ve got everything you need in terms of toothbrushes, towels, shampoo, robes, shavers, etc. The location of this capsule hotel also makes it a big plus. As soon as you walk outside, you’re right in the heart of Shinjuku, where the action, main transportation to anywhere else, nightlife and shopping is all located. I’d recommend this place for solo travellers on a shoestring budget and maybe couples or families looking for a night or two of a truly unique, Japanese experience. I wouldn’t recommend the accommodation for the entirety of anyone’s long trip, as sleeping in cramped quarters and in separate rooms would probably wear anyone down.

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First Cabin(ファーストキャビン)
Tokyo Haneda Domestic Airport Terminal 1

Cost per night: ~5,000円 Yen ($50 CAD)

The next Capsule hotel I stayed at, First Cabin, was due to sheer inconvenience, because I had a very early flight to catch at Haneda International Airport and transport would be all shut down all night and early morning had I stayed in Tokyo. It ended up being one of the more relaxing days I had in Tokyo, as I spent almost a full day casually wandering the airport – not entirely a bad thing given my unhealthy obsession with airports and the fact that HND is consistently voted one the best airports in the world (ie., FOOD).

First Cabin is located in the Domestic Terminal of Haneda, which is ten times better than the International Terminal, so make sure you stop by the airport earlier for a visit if you have the chance. I did not expect the quality of First Cabin to be so high, given that it’s advertised as a “capsule hotel.” The capsule itself was essentially the Cadillac of all capsule hotels, in appearance. The hotel was basically a much better version of everything the first hotel offered, including amenities and “high ceilings,” however the inconvenient location made a huge difference – you probably wouldn’t stay here if you weren’t on a flight out of Tokyo. Luckily, First Cabin also offers a few other locations in key areas in Tokyo city as well.

Nothing beats a good sleep, capsule or not!


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