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Capsule Hotel

Inside a capsule

Your own cosy little space to sleep in – or a nightmare come true?

If you survived the Business hotel experience then you might want to go one step further – but be warned that capsule hotels are not for the claustrophobic. Probably the most uniquely Japanese of any accommodation option, the capsule hotel made its debut in Osaka in 1979, but despite thirty years of success in Japan, the concept hasn’t yet caught on anywhere else.

On arrival, you put your shoes in a locker, and change into slippers for the duration of your stay. Large luggage may have to be left in reception, but smaller bags can be stored in the locker room. Here you can change into the yukata provided by the hotel, or your own pyjamas if you prefer. There is usually a lounge with TV, internet and vending machines, and sometimes a small restaurant or bar. Bathing facilities are invariably communal, and often include a sauna. Sometimes massages are available for an extra fee.

Sleeping capsules stacked two-high face each other, with a passageway in-between

Let’s face it – you only need enough space to lie down and stretch out. Doesn't all the other space in a hotel room just go to waste?

Capsule hotels are mainly aimed at people who’ve missed the last train home after staying out drinking, though they’re also used for regular business trips, or by anyone wanting a low-cost and convenient accommodation option. Most cater only to men, though there are an increasing number with ladies floors (men and women never stay together). Two rows of capsules, one on top of the other, line the walls, with a Perspex door providing access to each. Once inside, you can pull a shutter down, sealing you into your own private world. The capsules are more comfortable than you might expect – there is enough room to sit upright, and they’re long enough for all but the tallest people, who may have to sleep with their toes sticking out. There’s a TV built into the roof, as well as an alarm clock and reading light, so you can spend some time relaxing in peace and privacy before indulging in a bit of slumber. Some people find capsules comfortable and convenient, while others experience them as hellish coffins – but whether you enjoy your stay or not, its definitely an experience you won’t forget.

Capsule hotels can be found in the centres of all Japan’s big cities, two good options in Tokyo being Capsule Inn Akihabara (catering to men and women, but closed between 10am and 5pm: ¥4,000) and Big Lemon in Shinjuku (men only, but open all day: ¥3,800).

You can book a capsule hotel online at Hostel World.

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