The capsule hotel experience in Japan!

Capsule hotels are unique experience in Japan. With rising cost of real estate and space being premium, innovative ideas like capsule hotel help cut cost of accommodation. During my visit to Japan, I spent 3 of my 6 nights in capsule hotels, rest in hostels- 2 nights in Tokyo’s '1 night 1980' capsule hotel and 1 night in Hiroshima’s Cube Capsule Hotel. This post shares my capsule hotel experience and compares it with hostels, the next cheapest type of accommodation option.
How capsule hotels are different from hostels?
In first look difference may be hard to find. Hostels usually consist of a dormitory room with multiple cots, each hot having two beds one above another. A hostel room may accommodate 8-16 people depending on number of beds. Usually the beds will have enough space to move your arm and body around, though you may not be able to stand on the bed without touching bed above you or the roof. You enter the hostel bed from the side.

Above: Cube Capsule Hotel, Hiroshima
Below: A hostel in Osaka- Khaosan World Tennoji - notice the side wise vs up front entry
Capsule hotels will accommodate 2-3 times more people in same area compared to a dorm/hostel. Multiple units of capsule cubes are positioned one above another and adjacent to each other. Entry is from the front and space is usually just good enough to sleep. If you sit straight, your head may touch the ceiling.

Below table highlights the difference between hotels, hostels and capsule hotels of Japan
#
Factor
Hostels
Capsule Hotels
Conventional hotel rooms
1
Bed
In a dormitory, multiple cots with usually 2 beds each are placed
Cube shaped chambers, usually 3 ft by 4 ft by 10 ft with a bed, an electrical unit for light n charging
One full room with single or double beds
2
Entering the bed
Usually by side, using ladder for upper deck
Usually from front, ladder for upper decks
Walk to your bed
3
Rent
Cheap
Lot cheaper
Relatively higher
4
Privacy
Low
Moderate
High
5
Safety for items
Moderate (lockers provided)
Moderate (lockers provided)
High
6
Interaction with other guests
High
Moderate
Low
7
Toilet and bathroom
Common
Common
Usually attached and exclusive
8
Living area
Common
Common
Common + within room
9
Restaurant
NA
NA
Usually available or in room dining
10
Kitchen
Depends
Depends
No (Except coffee machine etc)
11
Space
Moderate
Very little
Relatively more
12
Misc
Very popular in Europe and many parts of the world. Suitable for solo travellers and youngsters with low budget
Popular in Japan
Suitable for solo travellers and youngsters with low budget
Available worldwide
Suitable for families couples or those with better budget or need for privacy/space
As I posted my capsule hotel pictures, below were some of the questions received:

Q: Aren’t they very suffocating?
A: If you’re planning to spend a whole day indoors, yes. But my need was only to sleep at night, so space didn’t matter much. One can always go to common areas and relax or watch TV etc. The capsules are indeed space constrained. If I sit upright, head touches ceiling.  Length was just right enough for me. Width was not enough to extend even one arm.

Q: What about security?
Lockers are provided to keep bag. In general theft incidents are very rare in Japan.

Q: What facilities are there in a capsule hotel?
Inside the capsule, bare minimum- a light, one or two power sockets for charging, a clock with alarm function. Pillow and bedsheets are provided. A small protrusion can be used to keep stuff like phone and wallet. 

Some totally closed capsules will have its own AC vents, smoke detectors where as other capsules will have opening to let air in from a common AC unit meant for the whole dorm.

Most hostels/capsule hotels will have a living room, locker room, free/paid coffee machine, sometimes a kitchen/microwave, mini library, TV and such facilities. WiFi is also common and free in most hostels.

Q: What about laundry?
A: Laundry machines can be used on a payment basis

Q: Are they unisex or separate for men and women?
A: There’re both kinds. Many multi-story hostels/capsule hotels reserve a floor or two exclusively for female guests. But there’s no MEN only concept. If all women beds/capsules are taken, or if couples are traveling or if the women prefer, women can opt for mixed dormitory. Many smaller hostels/capsule hotels only offer mixed dorms, as they don’t have space for exclusive women only sections.

Most capsule hotels set aside separate bathrooms and toilets for women.

Above left: Steps to my capsule in Tokyo, Right: relatively more spacious corridor of Hiroshima's Cube Capsule Hotel.

Q: Apart from cost savings are there any other advantages?
Main advantage of hostel/capsule hotel is opportunity to interact with other guests, often from various other countries. If you smile or say hi the other person almost always reciprocates and depending on how both of you find it interesting, you can keep the conversation going. Hostels/Capsule hotels are also great place to refine your tip, as everyone will have unique experience/inputs to share and always ready to help. Reception staff can provide lots of local inputs.

What else one should remember?
Pay attention to house rules. Some hostels/capsule hotels need you to bring down the used bedsheet and dump in laundry bag, few will have operating hours, rules and restrictions that apply. Smoking, pets, bringing guests etc are usually prohibited. Also most hostels operate on self-service model- if you use something like a cup, please wash it and keep it clean n ready for next user. The capsule hotel I stayed had cash receiving machines for payment- I had to put money into them.

The one in Tokyo, had a rule that we should take off our shoes at the reception. While I am fine with such rules, in this case there was no provision to keep shoes at reception, had to put them in a cover, wear a thin disposable chappal, take lift to 8th floor, then take stairs to 9th floor to my room. (I had booked cheapest room which were in 9th floor, no direct lift). It was not very convenient with bags and other stuff.

Many capsule hotels may not have private parking space. If you will be having a vehicle, ensure there'll be provisions for parking.

Above: My capsule in Tokyo
Below: My capsule in Hiroshima
Capsule Hotel in Mumbai, India

You don’t have to go to Japan to experience Capsule hotel. You can try it in Mumbai itself. It is called Urban Pod.  They commenced operations few months ago and had a very high rent listed on booking.com Now their rent seems reasonable at Rs 1500 per capsule per night (Tax extra). This is not very cheap, but reasonable enough. You will find normal budget hotel rooms for Rs 1500/2000 a night in Mumbai (might be too basic though). You can book a capsule hotel in Mumbai using below utility
Booking.com
Also read: One night at Hiroshima  * 12 Unique experiences to try in Japan  * More Japan posts

8 comments:

  1. Interesting. Do they have it in India.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great information. This looks like a great concept and an advantage for people who travel on budget

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Dipanwita Yes... budget and solo


    @Rupam-Thanks

    @Sharmila- There is one in Mumbai- I've detailed towards the end of the post

    ReplyDelete
  4. I read a lot about capsule hotels of Japan. You bought the pictures also. These seems little bit better then hostel dorms.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think that's a great idea especially in those places where accommodation is expensive. And since Japan is on the expensive side, this sounds perfect.

    It was nice learning about the details of capsules. Thank you Shrinidhi. :)

    ReplyDelete

Appreciate your efforts and interests to comment. Comments may be moderated due to increased spam. Will ideally respond to comments within few days- Shrinidhi

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