Are you ready to have a truly unique Japanese experience? Are you wanting dirt cheap accommodation at a fraction of the price of a hotel? This Japanese capsule hotel guide covers everything you need to know.
Capsule Hotel Overview
Japanese Capsule hotels have been a concept since the early 80’s. However, they have been exploding all across Japan and even into other countries in the recent years. Sometimes called pod hotels in the Western world, the Japanese capsule hotel is a unique experience. Practicality and minimalism are two authentic Japanese culture traits. Those two traits are what drives capsule hotels in Japan.
On a week stay in Japan in November 2019, I stayed in 3 different capsule hotels. I have put together this Japanese capsule hotel guide to assist you when planning your trip to the land of the rising sun.
About Capsule Hotels
Capsule hotels are a great way to travel frugally whilst still retaining some of the privacy that hostels lack. They typically cost between ¥2000-4000 ($18-36 USD) per night. Capsule hotels segregate men and women within the hotel. Usually, there are separate floors for men and women.
The capsule rooms are long and narrow, lined with capsules 2 or 3 high. Capsule hotels offer no private bathrooms or washrooms, instead having communal areas to clean yourself after a long day out in Japan.
The capsules themselves are no frills, a bit smaller than a twin mattress, with a few controls on the walls. Some capsule hotels also have a TV in capsule also however the ones I stayed at did not.
The most frequent users of capsule hotels are the salary men of Japan. As is common in Japanese culture, these white-collar workers will go out after a long day at work drinking with co-workers. However, they cannot return home occasionally due to being too drunk. They will use the capsule hotel as a cheap way to sleep for the evening and avoid the wrath of their spouse. The other common user of the capsule hotels is the backpacking tourists, looking for cheap accommodation on their travels through Japan. I just wanted to experience some Japanese culture and explore the world of capsule hotels across Japan.
Pros of Capsule Hotels
The most obvious pro of capsule hotels is the price. On my week long visit I paid as little as ¥2000 ($18 USD) for a night. However, for the price, the quality of service and amenities is excellent. The bathrooms provided ample privacy and the capsules themselves were quiet and cozy. At all times the showers are well stocked with body wash, shampoo and conditioner.
Lockers provided at the hotel are big enough to store luggage and backpacks easily. All amenities you need are also provided at reception upon check-in. For less than the cost of a decent restaurant meal, what you receive is amazing value for money. Limited personal space is an issue. However, they make your stay as fantastic as it can be in a small space.
With capsule hotels located across the major cities of Japan, it is easy to find one. None of the hotels I visited were ever full. You will always have somewhere to sleep in a pinch.
Cons of Capsule Hotels
If you are claustrophobic or enjoy the privacy of your own bathroom, capsule hotels are not for you. The capsules are small and don’t offer a lot of room. Shower and bathroom areas are communal, however offer individual shower cubicles which provide some privacy.
Luggage is big enough for the lockers that are provided. However, sorting through can be difficult as the area is cramped. Often the lockers are busy which makes it even more of a challenge at times.
Whilst the Japanese capsule hotel itself is cozy, the ventilation to the capsule can be limited. The capsule room has air conditioning. However, with the blind closed the airflow is not great. This made the capsule quite stuffy. I stayed in November when the weather was cool, I imagine it would be very hot during the summer months.
In all the capsules I stayed in, they only provided one wall outlet. I found it impossible to charge all my tech as I had a phone, iPad, GoPro and 2 portable batteries.
Capsule Hotel Etiquette
As with anywhere in Japan, capsule hotels have strict cultural etiquette that must be followed. Not adhering to the rules can offend Japanese people and could result in eviction from the hotel for serious offenses.
The biggest etiquette to ensure is followed is around shoes. Wearing shoes inside is considered rude. Capsule hotels will provide slippers to wear around the dorm areas, so make sure you swap your shoes out for them before entering. In 2 of the hotels I stayed, shoes were placed in the lockers with my luggage before entering the sleeping area. In the 3rd hotel a special shoe locker were provided with a lock and key to keep them safe.
Booking Capsule Hotels
It is best to book a Japanese capsule hotel online. There are several booking websites that have capsules on them. The websites I found the capsule hotels to stay were on:
Doing your research and planning your visit will allow you to get the cheapest price. Read my article on saving money when booking to ensure you are getting the best available price.
Capsule Hotels I Visited
Nine Hours Shinjuku-North
Price I paid: ¥3,925 ($36 USD, $53 AUD)
My first night in Tokyo on this trip to Japan was at the Nine Hours in Shinjuku-North. It is located conveniently next to the Shin-Okubo station on the JR Yamanote line. Access from Narita Airport was simple with the JR rail pass, by taking the Narita Express to Shinjuku station. You can then walk to the hotel which is approximately 20 minutes or take the Yamanote line 1 stop to Shin-Okubo.
Check in is easy and straightforward. The employees spoke basic English. I always appreciated that. Reception was located at the 8th floor with the capsules being on the 3rd and 4th and the showers on the 7th.
The locker size is great with enough room to fit my suitcase and backpack. Access to the lockers is via a card a QR code on it which provided ample security.
The capsule room itself is clean and well laid out. The capsule is very basic has a twin sized mattress. There was a very small shelf to put my phone and wallet but no room for anything else. The only control on the wall of the capsule was a light switch which is able to control the brightness within. There is a single wall outlet which as stated above in cons is not enough for all the gadgets I owned. The pillow was very hard and not great. The biggest improvement needs to be to the airflow. When the blind is down it can get quite stuffy in the capsule.
The bathroom areas are also clean and well maintained. Shower cubicles are surprisingly private and provide a good amount of room to move. There is shelves and a good size area to dry off. The shower pressure is excellent and is typical of Japanese hotels. I had forgotten how good the shower pressure was in Japan. The shower was better than a shower in a $1500 a night hotel I had stayed at in New York City in March for my 30th birthday.
My first experience in a Japanese capsule hotel was very pleasant and I enjoyed it a lot. Nine Hours operates a chain of capsule hotels across Japan and is growing rapidly. I look forward to staying here again on my next trip to Tokyo.
Nine Hours Otemachi Imperial Palace
Price I paid: ¥2800 ($26 USD, $38 AUD)
I moved over to another Nine Hours for my second night. This one is located in Otemachi, right next to the Imperial Palace where the Emporer of Japan resides. Access to this hotel is more difficult than the Shinjuku-North hotel if you are travelling JR. The closest JR station is Kanda, which is a 25-minute walk from the hotel. Otemachi station on the Tokyo metro is very close to the hotel, but the JR pass does not cover this line.
Check in is much the same as the Nine Hours at Shinjuku North. Straightforward and simple check in. A QR code is provided for your locker access. Baggage storage is available if you arrive early and want to explore without the hassle of luggage.
I accidentally locked my QR code in my locker and the front desk happily replaced my card at no extra cost.
The facilities at the Otemachi location were also very similar, with a few small layout changes. The elevator to the capsule floor came out directly into the capsule room. This was not the case in Shinjuku-North and resulted in a lot more noise around the capsules.
Shinjuku-North Nine Hours has a much larger locker room. This one was difficult to manoeuver around in. As I was getting ready to leave in the morning the locker area was very tight. There was around 4 people doing the same thing, stepping over each other in the process.
Showers are very clean and provide the same washing essentials as the previous night. Shower pressure was again excellent.
I much preferred the layout of the Nine Hours at Shinjuku-North. Having the capsules in a separate room allows for a much quieter environment than at Otemachi. The locker area was also much smaller and was difficult to manoeuver. As far as staff friendliness and cleanliness goes, the same very high standard was at both hotels.
The extra money I spent at the Shinjuku-North location was worth the dollars for space and location.
Capsule Hotel CUBE
Price I paid: ¥2800 ($26 USD, $38 AUD)
I stayed in my third capsule for a night when I traveled down to Hiroshima. The hotel was located conveniently close to Hiroshima station. From Hiroshima station, the hotel is a 20 minute walk. If you have the JR rail pass there is also a free bus option. Capsule Hotel CUBE is located centrally close to numerous attractions such as the Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Park and Hiroshima Castle. My article on 10 attractions in Hiroshima for while you are there will provide some inspiration.
Check is was easy and straightforward and I was able to check in a little before 3pm. The staff were very friendly and showed me the amenities and all the information I needed. The hotel was immaculate and well maintained.
For the price the facilities provided were excellent. On entrance to the sleeping floor there are shoe lockers provided. There is no chance of any shoe theft with the shoe lockers being under lock and key. The capsule was a similar size to the Nine Hours hotels in Tokyo however I found them more comfortable.
The shower and toilet facilities were clean also, however the shower pressure and newness wasn’t the same standard as the Nine Hours locations. They still provided a good amount of privacy and shampoos to use.
I really enjoyed my stay at CUBE. The staff were warm and welcoming, and the facilities were top notch for cleanliness. I found it less cramped and quieter than the Nine Hours hotels, and as such enjoyed my stay much more. Even though the showers were older than the Nine Hours hotels, the cleanliness was excellent.
The nights spent in capsules was fantastic and an authentic Japanese experience. I would highly recommend anyone wanting something different to give them a try. Be sure to do your research, follow etiquette and you will also have a great experience. Hopefully this Japanese capsule hotel guide has helped you in staying in these hotels on your next trip to Japan.
How was your capsule hotel experience? Let me know in the comments below!