Capsule Hotel Experience – sleeping tight in Tokyo

20160421 Tokyo First Cabin Tsukiji

A capsule hotel is a peculiar Japanese type of accommodation. Star architect Kisho Kurikawa invented it in the late 1970s in Osaka. and since then it has become a mainstay of inner-city overnight accommodation. Instead of a room you check into a “capsule”, a sleeping unit barely bigger than a coffin – stacked in two tiers with access to common toilets and showers. While in the past most capsule hotels catered mainly for business men who had missed their last train home, recently some higher class capsule hotels – which also accommodate women – have opened in the bigger cities.

The First Cabin chain is expanding very fast and that is where I (Natascha) checked in for one night during my recent stay in Tokyo. They are the self-proclaimed “business class of capsule hotels” and are offering slightly bigger rooms than most capsule hotels.

Capsule style sleeping

Actually the “capsules” in this place were not stacked in two tiers and resembled tiny rooms rather than coffins. Mine had sufficient height to stand on the bed (why would anyone do that?) and had the width of the 1 m bed plus the width of a small shelf. There was no door, but you could close the capsule with a sliding roller blind towards the aisle. As this wasn’t lockable, I got a key for a small, built-in safety box.
And I also got a magnetic card that allowed me access to the women’s floor (5th floor) and the women’s public bath (7th floor).

My concerns of not being able to sleep in a windowless pitch-dark cubicle proved wrong: on the contrary, it turned out the roller blind ended about 20 cm above the floor and the bright neon light from the aisles made the space uncomfortably bright. In addition, although there was a strict non-speaking rule in the sleeping area (again, because there are no real doors) the clattering of the roller blinds of every person who came in late or went to the toilet during the night disturbed my sleep.

Women only

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Another issue was that for about 50-60 cabins in the women’s section, there were only three toilets, one shower and a quite small public bath available. As about 40% of the cubicles were not occupied, it was ok nevertheless.

Most other female guests were indeed Japanese business women who checked in without any luggage, plus some foreign travellers who brought big suitcases. As there is no luggage space in the cubicles you have to leave your big luggage at the reception or lock it to a special luggage rail located on every floor.

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A bar / restaurant offered drinks and snacks 24 hours and there were also vending machines for food and drinks, and the wireless internet worked fast and reliably in the „capsules“ as well as in the public spaces.

How much does a night in a capsule hotel cost?

Altogether, at 5800 Yen (around 50 Euro) without breakfast, I found it too expensive. Without luggage facilities and considering that check-in is from 5 pm and check-out at 10 am it is not really an option for travellers on holidays. It is also not a place to meet other people. But it might be an interesting experience for one night. Although I did not really enjoy staying there (it was not bad either) I am somewhat interested in trying other capsule hotels to be able to compare them.

Would you like to stay at a capsule hotel?

We were not sponsored in any way to write this post and paid the full price for the night.

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