Spending the night in Tokyo can be pretty expensive as hotels are quite pricey here in the world’s largest city. However don’t let this put you off! A cheaper and actually a really authentic Japanese alternative is to experience staying in a capsule hotel. But what is a capsule? How does it work and how to find them? Read on to discover all you need to know about Tokyo’s Capsule Hotels!
The concept of capsule hotels took over Japan and especially Tokyo in the late 1970’s as a solution to a growing problem. Japanese businessmen would have a few too many drinks after work and would often miss their train home. It was far too expensive to get a taxi home or to stay in a hotel for the night. All they needed was somewhere to crash for a bit before heading back to work the following morning. And so the capsule hotel was created, a unique and fresh idea that offered an affordable and simple place for businessmen to rest their head for a few hours – all for the same price as their long train journey back home to the suburbs. Nowadays capsule hotels are very popular with tourists when travelling around the country as they are unique to Japan and are really something to be experienced, and of course they are a way to save money when travelling around Japan!
But what is a capsule?
Well it’s like a pod. It’s not a room, but rather a compartment or space to sleep in. It is very minimalistic and basic with not much space – you crawl into the pod and lie down, but there’s enough space to sit up so it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. The room is full of pods side by side and two units high, with a bottom pod and a top pod (reached by steps, similar to a bunk bed). I don’t want to put grim ideas in your head but imagine a mortuary with all the corpse drawers – at least that’s what helped me imagine it before I had seen one! Or alternatively just look at the picture below to get a better idea!
What is a capsule like?
Ok so now you have an idea about the sleeping space let me share more details with you. When you check in, the hotel will assign you your capsule number (so make sure you go to the right capsule, they are all numbered). Females and males are generally segregated on different floors. Once you get to your floor you’ll come to the locker room and the communal bathrooms first. Put all your belongings in your personal assigned locker that you won’t need overnight, lock it and put on your slippers provided to you at check-in before you go into the sleeping quarters (shoes are not allowed inside there).
As you can see in the picture above, comfortable bedding is always provided. You’ll also often be given cute Japanese style pyjamas, a towel and an amenities kit (including razor, toothbrush and toothpaste) when you check in! Pretty cool huh?! In each pod you’ll also have your own power socket, a reading light and sometimes a TV.
You don’t have a lock on your pod as is it is actually illegal in Japan to lock them – you just pull the shutter down for privacy! Which does mean you’ll have to be quiet as others can hear you. And you can hear them. But people staying in capsule hotels are usually very considerate, and so far all the ones I have stayed in people have been respectful and quiet and I have been able to get a decent nights sleep. At first it may seem really strange having only a fabric shutter separating you from everyone else but trust me, you get used to it!
If you want to make noise, for example make a phone call, there will always be a lounge where you can go – you can also meet other travellers there if you wish! Otherwise, if watching anything on your phone, please put in headphones and don’t have the volume up loud. Also bear in mind breakfast is often not included in the price.
Am I safe in a capsule hotel?
Wait, so I have no lock on my pod, are my belongings and I going to be safe when I am sleeping?!
Well in my experience I have always felt very safe every time I have stayed in a capsule hotel. As I mentioned earlier, females and males are generally segregated on different floors. Not only does this give peace of mind to many women, but you also need your key card or your assigned pin code to gain access to your specific floor from the elevator, which is good for safety as only people permitted into your room will have access to it. The rooms are always secure, usually with some kind of CCTV in the corridors and you will always have a locker to place your valuables in.
How to find and book capsule hotels
I use booking.com or hostelworld.com whenever I am searching for a capsule hotel. Click here to be taken directly to Booking.com’s page for capsule hotels in Tokyo! Now please don’t think capsule hotels are just like hostels – they are always exceptionally clean, even the bathrooms (it’s Japan, what did you expect?!). They ARE more dearer than your regular £2 per night hostel in south-east Asia, (often capsule hotels charge around £20-£35 per night which is around ¥3000-5,000 – yes it is a fair bit, but it is still a lot cheaper than regular hotels in Tokyo!). Booking in advance is not always necessary – you can just turn up to a capsule hotel and chances are there will be a spare bed for you! Do book ahead in busy periods though, such as the cherry blossom (sakura) season, when Japan gets very busy.
Below I have listed some of the capsule hotels I have personally stayed in and recommend:
This is in a GREAT location – close to the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku and Shibuya so it’s perfect if you’ll be out late in this area in the evening. It is super modern and the sleeping quarters feel quite futuristic! Priced at ¥4,900 per night.
Another lovely capsule hotel, priced at ¥4,500 yen per night. This capsule hotel is relatively undiscovered by tourists as there is not much touristy stuff in Kagurazaka, but it is in a good central location! There are lots of French people living in this area so there are lots of French cafes on the main street. Also this is one of the only remaining geisha areas of Tokyo so you may see one wandering around the cobbled streets if you are lucky!! Make sure to check out the lovely Akagi shrine nearby if you have time.
Treat yourself and spend the night at First Cabin Tsukiji – it is a step up from the standard capsules as you get a queen size bed and a 32 inch TV in your capsule! It is very clean, airy and modern, and you can use all the nice toiletries including face wash, pyjamas, hair curlers and hair straighteners! Also it includes great amenities such as an onsen (communal warm bath) so be sure to have a soak in it if you have time! It is just a few minutes walk from the old Tsukiji Fish Market, and I would definitely stay here again even though Tsukiji fish market has now relocated (sigh)!! It is a little pricier than other capsule hotels, starting at ¥5,800 a night (£40) but it was so worth it.
For my next stay in Tokyo I will stay at MyCUBE capsule hotel in Asakusa. I have heard lots of great things about this place, the price is great at ¥3,900 and the location is perfect so I cannot wait to check it out next time I’m back in town!!
So, ready to stay in a capsule hotel now?! I hope so! Not only do they offer a simple and cheap alternative to other accommodation types available in Tokyo, but I definitely recommend it at least once in your life (I’ve done it several times and every time it is still very exciting!) – it is a really fun experience!
If it is your first time to Tokyo and you are unsure of what to see and do, check out my article 24 hours in Tokyo for the perfect day taking in all of the cities best sites! Alternatively, have a read of my article 10 top travel tips for Japan if it is your first time visiting Japan!
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