A row of capsules in the Anshin Oyado Luxury Capsule Hotel, Tokyo

My experience in a Japanese capsule hotel

Student Life Travel

The infamous capsule hotel. Everyone’s heard of those little pods into which people cram themselves in an effort to save space and money. I too was one of those people on a recent trip to Japan, curious about what exactly a ‘capsule hotel’ entailed. I imagined rows upon rows of capsules packing the building, and relatedly cramped accommodation. What I actually found was the best hotel of my entire journey. Indeed the ascent to bed takes on a somewhat spiritual approach…

 

Step 1: Forsaking Earthly Goods

Arriving in the capsule hotel, you first need to put your shoes into a locker, where you can trade your key for a wristband. This wristband gives you access to a luggage locker, sealing away anything you can’t carry up the stairs to the first floor. This may be inconvenient in the long run, but, only needing to stay the night before an early coach journey, it didn’t bother me much. You also receive a pair of baggy pyjamas (likened by one TripAdvisor user to “a prison uniform”) which you can put on there and then, or save it for the following step:

 

Step 2: Cleansing the Body

Arriving in the first floor, I was met with essentially an upmarket swimming pool changing room. The first thing that occurred to me was that this hotel was definitely an all-male affair (female-only and mixed hotels do exist, but are harder to find), with a variety of men in various states of undress. Stripping off and putting my items into yet another locker, I entered the washroom. Here, you sit on a short stall in front of a mirror, using a handheld shower head to wash yourself. One of the major benefits of any Japanese hotel is its wide array of free toiletries, and this was no exception. A range of soaps, gels and conditioners awaited, before a soak in a ‘simulated mountain spring’ (read – large jacuzzi) to make you feel thoroughly relaxed. Leaving the room and donning your pyjamas, you can select a new toothbrush, hairbrush and razor from a pile, allowing you to groom to your heart’s content. I was now prepared to ascend to the next stage, that of:

 

Step 3: The Floor Of Earthly Delights

The next floor focused more on matters of the internal than external body. After a long day’s walking, a free vending machine serving everything from Fanta to peach juice to Onion Soup. I found the perfect seat, a suspended teardrop chair next to the floor to ceiling window, looking out over the glowing lights of Tokyo. There was a vast collection of Manga, along with computer terminals, newspapers and massage chairs (and real life masseuses should they take your fancy – they were all busy when I arrived). They also served an excellent selection of breakfast items, from Onigiri (sushi parcels) to a selection of Western pasties, in the morning. Mind and body sated, I got into a lift to my floor, for:

 

Step 4: Transcendence

The 'capsule' of the capsule hotel
Credit: James Ashworth

Arriving on my floor, I walked along the row of capsules to my own. My fears of it being too cramped were put to bed as I realised it was more than big enough to fit me. I was also provided with chargers for my various devices, and earplugs (my one criticism is that the capsule walls cannot keep out the snoring!) Fed, watered, and thoroughly clean, I dropped off like a light. If, in future, you find yourself with the option of staying in a capsule hotel, I would thoroughly recommend it. I stayed in a couple of others during my trip, and while they didn’t quite live up to the first, they were all great choices for the non-fussy and frugal traveller. With the world’s population set to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, who knows? There may be a capsule hotel near you in much less time than you think…

Featured image credit: the Anshin Oyado Luxury Capsule Hotel, Tokyo.