Wanting to enrich my stay in Japan with something a little bit different, this time I decided to branch out to the quintessentially weirder and interesting side of Japanese accommodation – a capsule hotel.
I also didn’t want to blow my wallet on extravagant hotel rooms. Discovering that capsule hotels are quite affordable, I spontaneously booked a night’s stay at nine hours in Kyoto for my equally spontaneous two-day trip to Kansai.
Up until recently, the people who usually stayed in capsule hotels were primarily Japanese businessmen who missed the last train to their homes in the suburbs. As a result, being a female traveller myself, I was a little bit apprehensive about staying in a place that was famously known as a refuge for drunken men. But with more and more capsule hotels providing women-only floors, I knew that this was an opportunity I needed to take advantage of.
The capsule hotel I stayed in was definitely distinct from everything else in Kyoto. Kyoto is a sightseeing mecca of Japan, with an endless array of historic and cultural treasures to see and visit! However, in the midst of this historic city stands a highly futuristic building – nine hours!
nine hours is especially high-tech. As well as checking in through a hotel attendant, you can check into the hotel using QR code on your smartphone. The whole interior of the hotel was completely white-washed and bare, featuring a purely monochrome palette.
I checked in, and was provided with some nifty slippers, my capsule number, a card key to my locker to store away my luggage, and a key to my shoe-box at the entrance of the hotel. I was then guided to the female locker and shower rooms on the third floor.
Floors are separated by genders – exclusively female and male floors. In order to provide maximal comfort and ensure safety for those staying in the capsule hotel, males are strictly prohibited from entering female-exclusive floors.
Bathrooms (showers, baths and toilets) are all communal, but they are surprisingly quite private at the same time. I opened my locker with the QR code printed on my card key, and inside were my neatly folded capsule hotel pyjamas, two towels, and a toothbrush set.
With shampoo, conditioner and soap all provided for guests, I took a refreshing shower and changed into my black-coloured hotel pyjamas. Then I headed to my capsule pod!
Upon entering my floor my jaw dropped. I was in absolute amazement. The lighting was eerie and space-like. I felt like I was walking through a spaceship. As you can see, the pods looked like they come straight from a fantastical sci-fi universe.
There are no en suite bathrooms, no windows, no views of a neon-lit city, no desk, no queen sized mattress, no doors or locks, no closet, no fridge, and definitely no space to stand upright. Everything is stripped away from these pods. They are made into a simple, highly claustrophobic cylinder for you to take your rest in overnight.
Each pod also has a Sleep Ambient Control System that controls the lighting of the pod. It also means that you don’t need to use your own alarm to wake you up. You simply set a time when you want to wake up and the system will automatically wake you up through its lighting system. If you are a heavy sleeper, I suggest putting on a vibration alarm on your phone so you don’t disturb your neighbours!
Regardless, the extremely tight space was relaxing. It was definitely trippy to sleep in such a narrow space. It is so small but simultaneously feels so spacious. I have always preferred smaller rooms over bigger ones so sleeping in what was essentially a box was actually fairly comfortable.
Staying in a capsule hotel, even for just one night, made me rethink about what space is in Japan. In Australia, we have very wide and expansive roads and buildings, whereas in Japan this is absolutely the opposite. It was truly a unique experience.
I think capsule hotels are the perfect solution for solo travellers on short overnight trips, especially ones that have been planned last minute.
Keep in mind that capsule hotels are usually fairly strict about checking out times. If you stay well past the check out time, you could be charged a fee per hour. It’s also common to have capsule hotels make you check out daily (every morning), even if you are staying there for more than one night. It also means that you probably won’t be in the same capsule as the night before. This is to make sure the capsules are squeaky clean everyday!
There’s no fluffing about when it comes to capsule hotels. There’s nothing too fancy or excessive. Thus, the capsule hotel allowed me to experience the city more than anything else. With such a straightforward process, I found myself not dwelling around in my hotel room, but instead on-the-go to my next destination.
Heading out of the capsule hotel with a great night’s sleep, I felt 100% refreshed and ready for the day ahead!
Branches in Kyoto, Tokyo Narita, and Sendai
588 Teianmaeno-cho, Shijyo, Teramachi-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8031 Japan
2 minutes on foot from Hankyu Kawaramachi Station / 5 minutes on foot from Keihan Gion Shijyo Station / 5 minutes from Subway Shijyo Station