The future of budget travelling
Last year I visited Japan for the very first time. I was super excited to go there and I was ready to find out if it is true that Japan is 10 years ahead of the rest of the world — and I am not talking about the huge amount of plastic they use every day. I was well aware of Japanese toilet seats which are simply amazing and the Shinkansen bullet trains which are some of the fastest and most reliable trains in the world. But Japan had something else waiting for me right upon arrival.
So I booked my flight to Tokyo, Narita airport and it was scheduled to arrive at 9 pm in the evening. I have to admit that the size of the city of Tokyo as well as the Tokyo metro system were a little intimidating for me especially as English in Japan is still not very common. So I started my research where to stay for the first night and was looking for hostels in the city that had a fairly easy connection to get to from the airport. After going through the typical online hotel booking websites I came across the concept of capsule hotels which I have never heard of before. You can find them everywhere in Tokyo and all over Japan and they even started spreading around Asia and recently I even found the first capsule style hostel in Vancouver. Capsule hotels are pretty much that. You sleep in a capsule. Capsule hotels in Japan target salary man as well as tourists that are travelling on a budget. We have to be clear. If you are looking for a full sized hotel room with a queen size bed and a mini bar or room service then you can stop reading as you can’t compare a capsule hotel to a 200 dollar hotel room. You would end up being disappointed if you do this comparison. However, if you are travelling on a budget and usually stay in hostels or shared accommodation, a Japanese capsule hotel is simply perfect and will step up your travel game to the next level. Here is why.
I found a capsule hotel chain called nine hours. All of their hotels look super stylish and you have this kind of space ship feeling once you enter the building. In the hotel are apart from reception several common rooms, shower and bathrooms, a coffee bar and some of them even have a fitness room. Some of them even have a full sized Onsen bath. After you check in at the front desk you are given your key card which will give you access to a large locker as well as the room where your capsule is located. Before you go to your room you are entering the shower and changing/ storage area. Toothbrush, towel and sleepwear are included in the price as well which gives the place a really funny feeling as everyone is walking around with the same clothes. Once you have freshened up and stored your luggage you can access the rooms. The capsule rooms are divided between male and female. I really liked the design of this particular capsule hotel as the capsules were widely spaced and did not feel cramped into the room. All capsules have a comfortable mattress pillow, light switch and charging stations inside. You can close the capsule with a curtain however this is optional as a closed capsule might be too much for some people. For me I really enjoyed it. If you compare the capsule with a regular hostel you get much more privacy and a stylish place to sleep.
The concept of this hotel is pretty much explained in its name. 9 hours. You need 1 hour to shower and freshen up, 1 hour of personal hygiene and 7 hours of sleep. This is typical japanese minimalistic thinking and I absolutely love it. Of course you are not kicked out of the hotel after nine hours. Check-in and check-out times are the same as pretty much every hotel. Check In starts at 2pm and Check out is around 11 or 12pm.
After my first experience in a capsule hotel was hooked and used this type of accomodation many times during my travels in Japan. You can find capsule hotels everywhere in Japan and even most hostels have adapted the capsule style. There are really modern and stylish ones like the capsules featured in this article or capsules in a wooden box style which gives it a more homey feeling. Just try it out what suites you best.
In my opinion capsule hotels can not replace a five star hotel service and you will always be disappointed if you compare a capsule hotel vs. a regular hotel in terms of comfort, service and entertainment. However I believe that this will be the future of hostels and budget accommodation as offers a clean, stylish and quiet environment in prime locations of a city and simply offers more privacy than a typical bunk bed in a hostel.
I would say the average price for a capsule hotel is around 25–30 USD dollars per night. There are cheaper ones and more expensive ones and prices vary of course depending on the day of the week and other factors. I stayed in capsule hotels for as cheap as 10 USD per night and also paid 45 USD for a last minute booking at the airport.
So now it is up to you. Would you try out a capsule hotel when you visit Japan? For me it was a super fun and entertaining experience and I can definitely recommend it when you go to Japan.
While capsule hotels and hostels are already the standard in many Asian countries the trend of capsules hotels just started in North America and Europe. In Vancouver there is Samesun Hostels which offers a capsule style room and Whistler has Pangea Pod Hotel, which offers capsules in a "Canadian Style" meaning they are a little more spacious and with wooden interior and design compared to the spacy looking capsules in Japan.
Here are some links to capsule hotels I used during my stay in Japan. I hope you enjoy staying there as much as I did.