A night in a capsule hotel is a uniquely Japanese experience.
|Reception on left, shoe lockers on right|
$26 a night, including tax, gets you a clean, safe place to stay, a yucata, towels, a comb, toothbrushes and other toiletries, unlimited soft drinks and coffee, free WiFi, and a simple breakfast.
The arrival process has parallels to being admitted to prison. You take off your street clothes, then put on a yucata. You lock your bag in a locker: you shouldn't need it until you check out.
|Locker key; "302" identifies locker and capsule|
I've read a capsule hotel can be a lonely place. The Japanese are good at preserving personal space, people generally don't talk or make eye contact.
These are not down-and-out people, just people with the basic need for a night's sleep.
I see all age groups, I'm at the older end, but I see men older than me. I see a father and his ten-year old son.
Okayama's Hotel River Side, where I'm staying, is male-only. Some capsule hotels cater to men and women, with separate floors and separate elevators.
I just don't have any stories about the guests. Nobody acts up, nobody stands out.
|Clothes washing, heading to lounge in my yucata|
On one side of me a guy is looking up stuff on a computer (provided at no charge), the guy on the other side is reading manga while eating. The only conversation I hear, just for a minute, is between an American and a German.
Finally I'm ready to climb into my capsule.
|View from my pillow|
|The lounge. I had breakfast here.|
I'd stay in a capsule hotel again.
I used my phone, without flash, to take the pictures. I decided walking around with a regular camera would be out of place, whereas a cell phone is something people would expect to see.For future reference, here's the steps I went through:
Extra: The Steps
Extra: The Steps
- Make reservation: I prepaid using Agoda's app.
- Find the place. Google Maps makes this easy.
- 8:15 p.m. Arrive. Take off street shoes.
- Open a shoe locker. Put on the flipflops that are in the locker. Lock street shoes in locker.
- Give shoe locker key to receptionist. My street shoes are held hostage while I'm here.
- Receptionist gives me an armband key, written instructions, and points me to a pile of yucata and disposable toothbrushes.
- Take elevator to my floor (3rd).
- In front of me is a wall of lockers. Open locker corresponding to my key number to reveal two towels. It's a tiny locker, my small (35 liter) backpack just fits. With hindsight I would have left my backpack in a locker at the train station ($3).
- Undress, change into yucata.
- Locate capsule in adjacent room. The capsule and locker have the same number. The capsules are stacked two-high; mine is in the top row.
- Check out my bed for the night. It looks clean, I catch a mild whiff of bleach. There's a futon, duvet, and pillow: everything I need.
- Back downstairs, drop clothes in washing machine. $3 for wash, $1 for drier. Detergent is provided at no charge.
- While clothes are washing, enter lounge. I feel completely comfortable: everyone is minding their own business; nobody is even talking. The only sound is the television.
- Grab a beer (Asahi Dry) from the vending machine. (About $3.) I also charge my cell phone.
- Once clothes are dried, head back up to 3rd floor. Put clothes in locker.
- 10:00 p.m. Brush and floss, then climb into capsule. Read a bit (on phone), then sleep. I get a pretty good night's sleep
- Next morning, 7:00 a.m., climb out of capsule. You have to be fairly limber to do this: I've yet to figure out the technique.
- Brush teeth using disposable toothbrush.
- Take elevator to first floor.
- Time to bathe, usual routine: undress in an ante-room, put stuff in locker, ($1 to lock locker), then walk naked into the communal bath room. I thoroughly wash with a hand sprayer; liquid soap and shampoo are provided. I don't feel like soaking in the large bath, so I go back to the ante-room, dry off, and put my yucata back on. Throw towels into basket.
- Back up to 3rd floor. Put on street clothes (stored in locker), throw yucata into basket, then back down to sitting room. (Come to think about it, I could have stayed in my yucata. I was on a mission to explore the world beyond.)
- Enjoy breakfast: bread and a boiled egg. Unlimited coffee.
- Back up to 3rd floor, collect backpack, then back down to reception.
- Exchange locker key for shoe locker key.
- Swap flipflops for outdoor shoes, and leave.