I love Japan, and there are many things that are culturally unique to this country. One of quirkier things that is always associated with Japan is the Japanese capsule hotel. In Japanese, it’s called (oddly enough) Kapuseru Hoteru カプセルホテル
Now, it makes sense that staying in what basically amounts to a tube id not for everyone. So if you’d prefer more traditional accommodation, check out YouCouldTravel.com’s post, Where to Stay in Tokyo for Tourists and First Time Visitors.
I had the opportunity to stay in a Japanese capsule hotel in the touristy neighborhood of Asakusa in Tokyo. My hotel was the Hotel New Tochigiya, a mere 15 min walk from Tokyo’s famous Sensoji Temple.
Tokyo has the stereotype of being an expensive city – and it is – but there are definitely deals for the more budget-minded traveler. The Hotel New Tochigiya is definitely one of those gems – you can stay there for a super-low ¥2,200 per night, or about $18 US! No question – that’s one of the cheapest places I found in Tokyo.
Capsule hotels originated in Japan. In my opinion, the whole world needs to catch up with this part of the culture. Pre-molded fiberglass or modular plastic assembled together in a large room and stacked in rows of two to maximize the space needed to fit more people – like containers on a ship!
Japanese capsule hotels offer the basics for travelers. And they are even highly popular with the Japanese themselves, who often choose to stay in one for a couple of hours instead of going home after a late night out.
Where to find the Hotel New Tochigiya
The Hotel New Tochigiya doesn’t have any eye-catching signage and it’s hard to find directions. You’ll have to know where to turn to find it. As is the case everywhere in Japan, any street names and numbers are confusing to foreign visitors. My suggestion is to look it up online before you arrive to get a good look at the store front (above), as well as any general directions to get there.
Japanese Capsule Hotel: a Cultural Importance
Upon checking in, the attendant brought me to the fourth floor and assigned me to a capsule pod, as well as a locker. Inside my capsule, a bathrobe and a pair of slippers were provided for comfort. Guests are expected to slip off any street clothing they’re wearing and leave everything else inside the locker. Oh, and they have male and female sections inside the hotel, so no need to worry about leering eyes from the opposite sex as you’re undressing.
The first thing you can do is don your robe and slippers and go the basement to the onsen. Onsens are public bath houses where you can clean up and bathe after your journey. When you’re in an onsen, there’s a specific routing you should follow. Check out this Wikipedia entry for more.
After you’re clean and relaxed, you can spend the rest of the night in the Hotel New Tochigiya lobby. They have a library full of anime comics to read, or you can purchase food from a large selection – including ramen noodles – in one of their vending machines.
Feeling tired? Go to your air-conditioned room where your capsule awaits.
What about claustrophobia?
Will it feel like you’re inside a coffin? Not at all. If you are a tall person (anything taller than 6’1″ or 186 cm), it may be a tighter squeeze for you. They’re build for Japanese people and the average Japanese person wouldn’t have this problem. The average height here is 5’8″ or 172 cm.
Otherwise, here’s actually plenty of room inside. You even have your own TV, reading lights, and alarm clock. You can sit down and read – as you can see from my photo, I have plenty of room to wiggle.
After a while, I got used to my modular plastic wall. I had more room than I anticipated, and I kinda felt like a kid. I was once again inside the fortress I built in my parents’ living room out of sheets and cushions!
Every capsule pod has its own pull-down blind, which provides a nice, dark environment to sleep in. Unfortunately they have a very thin mattresses. Not unexpected, since the Japanese tolerance of thin sleeping surfaces is very high. A lot of them even sleep on tatamis, or straw pads.
Is it “the hostel of the future”?
Doubtful. Not that I expected otherwise, but this was not a glamorous hotel. Simply put, although the Japanese capsule hotel seems to be an “out there” and futuristic concept, the interior of the hotel and the condition doesn’t appear to be management’s highest priority.
Like a typical hostel pretty much anywhere in the world, you have to share a bathroom (but, uhmmm, maybe not with the bright neon light in this place) and the onsen. And their decor is very basic. It was “decorated” with whatever was produced back when the Hotel New Tochigiya was built in the ’80s.
In the end though, the experience was worth it. I’ve seen these online and on TV and really wanted to try it. Mission accomplished!
If you are looking for things to to in Tokyo, check out this Tokyo Travel Guide for more information.
Hotel New Tochigiya
111-0032 Tokyo Prefecture
Taito-ku, Asakusa 2-22-2
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