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How to use a Japanese Capsule Hotel


September 13, 2011

Hallway of capsules at 9h Capsule Hotel, Kyoto (image from 9h)

Hallway of capsules at 9h Capsule Hotel, Kyoto (image from 9h)

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We've looked at some radical ideas for hotels in the past, including Russia's Ark Hotel, Mexico's Tubohotel and Sweden's Treehotel. Perhaps it is the Japanese "capsule hotels," however, that most stretch the imagination. A capsule hotel is Japan's solution for cheap accommodation for guests primarily wanting to sleep and nothing else. Though the idea sounds similar to a hostel, the sleeping quarters consists of "capsules" measuring approximately 2m x 1m x 1.25m/6.5ft x 3.3ft x 4ft (that's not much bigger than a coffin) and stacked next to and on top of one another. A separate section of the hotel houses the public bathing facilities, lockers for personal belongings and if you are lucky a restaurant or vending machine. It is also common to find men- or women-only capsule hotels, however they are predominantly used by men.

The very first capsule hotel was opened in 1979 in Osaka and was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. Kurokawa created the world's first example of capsule architecture when he built the Nakagin Capsule Tower in 1972, which housed micro apartments and offices targeted towards bachelor "salarymen." Today the capsule hotel concept continues to prove popular throughout Japan. If you are up for the challenge of sleeping in an enclosed environment and aren't turned away by the coin laundry similarity, we recommend the following destinations:

9h (nine hours) is one of Japan's newest Capsule Hotels and offers a "luxury" capsule experience. Located in Shimogyo-Ku, Kyoto, 9h features 125 modern capsules spread over 9 storeys, separate male and female quarters, designer locker rooms, showers and a lounge. The hotel also offers guests a sleek 9h amenity kit, including: bottled water, toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, slippers and optional lounge wear. The capsules feature a Panasonic alarm clock system with controlled lighting, and curved mattresses and pillows made of four different materials to ensure a natural posture while you are sleeping in the capsule. Prices start at approximately US$65 per night.

Capsule Inn Sapporo is located in Sapporo and is a male-only capsule facility. The hotel offers a classic style of capsule accommodation, with sleeping pods featuring a curtain, TV, radio, self-control air conditioning and a small table. Guests are provided with a cotton robe and have access to lockers and shared bathroom facilities. Capsule Inn can also be used for short periods of time (minimum three hours) and prices start from US$26 per night or US$15 every three hours after 6pm.

Like the accommodation itself, the process for using capsule hotels is very streamlined ... here's nine hours "how to use your capsule" rules:

  • Check-in:
  • Leave your shoes in the shoebox. Fill out the Check-in Card. Get your Locker key and sleeping pod number.
  • Shower
  • Store your belongings in the locker. Take a shower & slip into some comfortable lounge clothes.
  • Sleep
  • Climb in, snuggle up and sleep in your private capsule.
  • Shower
  • Shower and prepare for a new day. Collect your belongings from your locker.
  • Check out
  • Return your Locker key at the Front Desk and check out.

NB: This type of hotel accommodation is not recommended for sufferers of claustrophobia!

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema. All articles by Bridget Borgobello

Maybe if it only costs something like $10-20 a night.... but $65 is significant. Then again, I\'m not familiar with the pricing of lodging in that area of Japan.

Racqia Dvorak

would work for me just fine, though most Americans are either too self important or just too rude to conform to be polite to others, the slob stepping up to the upper bunk comes to mind yes from a state ending in an A or a clown from (please leave the US Rick Perry)Texas

Bill Bennett

I still want to see this on long haul aircraft, 5th Element style - at least as an option. Must be more efficient use of space & more comfortable


Thanks for that post, Bill. Here\'s some information you might find useful:



Ski Lodges in north central Japan (bout 4 hrs out from Tokyo by train). I*think mid 50s winter Olympics, held there. Stacked barn loft stables with six pallet bedding\'s each cubical, stacked three high on two long sides, a large communal area, central fire / seating W/serving girls to fetch whatever you needed. Back in the day, mid 70s.

Terry Ishmael

That\'s a lot of money for a coffin! And what about noise? I can imagine that noise would echo and reverberate big time! And what if you\'re a \"big\" guy? Do the coffins come in different sizes? And I can imagine that if someone ate a particularly gassy meal, the resultant malodorous emissions would be quite noisy and the smell might be offensive to neighboring coffin dwellers . No, I can\'t see myself using one of these...and not just because of claustrophobia either...it just doesn\'t make sense!


Deus Ex: Human Revolution had very similar capsules.

James Forsyth

Can you imagine how difficult and immersive it must be for the staff of these hotels to go in and clean these pods--such as wipe down all the surfaces inside and change the sheets?



To Bill Bennet:

I've met nicer and kinder people than you in Texas and those A-states. I hope we never do meet. There's the good,the bad and the ugly EVERYWHERE!

Those little cocoons are $65 and up?

Man, I'd rather just sleep in a micro-van.

Real estate really is at a premium over there.


I would utilize this if it had pumped in oxygen, and good ventilation. Also I would need some sort of sound proofing and vibration isolation so that my neighbors movements, sounds, wouldn\'t jar me awake. Finally I think that if the communal area were really nice I would prefer this over a small hotel room. Just one question though, where do I keep my glass of water?

Paul Anthony

I think that I would be willing to try it once and hope to god that i\'m tired enough to fall asleep before I have a fit of claustrophobia or extreme social anxiety from everyone\'s sleep noises.

Mandy Hopkins

Wish we had these at work. I work the night shift in a disaster recovery data center and I'm forever finding customers lying about between midnight and 6am.

Larry Pines
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