It’s about as strange as you’d imagine.

On our last night before leaving Japan, we’d taken the train from Hiroshima and really only needed a bed before our flight the next morning. Sure, a regular hotel would have sufficed, but where’s the fun in that?

Tokyo capsule hotel

Image via Flickr user Lacrymosa

We’d already slept in beautiful ryokans and a Buddhist temple during our trip, so why go back to boring? We jumped at the opportunity to try out one of Tokyo’s famed capsule hotels.

So here’s how it works:

There are separate floors for women & men.
Each floor has a wall of lockers, one for each pod on that level. On the other wall are two rows of pods. If it’s empty when you check in you can state your preference for top or bottom. I had bottom, which was easier to get in to, though you’ll want to watch your head when you’re clambering out lest someone step on top of you :)

It’s not exactly like a tomb.
Though if you’re even a tiny bit claustrophobic this is not the accommodation for you. Your “door” is just a shade you pull down. While that means there’s less privacy, it makes you feel less locked-in, which I appreciated. There’s enough vertical space for you to crawl in and prop yourself up to read. There’s even a little TV in there, as well as an alarm clock and a shelf for the things you didn’t leave in the locker. But this isn’t really a place you’d want to hang out in. Just get your eight hours of snoozing and be on your way. Also, if you’re more than 6 feet tall, your feet will hang out. Sorry.

Tokyo Capsule Hotel

Image via Flickr user kalevkevad


Bathrooms are on a different floor.
So don’t go wandering around in your underwear looking for the toilet. The Japanese are a modest people, so be fully clothed, gather all your things, and politely wait your turn for a shower. It’s like a hostel, but with less drunk kids and more sleepy secretaries.

They sell anything in the lobby.
Since the pod hotel’s main customers are business people who worked so late that it didn’t make sense for them to commute home & back, the hotel has everything from toothbrushes to shirts & ties for sale. Just because you can’t make it home doesn’t mean you need to look wrinkled!

We were only there for about 10 hours, but it was definitely a memorable experience. I’m not saying I’d seek out sleeping in a pod again… though I’d be happy if all international airports had them. You could pay for a comfy bed for a few hours on your layover, and arrive so much more refreshed! Heathrow, Gatwick & Amsterdam are already on it, but I wish the price was a bit cheaper. Maybe someday!

  • Jen

    Oh my god I’ve ALWAYS wanted to try one of these!! they look a lot less like tombs than I expected in your pic, so not as frightening as I thought. The Japanese are so efficient !xx

    • Kit

      I was really expecting to feel worse about it! It’s more like sleeping in a bunk bed than the space-pod I had imagined.

  • Ben

    I never got a chance to sleep in one of these. But I would have loved the experience. How long before people can just use these in lieu of apartments? A storage area for your gear, and you can live in one if you needed to.

    • Kit

      From what I’ve seen of Tokyo apartments, some aren’t much bigger! :)

  • Sabrina

    I’m not really claustrophic, but I think staying in one of these would kind of get me there. I also don’t relly like that you can’t actually close yourself in. Probably would be a problem with air supply… Is there a place where you can lock in your things though? I guess I like the idea of such a hotel more than the real deal :)

    • Kit

      It’s certainly an unusual experience. They have lockers where you can safely put your stuff, so no worries there. I think if you could truly close yourself in it would feel more like a tomb… but I’m curious to see how they do it in airports where people would want a bit more privacy. Thanks for reading Sabrina! 

  • Poi

    I’ve never even heard of these before but they look great – what more do you need from a hotel? Looks pretty comfortable – did you sleep well?

    • Kit

      I slept quite well! But I was also exhausted after a two week whirlwind tour of Japan, I would’ve slept anywhere :)

  • Elizabeth Bird

    This is so cool! I’ve always wondered about staying in one of these. I agree they should have these in every airport.

    • Kit

      It would be so nice to be able to rent them anytime you need a nap between flights!

  • Joe Wong

    Looks pretty cool, it must’ve been a great experience. I’ll make sure I try them if I ever go to that part of the world.

  • Cynthia

    I’d read about these pods before. Not sure that I’d care to sleep in such close quarters. Definitely an interesting alternative for sleeping arrangements!

    • Kit

      It was definitely interesting! I did it just because I wanted to know what it’s like – not sure I’d rush do it again. Though I’d definitely like one during a long airport layover! Thanks Cynthia :)

  • Suki F

    That actually
    looks very practical and much more private than hostels.

    • Kit Whelan

      Well, a lot of changing/showering goes on outside the pods, so it’s not SUPER private, but definitely better for sleeping (as long as you’re not claustrophobic)!

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