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?
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.
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!