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Japan: Capsule Hotel

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Capsule Hotel | Japan | Asia

[Visited: December 2009]

Of the many reasons why Japan is a fascinating country, is that it has found some inventive ways to be more productive, and to focus on the basics. One example of this is the capsule hotel, which is void of luxury, does not have rooms, and provides for just enough space to be able to spend the night. It is a great invention for people who live far from work, to save time on commuting. It can be a great alternative for drunkards, and is often cheaper than taking a taxi home. Added advantage: not to face the wife after a wild night out. Most capsule hotels only allow men, although there are some that accept both sexes. In this case, though, men and women would sleep on different floors. It is not allowed for a couple to stay in one capsule.

Picture of Capsule Hotel (Japan): Lane of bunks in a capsule hotel

This time around, I had a very practical reason to stay in a capsule hotel: I had missed the last bus back to my hotel. The only alternative would have been a taxi, but I did not even want to think about the price for that, so I headed to Shibuya to crash in a capsule hotel. I already decided to take advantage of this night in Tokyo to visit the famous fish market of Tsukiji early next morning, as it had been closed that Sunday morning. The capsule hotel in Shibuya is pretty big: a tower on the corner of a street, with 6 floors full of bunks. After taking off my shoes, a friendly man behind the counter took a copy of my passport, and handed me a key. This was to open a locker in which I could store my shoes - when I handed it back to the receptionist, he gave me another key on a wristband, and a yukata (Japanese kimono-like bathrobe). I proceeded to the elevator on the slippers I had taken from the entrance.

Picture of Capsule Hotel (Japan): Interior of capsule hotel bunk: TV, radio, air conditioning, light

While I was staying on the 8th floor of this capsule hotel, I was not supposed to go there directly. First, I had to stop at the second floor, where I could open yet another locker in which I could leave my personal belongings, and clothes. Lockers are clearly intended to accommodate only casual visitors - not travelers. Wrapped in my yukata, I passed the laundry area to the elevator again, and was on my way to my capsule. It was on the ground floor, is high enough to sit in, and long enough to fit in - provided you are not too tall. For your privacy, you can close a curtain. Once on your back, you have access to the panel in the ceiling, and can watch TV, listen to music, or switch on the light. I was tired enough to sleep - but woke up after a few hours because someone was snoring deeply. That is probably the biggest disadvantage of capsule hotels: they are very noisy. Ear buds would be a solution - but not only did I not take them with me, I hate to use them in the first place. It was time to get up for the fish market anyway.

Picture of Capsule Hotel (Japan): Lockers where you leave your belongings in capsule hotel
Picture of Capsule Hotel (Japan): Bunks in a capsule hotel
Picture of Capsule Hotel (Japan): Description of floors in elevator of capsule hotel
Picture of Capsule Hotel (Japan): Laundry department in capsule hotel
Picture of Capsule Hotel (Japan): Outside view of Capsule hotel

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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