Staying in a Japanese capsule hotel

When it comes to off beat accommodation options, you really can’t go past Japan. You could stay in traditional ryokan, a love hotel, or even overnight in an internet cafe. But none are more renowned than the capsule hotel, a staple for businessmen, revellers, and curious visitors. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it would be like to stay in a capsule hotel, then read on for the ins-and-outs of capsule life…

How big are they really?

A lot of people are worried that they’ll feel like they are sleeping in a coffin. Don’t worry, this is certainly not the case and you won’t feel like a member of the undead when you go to bed. Sizes differ between hotels, in fact, some offer more of a ‘cabin’ than a capsule – a sliding door will open to a small room with a lockable cupboard and a capsule bed. Others will be in the more common ‘stacked pod’ style – rows of capsules, stacked two high with a ladder to access the top pod.

Inside your capsule, you’ll actually have room to sit upright, stretch out and roll over. Each capsule has a light, personal air conditioning control, shelving, power outlet and a small tv. Just roll down your privacy shutter and get a peaceful night’s sleep!

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Why are some only for men?

You’ll need to check if your hotel caters for women as well, as some have a strict male only policy. This is said to be for the protection and comfort of potential female guests, which seems like an odd consideration for a hotel. Thankfully, many are mixed gendered now, although the women’s section is always kept separate from the male’s, and usually accessible only through an extra level of security.

Keep in mind that if you are travelling in a mixed gender group, you will be placed in separate areas, regardless if you are friends, related, or even married.

Do I need to bring my own towel and bedding?

Unlike many hostels, all your bedding, towels, toiletries and even pyjamas are taken care of. Yep – they’ll even give you a pair of pj’s to wear around the floor! Bathrooms are shared with the rest of the floor, so it’s also good to know some of the etiquette before you go in.

Don’t wear shoes! You would have already locked up your main pair of shoes when you went to reception, but don’t pull out a sneaky pair of thongs for the bathroom. There are clogs that you slip on and off for the toilet area, but other than that, it’s socks all the way. The women’s bathroom usually has all your basic beauty essentials, such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, razors, hair dryers and face wash. You might want to clarify the shower situation before you check in – some have the shared Japanese style shower, which doesn’t cater for prudishness.

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Wait, so am I expected to put all of my luggage in the capsule with me?

Nope, don’t worry, you won’t have to share your sleeping space with your suitcase. When you check in, you will swap your shoe locker key (located in the entrance of the hotel), for a floor and locker key. Put all of your luggage into your assigned locker, and take only your essentials into the capsule with you.

If you want to come and go in the hotel, that is usually fine (outside of daytime cleaning hours), but you will again exchange your luggage locker key for your shoe locker key. When you get back you will need to show some proof of ID or payment, and then complete the whole exchange again to get your locker key back from reception to access your stuff. This is mainly so access keys don’t end up lost on the street or in the hands of someone else.

Anything else I should know?

Capsule hotels have had a reputation for being on the seedy side, but they take not only your security, but also your comfort, very seriously. Reception staff in the main cities usually have a enough English to get you through, and whilst bookings are recommended, you shouldn’t have too many issues trying to make a walk-in booking. In the major cities though, capsule hotels will still cost you around AUD$40-50 a night, so they still aren’t as cheap as a hostel dorm. However, for the comfort, amenities and honestly, the sheer novelty of it all, it’s pretty worthwhile!

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