Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Capsule Hotel ~ Japan’s Answer to the Hostel

Well, it wasn’t on my to-do list but it was certainly something that I desired to experience and not even a month in, I’ve managed to have the opportunity to stay in a Capsule Hotel. Now for those in the cheap seats, a capsule hotel is a hotel designed to house those who don’t require the luxuries of a typical hotel. So all in all, there is no eating area, no en suite bathroom and no bar, lounge, night club or swimming pool. Fundamentally, the capsule hotel is exactly what is says on the tin. Your bedroom is a capsule – a small compartment in the wall amongst many other small compartments in the wall. The only thing you do in there is sleep…or watch television. I stayed at the Capsule Hotel Asahi Plaza in Shinsaibashi, Osaka and my capsule was thus below:

Capsule 430 at the Asahi Plaza
So I suspect you’re wondering why I would find such a tiny compartment rather exciting. After all, it’s nothing compared to the five star options that some of us westerners are used to. Nevertheless, while it may simply be nothing more than a hole in the wall, the fact that it’s not something that exists where I’m from makes it even more interesting to me. I’ve lived in my tiny little London bubble all my life so now that I have the opportunity to try new things, I’m taking them as they come. And as yet another Japanese invention, it was only right that I opted for a capsule hotel – even if it ends up only being once.

I wasn’t alone for the experience but upon arrival, we had to remove our shoes at the entrance and put them in lockers. After completing some paperwork, we were issued with keys and a quick run through for where everything was. First impressions were that it was quite cool. I was in ‘foreigner-fantasy’ mode where everything and anything new looks amazing. The women’s’ capsules were separate from the men’s and the first thing that hit me when stepping into the lift heading down was the heat. Now I’m a fan of heat so this was nice for me but I reckon that the high temperature was coming from the bath and shower rooms as inside them was a sauna as well. Get in. We were issued a key that permitted us entry into the women’s area and which also, served as a means for us to put away our belongings inside a locker.

Now in true Japan style, these lockers were quite narrow and I had a small suitcase, a laptop bag and a large coat with me. I managed to shove my stuff in the locker however and in return, I found a couple of towels, a sponge and a pyjama set waiting inside. Unfortunately, said pyjamas were not westerner friendly. The bottoms were like shorts on me whereas they pretty much fit to the floor on one particularly small Japanese woman. There were laundry bins all over the place however so when you were done with yours, all you had to do was toss them inside.

Now I wish I had taken a picture, but also, in the women’s’ area was a powder room. This came complete with multiple sinks, stools, face wash and moisturiser, sterilised brushes and hair dryers. I thought this was a nice touch as the day I stayed in the hotel, myself and my collective were off on a night on the town so it was nice to have a room-length mirror to get ready in.

We had to return our keys to the front desk when we left. I suspect this is quite common in Japan as I’ve stayed in a couple of hotels now and upon re-entry, we simply had to quote the number and we were issued with our keys again. I wasn’t sure initially where people got dressed so opted to get dressed in my capsule. This was a bit uncomfortable and I’d often knock the sides of the capsule because I’m obviously not a small person. I was more concerned with disturbing the prominent quiet that seemed so prevalent about the capsules. It was really warm inside however and there was a small curtain that you could pull down if you wanted to shut out light or desired your own privacy.

I never used the television as I was so tired when I got in but I noticed that inside the capsule was a built-in alarm clock which I also, thought was cool.

Be aware that you are sleeping next to other people so if they start snoring, you’ll most definitely hear it. I had to deal with this for roughly twenty minutes in addition to people shuffling around but I was so tired that I flaked out soon afterward.

I woke up before the alarm I’d set and proceeded to do my morning ritual. During this time, I discovered that most people just got changed wherever they liked. Some got changed in the locker rooms but the most common location was obviously the bathhouse. I got the Japanese bathhouse experience only the water was a little bit too hot for me. There were a lot of people about but I suspect this was because check out times were fixed at 10am and any time later would incur a fine.

It was also, indicated that people had to vacate the premises between twelve and two in the afternoon to allow time for cleaning. This didn’t affect me so much as I only stayed one night but I can understand why this might be annoying for people who want the option of sleeping in.

Overall I had a pretty positive experience. I can’t speak for all Capsule Hotels but I figure that it’s probably not the best option for couples and definitely not something you should go to if you’re claustrophobic.

Asahi Plaza was located right in the middle of a night-life hotspot so it was a good location for what we needed it for. I would therefore give this Capsule Hotel, three and a half stars out of five.

Advice? It’s better to experience it for yourself.


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