Capsule Hotels in Japan


A grave decision: Sleeping in a Pod

„Capsule hotels are a unique form of accommodation developed for working Japanese men who are too busy to go home“ says the website for Amazing Places, Wonderful People and Weird Stuff. Far too tired to grasp their whereabouts, the too-busy men happily clambered into coffin-sized compartments to spend the night snuggled up against walls at best sealed by a tiny door. Nowadays, emancipated capsule hotels also cater to too-busy women – following the principle of: different gender, different floors, decency guaranteed. That capsule hotels are not for the claustrophobic, is self- understood – but even those with an imperturbable mind frame and without a space and washroom sharing problem may want to think twice before checking into one of the battery-style facilities: Many a foreign neighbour is stretched out in loop holes aligned to the left or the right, hovering overhead or snoring underneath, all separated only by sometimes skinny partitions.

This kind of situation does not usually enhance the western understanding of a private atmosphere. Those who would like to give it a try all the same: a new capsule hotel was opened mid 2014 at Toyko’s airport Narita, one, in which comfort is measurable and based on an equation whose conclusion is: nine hours.

A hotel? A philosophy!

Heavy snow or bad weather in general can completely isolate an airport – and Narita is hours away from the Toyko city centre. „The airport previously lacked facilities for travellers in need of a place to stay overnight or only for a few hours“, says the Nine Hours hotel. Now passengers stranded – or just stopping over – at Narita are offered an alternative to the dreaded nap on a sloping bench or the adamant floor:

The Sleeping Pod

It is made of softly curved FRP (fiber-reinforced plastic), measures 110 cm in width x 220 cm in depth x 110 cm in height and is equipped with a so-called Sleep Ambient Control System. The small dashboard also regulates the light intensity by gradually illuminating the unit’s interior to an alerting bright-white at wake-up time. No chance of oversleeping! Local law prohibits locking a pod. There are lockers available for safe storage of valuables and other items and rows of identical shower stalls and restrooms for guests to choose from. Nine Hours has developed this pragmatic formula according to which a business traveler stays at a hotel for approximately nine to ten hours: Each guest is handed out instructions on how to use the facility in order to avoid confusion inside the uniformity prevailing throughout the premises. Code of conduct included. Pictograms help to conquer the language barrier.

The Nine Hours management is well aware of the doubts hatched by the targeted audience: „The term “Capsule hotel” conjures up images of unease, confinement and discomfort. Nine Hours has well thought of suitable services on hand and each comfortable unit makes for a restful sleep… and aims at defying the traditional vision of “Capsule Hotels” through the creation of realistic functions and the flow of people. We believe that eliminating preconceptions helps at building new qualities.“

Scattered across Japan are 55 branches offering the same facilities and services – ranging from a quick shower to stays from one hour (¥ 1,500+) to overnight (¥3,900+). Header image copyright and courtesy by Nine Hours Hotels.