First timers Guide to Capsule Hotels in Japan

First timers Guide to Capsule Hotels in Japan

So you want to stay at a capsule but don’t really know what to expect? This guide will help you learn all about capsule hotels to prepare for your stay, maybe even figure out if staying at a capsule hotel is right for you.

First we need to know…

What is a Capsule Hotel?

A capsule hotel, also known as a pod hotel, is a type of accommodation where instead of getting a full-sized room you’re given a sleeping pod with just enough space for a small bed.

Nakagin Capsule Building
Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo

The idea was first seen in Tokyo, Japan in 1972 with the Nakagin Capsule Tower. In Japan the word “capsule” (カプセル, read as kapuseru) is associated with being compact and often futuristic. You’ve most likely even heard of the company who decided to include the word capsule in their name to represent the compact arcade boxes they created, “Capsule Computers” or commonly known today as CapCom.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower was not a hotel though but a residential space whose target demographic was bachelor salary-men (サラリーマン, read as sararīman, referring to Japanese male white collar workers). The concept didn’t quite catch on until 1979 when the first capsule hotel was built, this time in Osaka.

Capsule hotels then had one important purpose, it was to provide overnight accommodation to salary-men who worked really late and have missed the last train home. Getting a taxi in Japan is very expensive so getting a sleeping pod is a cheaper alternative. And since this is their demographic, most pod hotels only accept male guests and provide lounge-wear to their guests. Nowadays capsule hotels service both locals and travelers alike but they still provide sleeping clothes for their guests and some still only accept male guests.

What you need to know

Before deciding to stay at a capsule hotel, there are a few things you need to consider.

Capsules or Pods are tiny.

In our experience, we were able to comfortably sit inside our capsule with enough headroom

Don’t expect to be able to stand up inside your sleeping pod. Remember that capsule hotels are designed for sleeping. And that’s really the main thing that you need to take note of, it’s tiny. If you are claustrophobic, even mildly, then you should NOT stay at a capsule hotel. A capsule is about the size of half an elevator standing up. In our experience, we were able to comfortably sit inside our capsule with enough headroom (I’m 5’8” or 173 cm). Abby felt a little claustrophobic at first but was able to get over it after a while.

Another thing to note is that capsules have bunk bed style setups where capsules are placed on top of each other. If you’re not a big fan of climbing a ladder to go to your sleeping pod, ask for a bottom capsule.

It’s private, sort of.

Your capsule is private in a way that you’re contained in your own small space. Entrances to the capsules can be closed off with a curtain but you cannot lock it off like a regular room. So if you have any valuables, you need to make sure it’s stored inside your locker or is kept in your person at all times. Theft isn’t really a big problem in Japan but it does happen from time to time. Also, since you only have a curtain to close your capsule off, any noise you make will leak out to the rest of the floor, which brings me to the next point.

It’s quiet or at least should be.

Capsule suffers from the same problem as any shared room. If somebody decides to take a call inside their capsule or listen to music without headphones (both of which are prohibited), then you’d also be able to hear them. While people are generally polite and won’t intentionally cause noise, some noises are unavoidable. In our experience, we could hear snoring from other capsules. I even heard somebody fart on our floor (thank God I wasn’t able to smell it). Capsule hotels don’t really do a good job at containing noise.

9 Hours Kyoto Floor Layout

Floor are gender segregated.

Most capsule hotels are gender segregated so males go to one floor and females go to another. This would be a problem if you’re a traveling couple. In our case, our stuff is stored in one luggage so we had to make sure we prepare the things we need for the day, beforehand, and store that in our own separate lockers. That also means opening your luggage in the common area which can be cumbersome. If you’re traveling as a group with separate packs, this might not be such a big problem.

Power outlet, or lack of it.

Most capsules should have at least one power outlet to charge your mobile device. This can be a problem if you’re carrying multiple devices that you need to charge such as cameras, GoPros, and routers. Best thing is to always bring a travel extension socket/outlet.

Check in and out everyday.

Most capsule hotels would require you to check out and back in every day. This is because capsule hotels are designed for people who’ll only be staying for a day. You most likely would be using the same capsule and locker anyway so it’s not that big of a deal but you’d have to go through the check in and check out process everyday which can be a hassle. Also, it’s still possible to be assigned a different capsule and locker so it’s a good idea to keep your stuff packed just in case.

Facilities are different from on hotel to another.

Capsule hotels provide the same basic facilities that other hotels have like shower and locker areas but do remember that they’re often a shared space. Sometimes there’s even a shared bath area (お風呂 read as ofuro). You also get the usuals like toiletries, towels, etc. What’s unique to a capsule hotel is that most hotels will give you some sort of lounge wear. You can use that or opt to just use whatever you brought with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Isn’t it a bit claustrophobic?
    • It can be. If you can ride an elevator comfortably, you should be fine.
  • Are there capsule hotels for couples?
    • There are but they’re rare. The only hotels we found are the Tokyo Kiba Hotel and the Hotel Owl (see below).
  • Can I stay at a capsule hotel if I’m traveling with my family?
    • Of course you can but the logistics might be challenging specially if you have small kids.
    • There are capsule hotels that have family capsules, such as the Owl Hotel (see below), but they’re quite rare.
  • Are capsules cheaper than hotel rooms?
    • Not always. Some Airbnbs are cheaper than a capsule so make sure you do your research first.
  • Do capsule hotels have showers?
    • Yes, they do. But remember that they’re shared showers so you might need to queue up to get your turn at showering.
  • Is it safe to store your valuables inside your capsule?
    • Generally, no. Make sure you store your valuables inside your locker or keep it with you.
    • There are some capsule hotels that have a small safe inside the pod but they’re not that common.
  • Can you eat inside your capsule?
    • No. But you can eat at the common area.
  • Can you listen to music inside your capsule?
    • Yes, as long as you listen using earphones. Some capsule hotels even have TVs with headsets if you want to watch before going to bed.
  • Are there issues with tattoos?
    • Sometimes, depends on the hotel. Most capsule hotels don’t even bother asking but some do. Ask your hotel before booking.
  • How many capsules are there in a room/floor?
    • It could be from 10 to 30, even more depending on the hotel room/floor layout.

Cool Capsule Hotels to check out

Here’s a list of capsule hotels. All these hotels are available in Tokyo but some are larger chains that also have hotels in Kyoto, Osaka, and other places in Japan.

9h Ninehours

Staying at Ninehours feels like taking an interstellar trip to a far off galaxy; taking a cryogenic sleep along the way. The design of the hotel is very minimalist, all white like a beautifully designed space ship. The pod itself is glossy white which resembles the sleeping chambers in movies. They even have a sleep system where the pod lights up gradually to wake you up. When you think of a capsule hotel, this would probably be the image you’d have in your mind.

One unique thing about Ninehours is that some locations offer short time stays. This means you can go to the hotel, nap for a couple of hours, take a shower and leave. Perfect if you only need to take a quick nap before you move on to your next destination. They also offer to use the shower if you just need to freshen up without needing to stay in a sleeping pod.

Price: ¥1,000 for naps and ¥3,000 for overnight stays


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First Cabin

First Cabin is one of the few hotels that offer first class and business class capsules, or what they call, cabins. First class cabins look closer to a regular hotel room than the usual sleeping pod. This is because you have actual floor space where you can stand up. It even comes with a small table if you want to do some writing.

Their sleeping pods are called the Premium Economy Class Cabins. While the size and configuration is like a regular capsule, the look and feel isn’t. It has a very premium feel to it, like you’re sleeping at a regular hotel except it’s smaller.

Price: ¥4,000 for the Premium Economy Class


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Centurion Cabin & Spa

The sleeping pods at Centurion Cabin & Spa makes you feel that you’re traveling back in time. The sleeping area has a traditional Japanese design with thin sliding doors. And since it’s also a spa, you can also use their onsen (public hot spring) and sauna.

Price: ¥3,000

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Anshin Oyado

Anshin Oyado provides a simple, homey capsule hotel experience that is perfect for short stays. Green tea, coffee, fruit juices and miso soup are available for free. They also provide breakfast for a minimal additional cost. A vending machine is available for snacks and alcoholic beverages. Other amenities include free wifi, toiletries, sleepwear, washing machines, massage chairs, a steam bath, a hot bath, and several plugs for your devices. You also have a pair of headphones inside your capsule if you need it.

Price: ¥4,980

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Book and Bed Tokyo

Book and Bed is probably one of the most interestingly-themed capsule hotels that you can stay in. The capsules are lined with bookshelves, and the place is surrounded by books, from the walls to the ceiling, to the chandeliers. The books are English and in Japanese, which you can borrow during your stay. You can take the books to your capsule or use the couches around the area for some reading time before sleeping. Aside from the rich selection of reading materials, other amenities include a sleepwear, toiletries, a safe box inside the capsules, a vending machine and a bar for alcoholic beverages.

Price: ¥5,200 

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Glansit Akihabara Capsule Hotel

Glansit Akihabara provides a relaxing and refreshing experience with its modern theme with earthy indoor garden highlights. The lobby and the common area are lined with fresh, live plants that add to the bright and relaxing ambiance of the hotel. The sleeping area is darker and dimmer though, to help you sleep. Amenities include toiletries, sleepwear, a microwave at the common area, a flat screen tv in each capsule with headphones, a hot tub, and complimentary coffee. In addition to the standard sleeping capsules, you may also choose a “twin capsule” if you’re staying with friends, or a superior capsule which has a higher ceiling and more moving space compared to a standard capsule.

NOTE: The twin capsules are still gender segregated.

Price: ¥7,500

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Khoasan Tokyo Samurai Capsule

Khaosan capsule hotel provides a more authentic traditional Japanese home experience. The wooden sliding doors and tatami floorings with low tables give the place a feel of old Japanese homes. The pods are bunk-bed style with cloth curtains for privacy. Aside from the regular capsule hotel amenities, you can use the kitchen to prepare meals.

Price: ¥2,000

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Ueno Station Hostel Oriental

Ueno Station Hostel has buildings exclusive for males and females. It provides the basic capsule hotel amenities such as toiletries, a hot tub, laundry area, several massage chairs, a spacious work area, and a sauna. Yutakas are provided as sleepwear instead of pajamas. The capsules are bunk-bed style with wooden stairs and sliding doors. Several vending machines are available in the hotel.

NOTE: Yukatas are light kimonos usually worn in the summer or as a sleeping wear.

Price: ¥1,800

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The Millennials Shibuya

The Millennials capsule hotel has a modern industrial theme perfect for those who prefer more luxurious and fancier hotels. The common area provides several electric plugs for charging. You can also use the electric kettle and toaster at the kitchen area. Aside form the standard capsule hotel amenities, free coffee is available during the entire duration of stay, as well as free beer from 5:30-6:30 pm (Yes, Free. Beer.) The capsules are more spacious than regular capsule hotels. Each bed may also be reclined to be a sofa for more floor space and the storage area under the bed is big and sturdy enough for big luggage. Instead of a regular alarm clock, the pod turns the lights on at the set time to wake the you up without a sound. Aside from these, the partition blinds turn the pod into a home theater with an 80-inch projector where you can connect your device for entertainment. All of these features can be controlled with an app on an ipod that they will provide when you check in (yes, you have to return it when you check out).

Price: ¥10,500

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MyCUBE Capsule hotel is one of the high-end choices when choosing where to stay. It has a modern theme with earthy undertones, and is considerably more spacious than a regular capsule hotel. The sleeping capsules have higher ceilings which is perfect for first-timers and for those who are looking to experience capsule hotels but are uncomfortable with tight, confined spaces. The capsules are equipped with a tv, a safe, and some compartments where you can put small items. Bigger bags may be brought inside the capsule as there is enough space under the bed unlike other capsule hotels. Several seats and couches, as well as counters and bar chairs are available at the spacious common area. Some traditional Japanese toys are available for entertainment. Food may also be purchased from the restaurant and the vending machine in the hotel.

Price: ¥3,900

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Hotel Owl Tokyo

Hotel Owl is one of the very few capsule hotels that have coed sleeping spaces. If you have a mixed gender group and you want to stay in the same area, this is definitely the place you need to stay. What’s great about Hotel Owl is that they also have a family capsule so you can still experience a capsule hotel even if you’re traveling with children. Plus they have a real owl at the lobby.

Price: ¥2,000

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What do you think about capsule hotels? Would you stay at one? 
Do you have any concerns about staying at a capsule hotel?
If you’ve ever stayed in one, how was your experience?

Mel Vargas

Hi, I'm Mel. I'm the jedi half of Curious Couple Travels. I used to be a corporate slave like most people but I've decided to leave work and spend the next 12 months traveling. Am I prepared? Maybe... Scared? A little. Excited? HECK YEAH!

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