I’ve been lucky enough to stay at some very nice hotels over the past couple of years but in Japan I was on a tight budget and determined to try something a little different. Originally created for businessmen who worked too late to catch the last train home, capsule hotels (カプセルホテル) have developed as an economical alternative to normal hotels in a country where space comes at a premium.
Consisting of a large number of extremely small coffin-like “rooms” big enough for a single person to sleep in, Japan’s first capsule hotel made its appearance in Osaka in 1979. They have a bit of a grim reputation for their chicken-coop approach to habitation but in 2009 Tokyo-based Cubic Corp decided to take a fresh approach to this uniquely Japanese mode of accommodation.
Their collaboration with Fumie Shibata of design studio S resulted in the development of nine hours (9h) in Kyoto, located on Teramachi street, two minutes walk from Kawaramachi station. Having already won multiple design awards I decided to check out what all the fuss was about…
Upon arrival the first thing you do is place your shoes in a numbered locker and give the key to reception while checking in; I doubt they get many people running off without paying the bill!
A night at 9h costs ¥4900 (£38) and the hotel’s philosophy is indicated in its name: 1 hour to shower + 7 hours to sleep + 1 hour to rest = nine hours (although guests can stay up to 17 hours if they wish). Everything is literally black and white.
The lobby also provides a functional lounge area for guests to use the free wi-fi and relax before sleeping. The no-clutter effect verges on being clinical but overall quite soothing (although I think I’d go manic trying to keep the place clean).
Female and male capsules are provided on separate floors with segregated lifts servicing each.
Clear bilingual signage is provided throughout the hotel with your navigation through the complex clearly defined as a step-by-step process designed to be as effortless as possible.
Your next stop is the locker and washroom where you can get changed and shower. All-black sleepwear is provided.
I was a bit disconcerted to see rows of security cameras in the locker room, presumably for the security of your possessions, but slightly creepy.
Everything is extremely minimal and a perfect balance has been struck between function and style; only the necessities are provided. No more, no less.
Individual body soap, conditioner, and shampoo sachets are uniformly arranged.
High-quality white towels left, showers right.
Have you ever seen a more beautifully sculpted sink?
After washing, you head down the stairs to your allotted sleeping floor. By this point, I was convinced I’d entered a certain Stanley Kubrick movie.
In stark contrast to the bright white everywhere else the only light on the sleeping floors came from the glowing capsules which are stacked two high along one side of the corridor.
Inside the capsule, the white moulded plastic shell is interrupted only by the ambient LED light and simple control panel.
Created by Panasonic the alarm clock emits no noise and instead controls the light, slowly dimming when you’re ready to sleep, then gently rising like the sun at the time you determine to wake.
At the entrance is a simple blind to enclose yourself in the pod. Far from being cramped like I had imagined there is enough room to stretch out and sit up. In no way did I feel claustrophobic or uncomfortable; in fact quite the contrary.
I’m a light sleeper who is easily disturbed by noise but I managed to sleep right through the night without interruption. I’m not sure if the capsules are soundproofed but they certainly seemed near silent.
I can honestly say that I got one of the best night’s sleep in the capsule that I’d had in a long time. Whether it was the feeling of enclosure or the gentle alarm system I’m not sure (perhaps a psychologist could provide some insights here). I quite fancy the lighting system for my bedroom.
Booking a stay at 9 hours is simple through their website and I’d highly recommend it if you’re in the Kyoto area; it’s worth it for the sci-fi (verging on monastic) experience alone. Below is a video to give you more of a flavour of what’s in store.
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I though you will not post this article,it took long time:D That is really cool. As I told you, Shenzhen also has that, and it is very cheap, but I have not visited there, will be fun to have a look:p
I don’t think I’d dare stay in the Chinese equivalent for fear it would catch fire or something! Interesting though 😉
London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Amsterdam Schiphol have
Yotels, the Yo Sushi founders take on what Europeans might use in terms of a capsule hotel.
I stayed 7 hours in the Schiphol Yotel, about 1 months ago; very convenient, clean, almost silent…(but not quite), it appeared to be full. A little more expensive than the 9h, but it’s in the middle of an airport!
oh my God, this is so cool! i should have stayed in a capsule hotel when i was in Kyoto! this seems like a must-experience!
[…] Designer Capsule Hotel: cool review about one of the capsule hotels in Japan. […]
[…] can find them spread over different cities in Japan. The most known is the “9 hours” . This blog also offers a nice review on […]
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[…] friend and I noticed various shelving and empty trays and were unsure of their purpose. Looking at this December 2010 review on Randomwire, it looks like towels should have been available on the shelves, and additional toiletries in the […]
It looks like the capsule/pod environment, to sleep and rest is perhaps becoming more mainstream. This company… http://www.podtime.co.uk looks like it’s marketing the concept for use in the office, other work places… and potentially you could open up your own “podtel” business in your home garage, if you lived in an uraban situation….(and had a garage!)
Thanks for the link Marc – I’d love one of those! I don’t think I’ve had a better nights sleep since staying in the capsule.
Is it safe for a girl traveling alone to stay at this hotel? as pinoy boy said, this seems like a must-experience! I would appreciate any comments.
Hi Liramusy – the sleeping capsules for men and women are on separate floors so I believe it is very safe for girls to stay here.
Thanks David, I’ll get my reservation done very soon!!
just curious, what about the luggages? will you have places to store those things?
Hi Tung – yes, you get a locker to store your luggage.
How big are the lockers!? Don’t look that big… I’ll be staying in Kyoto for at least six months starting April, and I’d love to stay here the first night before I can move into my apartment, but I’m worried my huge suitcase won’t fit in the locker. 😀 Probably can’t keep it in the capsule with me!
Hi Elin – they aren’t huge but the staff at the reception might have somewhere else you can keep your bag but I don’t know for sure.
Thanks for the reply! I found a review where someone said there were only a few bigger lockers, at least on his floor, so he suggested traveling light when staying there. I guess I’ll contact them, I’d really like to try the capsule hotel experience. 😉 You have a wonderful blog by the way, I stumbled on it looking for information on Japan and it’s been very helpful.
They have larger lockers cost little more or you can pay for more lockers
You explain the great, just to help me
Door is transparent it? Does it have a curtain?
I stayed there 3 weeks ago, it was just great! Very comfy bed, safe, clean, and very nice staff. I recommended it to my friend and he is staying there in May this year.
Glad you had a good time there!
In case someone is interested, I did email 9 Hours and they said they can keep big suitcases behind the reception, so there was no need to worry about that. Booked one night there in March now! 😀
How did your stay go? Or are you still there? Was the luggage situation all okay?
Hi! Not in Japan yet, I’m staying there on the 30th, but remind me and I’ll let you know how it went. 😉
Cool, I am going to Tokyo on the 30th 🙂 LOL who knows maybe we’ll run into each other
Hey Kyoto will be just around the corner. 😛 😀
I will be in Tokyo then too! That’s the day I arrive ;P
Thank you so much for posting this. I have just made reservation to stay there 🙂
One small worry i have though, if someone see this and can tell me…
How big are the lockers in width? Is something as wide as 32 cm able to fit?
I must not read the last comment 🙂 question answered.
I was thinking exactly the same thing on how it seems to be something out of 2001: a space odessy! Or maybe something like aliens (better watch out for face huggers my friend said..! >.< haha) or several other sci-fi books/movies that come to mind. I have planned my night here purely based on the experience factor (around $60 AUD is 2-3x what you pay at hostels) but it looks so….unique!
Saying that, I have my one night stay all booked in for next month at this capsule hotel!! I will be staying there on my own, so will have to try to take some pics hmm.
I hope I do not feel cramped/claustraphoic…! I wonder if many people have had to leave because it did..? The fact that you can sit up is reassuring at least. Either way, I'm going!
Annie, I am also going to be arriving into Tokyo on the 30th haha!
Hey Bonnie – hope you have a great stay there, it is indeed something out of this world 🙂
Well worth the price for the experience & I’m sure you wont feel claustrophobic – it was much more spacious than I imagined.
Thanks David, it’s nice to hear some comforting words (after my friends reaction to it…saying it looks like a coffin! Ha..>.<).
Either way, I am very excited!
Thanks for posting such a good page about this hotel, I love how you show it bit by bit, and with good detail. I used the link on my facebook page to show people where I am staying hehe 😉 Where abouts are you from yourself?
Thanks for sharing the page Bonnie 🙂 Are you travelling far to visit Japan?
I’m from the UK but live in Hong Kong – I can’t wait to go back to Japan (hopefully later this year). Kyoto was definitely a highlight of my travels in the past few years – it almost makes me feel painful to imagine how much more there is to explore!
I will be travelling from Australia, I am from Melbourne. My stop over is actually in Hong Kong funnily enough! I was kinda wishing I’d have enough time to see the city for a couple of hours ha…
I will be visiting Kyoto 🙂 In the craziest time of the year to do so too…cherry blossum season. My brother lives in Japan so I am going to visit, I can’t wait to see him!! I will be there for 5-6 weeks…:D
Not Kyoto for 5-6 weeks haha..I meant Japan in general! But yeah, will be in Kyoto for a few days for sure!!
Pity you don’t have time to explore HK also but enjoy your time in Japan 🙂
A variation on the theme at Xi’an airport !
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This place looks like something ridley scott would like…a bauhaus deathrow with wifi and an ipod dock….perfect.
It’s a really interesting idea. I’d like to go and see this place
I wonder if they have pods big enough for two? We’ve stayed at the Yotel in London and loved it. I only wish they had more options like this.
Hi Caanan – all the capsules are single sized. Would definitely be great to see more places like this.
Does anyone know who manufactures these pods?
Capsule hotel pods reach Hong Kong. A friend stayed there for two nights…very impressed by cleanliness and efficiency…lacking in character…but I guess it’s just a different sort of character. Pity that the pods here are only for one person.
Thanks for pointing this place in Hong Kong out Marc! Looks interesting but nowhere near as tasteful or minimal as the one in Kyoto.
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[…] Because space is at a premium in Japan, hotels have sprung up that are only capsules. Indeed, you get a small sleeping space, a shared shower area, place to store your clothing, and reading area, and you have 9 hours that you could stay in this designer capsule hotel. […]
WARNING: GEEKY PSYCHOLOGIST COMMENT (well you did ask for it):
The light-based alarm clock would certainly improve at least the later stages of a night’s sleep and waking up as it replicates how the sunrise would have naturally woken us 000s of years ago, hence our eyes and brains evolved to cope with gradual increases in light intensity. Nowadays we get woken suddenly and are thrust into bright indoor lighting soon after being asleep (in my case, to stare in the bathroom mirror at the mess the night has made of me ), and our eyes simply aren’t prepared to cope with such dramatic changes in light levels. It’s like when you come out of the movies and it takes a while for your eyes to adjust. It’s a great idea, I think there are some home alarms available that attempt to give you a similar affect.
I really hope these hotels catch on elsewhere. Is there any limit to check in time?
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Hi, thank you for the article! it’s really easy to understand and nice picture 😀
i book a capsule for 2 days and i want know one thing.
when you enter in the capsule hotel, can you put bagage inside (after12H) and can go out during the day or not?
cause it’s not hotel, can we moove easily ? (and bagage can stay at capsule hotel? for sure the bagage will not be big)
thank in advance 😀
Hi Lauriane, from what I remember there is a space next to the front desk where you can leave bags. I’m not sure if you can leave them outside your time of stay but there are plenty of coin lockers at the nearby metro station if not.
Thank you so much, that is a great review. it;s such a interesting place to be. I just have couple questions:
1. Is there a door for a capsule or just simply a curtain to get private?
2. is there any cautions/rules about keeping quiet in the capsule area? Cause there would be case like people ‘d like to listen to music or watch movie.
Hi Tra – there’s a blind which you lower over the capsule entrance (i.e. not a door). You need to keep silence when you’re in the capsule area but I guess if you have headphones quietly it’s ok.