For the uninitiated, a stay in a capsule hotel could almost be called a rite of passage to living in Japan. These wonderful facilities, which provide the traveller on a budget (or quite often the inebriated office worker) with cheap accommodation, have taken off in Japan like nowhere else.
It’s a great idea; they provide a place to sleep, wash and eat whilst using the minimum amount of space possible. Quite often, one room in a hotel will house over 50 people. As you walk in, you see the entrance to your room as a small hole, stacked up against other holes, looking like a giant beehive.
I first stayed in a capsule hotel during my first year in Japan. I was alone, wandering the streets of Ueno, Tokyo, when I happened upon one near the train station. It was reasonably priced, and the staff even spoke English. The hotel was for men only, which is very common; I think it’s the only time I’ve seen a unisex hotel in my life.
After putting my clothes into a locker—the kind of locker that would have looked out of place at a gym—I slipped into the pyjamas that had been provided and climbed into my room. At first, I was a little apprehensive; I thought that maybe I would feel trapped or simply cramped. However, once I lay in my bed, it felt similar to lying in a tent. There was a TV positioned on the ceiling for me to watch, and I could choose to cover the door if I wished.
Of course, sharing a floor with about 49 others does have its disadvantages: the sounds of coming and going, coughing and snoring might be disturbing for some. Also, there is the lack of privacy that a hotel room would be able to provide. However, anyone who’s stayed in a youth hostel will have had similar problems.
The next morning, I got up, used the communal bath and shower and felt very refreshed; all in all, a very positive experience.