I walked up to the counter, a sparkling white surface with two ipads neatly placed on top, to check in. I scanned the lounge area only to find a large space with bare minimum furniture.
“Check in is at 1 pm. Please take a seat” the man behind the counter said as a matter of fact.
I looked at my phone. It was 12:57 pm.
Perhaps it was Japanese efficiency? But it’s more likely that this capsule hotel emulated a sort of robotic efficiency.
The lounge area!
Capsule hotels are uniquely Japanese and were once popular with salarymen who needed a no-frills place to crash at. In fact, most of the capsule hotels you’ll find here are exclusively for men.
The ones that are for both genders, like the 9 Hours in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district that I was at, are segregated. I found that a bit strange because a model of a capsule hotel actually provides far more privacy than, say, a youth hostel.
Quite fitting with its name ‘9 hours’, check in at the hotel is at 1 pm and check out is at 10 am the next day. The idea is that you have to do this every day- even if you’re staying for more than one night.
As soon as it was 1 pm, I was called back to the counter to check in. It felt almost like a ritualistic process- you pay (a mere ¥4,900 or £33 per night), get handed a bag filled with items intended to make your stay comfortable, and an access card for your lockers. You then take the segregated lifts down to the ‘sleeping pods’.
There’s no room for lazing about at a capsule hotel. I had a quick sneak peek at my capsule but that’s not really part of the sequence. You’re meant to deposit your luggage in the lockers first using the QR code on your access card.
The lockers come with a designated shelf for shoes and 2 hangers. It was just big enough for my carry-on suitcase so I’m not really sure how they’d accommodate larger suitcases. I guess this place is only ideal for staying a few nights.
While most youth hostels of this budget are quite skint with what they provide you, this capsule hotel definitely went all out with it. You get pyjamas, slippers, towel, and a toothbrush set. It’s handy to just take this with you to the spacious and clean shower rooms that come with soap, shampoo, conditioner, and a hairdryer!
After getting all comfy, it’s time to head to your sleeping pods. It felt like you’re on a spaceship because everyone is dressed the same, it’s super quiet, and you have your own capsule to sleep in.
I personally thought I would feel slightly claustrophobic in them but they’re actually bigger than they look. I was able to sit up straight in them. Just like everything else in the hotel, they’re minimalistic and come with just a socket.
It was overall a great experience staying here- cheap, convenient, and located in the heart of Tokyo. It’s perfect for those exploring all day and just need a place to crash at.
But for the solo traveller, I’d recommend staying for a night to experience a Japanese capsule hotel before moving to a more social youth hostel.