Capsule Hotels: Minimalist, Budget-Friendly Accommodation

Tiffany

It’s past midnight, and you just missed the last train. A hotel is out of the question, much too pricey, but you definitely want more privacy than a tiny cubicle in a manga cafe. What’s a cheapo to do? That’s where the capsule hotel comes in.

First built by Kisho Kurokawa in Osaka in 1979, capsule hotels consist of pod-like rooms—if you can call them rooms, as they’re more like compartments—stacked together, providing the bare minimum in terms of space and amenities. Not for nothing are they also sometimes known as sleep pods, cube hotels or cubicle hotels: they’re snug. Inside, there’s just enough room for a person to crawl inside, lie down, and (maybe) sit up (if you’re tall, this might be impossible).

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Basic amenities include a light, an air conditioner, and alarm clock, but some capsule hotels may also provide a TV, power outlet, and/or radio. There are usually no locks, only a shutter or curtain for you to get some quiet and privacy—which isn’t always guaranteed, as you may have the misfortune of sharing the hotel with rowdy guests.

capsule hotel tokyo
Your pint-sized home away from home. | Photo by m-louis used under CC

While capsule hotels used to primarily have salarymen as their clientele, tourists have also come to appreciate these little sleep pods for their “cheaper” rates compared to most regular hotels, as well as the novelty of staying in something thought to be unique and futuristic.

Capsule hotels are no longer just places in which to unexpectedly spend the night, but also accommodations that people purposely intend to stay in. But before you start booking one, here are some things you might not know about capsule hotels.

1. They’re not necessarily cheaper than a hotel or hostel

Wait … what? How much does a capsule hotel cost? The average rate per night at a capsule hotel ranges from ¥2,500¥6,000. While ¥2,000 is definitely cheap, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a Tokyo hotel that charges so little for a night, there are budget hotels and hostels that can offer you a room for about ¥2,500¥6,000 a night.

For example, the popular hostel Nui has beds (actual beds) for around ¥3,500 per night.

2. They’re more than just pods stacked together

capsule hotel Tokyo
Capsule hotels are typically very high-density, more so than other types of Tokyo accommodation. | Photo by Steven Vance used under CC

Don’t worry—whatever their reputation, capsule hotels are not particularly sterile or impersonal. The capsule hotel I stayed in had a bath and sauna, vending machines, a manga library, some arcade games, massage services, a communal space for watching TV, and even a restaurant.

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Not all capsule hotels have all these facilities and amenities, but you can rest assured that these cubicle hotels provide more than just sleep pods. The least that they provide are bathing facilities, lockers (usually one locker area for shoes, and another one for other belongings), and a lounge.

While capsule hotels don’t exactly exude the social vibe that hostels are known for, who knows—you might be able to make some friends at a capsule hotel lounge. Also, note that baths tend to be communal (but still gender-segregated, of course), and that those with tattoos are usually not allowed into the baths and saunas.

3. Many capsule hotels are only for men

Capsule hotels developed as cheap places for salarymen to stay in if they couldn’t make it home overnight, so historically they’ve been pretty much just for men. Until fairly recently, it was rare to find a capsule hotel that allowed women. This is said to be for women’s safety, but nowadays, capsule hotels are offering the more sensible solution of catering to women but keeping the floors or areas segregated by gender. Guests usually need a special key to access the sleeping quarters.

4. You have to check out for each day of your stay

Capsule hotels aren’t really meant for long-term stays. That doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in a capsule hotel for, say, a week, but you’ll have to check out then check in again every day. Check-out time is usually at 10:00 am, but you can extend for a small fee, usually ¥300¥500 per hour.

capsule interior, capsule hotel
The inside of a typical capsule, slightly used. The bulge at top left is a TV. | Photo by sean used under CC

Still interested in booking a capsule hotel? Then let’s move on to …

Recommended capsule hotels in Tokyo

All the capsule hotels listed here are open to both men and women.

1. Nine Hours Narita Airport

Welcome to Japan! Are you stuck waiting for a connecting flight? Did you arrive past midnight? If so, this capsule hotel in Terminal 2 of Narita Airport is a godsend. (It’s also the source of all those Google searches for “capsule hotel nine hours” and perhaps the urban legend about how you can only stay in a capsule hotel for nine hours.) The hotel has lockers, showers, and a lounge. Toiletries are provided.

How much does it cost?

Currently, a standard plan costs ¥6,500 a night on weekdays, and ¥7,500 on Fridays and weekends. Checking out each day doesn’t seem necessary here. Hourly rates are also available for those who just want a short rest: it’s ¥1,500 for the first hour and ¥500 for each succeeding hour.

Address: 1-1 Furugome, Narita City, Chiba, 282-0004
Check-in: 12:00 pm-5:00 am | Check-out: 10:00 am
Bookings can be made here.

2. First Cabin Haneda

First Cabin Haneda capsule hotel Tokyo
A First Cabin Haneda capsule, slightly more roomy than average. | Photo by Meredith P used under CC

Not to be beaten by Narita, Haneda Airport also has a capsule hotel of its own, inside Terminal 1. It’s called First Cabin Haneda, and as the name implies, this is fancier than your average Tokyo capsule hotel. In fact, their rooms are called “cabins” rather than “capsules,” and they, indeed, have much more space and actual beds, making their rooms look more like mini-hotel rooms than capsule pods. Size aside, the only other reminder that you’re not in a regular hotel is the lack of a lockable door.

How much does it cost?

An overnight stay here costs ¥6,500 a night for a first-class cabin, while it’s ¥5,500 for a smaller cabin. The only difference between first and business class is size—the former has more space for your luggage. Short-term stays are also available for ¥800 and ¥1,000 an hour for business and first class, respectively. Toiletries and earplugs are provided.

Address: 1F Haneda Airport Terminal 1 | 3-3-2, Haneda Airport, Ota-ku, Tokyo
Check-in: 7:00 pm | Check-out: 10:00 am
Bookings can be made here.

Pro tip: If you don’t happen to find yourself anywhere near Haneda, you can still get a taste of the First Cabin experience at their hybrid Akihabara or traditional capsule Akasaka branches.

Shinjuku night sleep capsule hotels
Shinjuku doesn’t sleep but you probably should. | Photo by Kei Mashimo used under CC

3. Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel

Close to Shinjuku Station’s east exit is this Tokyo capsule hotel, which has a 24-hour bath and sauna, and a business-and-relaxation lounge with wifi and PCs. The hotel also has a restaurant and coin laundries.

How much is it?

A room costs ¥5,000 on average, but this hotel regularly has discounted plans. You can expect to pay ¥2,500¥3,800 a night for women, and ¥2,600¥3,600 a night for men. All rooms come with wifi and power outlets.

Address: Touyo Building 3/F, 1-2-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Access: Shinjuku Station
Check-in: 4:00 pm | Check-out: 10:00 am
Bookings can be made here.

4. Capsule Value Kanda

Located near Akihabara, Capsule Value Kanda is owned by the same people behind Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel. Its price range is similar, and you can also expect the same quality of rooms and facilities.

How much does it cost?

A standard room costs ¥7,300 a night, but they also have discounts and promos. Those under 30 can get a room for substantially less than that per night, as long as proof of age can be shown. Like those at the sister hotel in Shinjuku, all rooms have wifi and power outlets.

Address: 1-4-5 Kajicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Access: Kanda Station
Check-in: 10:00 am | Check-out: 10:00 am
Bookings can be made online here.

5. Capsule Hotel & Spa The Nell

Located a little further out in Ueno, Capsule Hotel & Spa The Nell has a sauna, free wifi, and laundromat and is a short walk from Ueno Station and Naka-Okachimachi Station.

How much does it cost?

A standard capsule costs about ¥3,000, but there are usually promos.

Address: 2-15-9 Higashi-Ueno, Taito, Tokyo
Access: Ueno or Nakaokachimachi Stations
Check-in: 14:00 | Check-out: 10:00
Bookings can be made online here.

5154350747_b1b1c8079c_b
Photo by Joanne and Matt used under CC

6. Capsule Inn Kinshicho

Situated in the tech hub of Akihabara, this capsule hotel is a great jumping-off point for anyone bent on exploring the center-city. It’s also near sumo stables and the Sumida Hokusai Museum. The hotel offers a bar, coffee shop and restaurant, a sauna, hot spring baths, a fitness center, free wifi in public area and free LAN in the capsules themselves.

How much does it cost?

Male and female capsules both start at between ¥3,400 and ¥3,700, but there are usually promos and discounts available. Apparently this capsule hotel also welcomes children, but definitely double-check this before booking.

Address: 2-6-3 Kinshi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Access: Kinshicho Station
Check-in: 15:00 | Check-out: 12:00
Bookings can be made here.

This post was originally published in February, 2015, and last updated in October, 2019. While we try to ensure that all of our information is accurate, prices and other details may vary. Rates listed here are intended as rough guidelines only, and should be checked carefully.

Written by:
Filed under: Places to stay
Tags: Accommodation, Capsule, Capsule Hotel, Cheap Places To Spend The Night, Night, Sleeping, Tourist, Weird Japan
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