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.

For many travelers, staying in a capsule hotel is a must-do when in Japan. We can’t honestly say they’re the pinnacle of comfort, but they do have the advantage of being quick and well-equipped for the no-nonsense tourist … and also good for a story when you get home.

What is a capsule hotel, exactly?

Capsule hotels consist of pod-like rooms — if you can call them rooms, as they’re more like sleeping pods — stacked together, providing the bare minimum in terms of space and amenities. The first capsule hotel, designed by Kisho Kurokawa (a pretty famous architect), went up in Osaka in 1979.

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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).

Basic amenities include a light and an alarm clock, but some capsule hotels may also provide a TV, power outlet, and/or radio. You’ll need headphones for the TV and/or radio. Rooms will have air-conditioning but there may or may not be vents in the capsule.

There are no locks, only a shutter or curtain for you to get some privacy and quiet, hopefully. Ear plugs can help (and some capsule hotels might offer or sell them).

capsule hotel tokyo japan
Your pint-sized home away from home. | Photo by iStock.com/Torsakarin

Capsule hotels tend to be in convenient locations, like near major train stations. They used to primarily attract salarymen, who would turn up after having missed the last train. Or because it just made more sense to sleep near the office rather than making the long commute home and back. So, like love hotels, capsule hotels weren’t the kind of accommodations you booked in advance.

In recent years, however, tourists have also taken a shine to them. After all, these little sleep pods are cheaper than most regular hotels. There is also the novelty of the experience. Fortunately, these days you can now book a capsule hotel ahead of time online.

Fun fact: Kisho Kurokawa also designed the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo. It’s not a capsule hotel (or hotel at all), but a very cool work of architecture, which (unfortunately) is in the process of being demolished.

Here are some more things you might not know about capsule hotels.

Capsule hotels are not necessarily cheaper than a hostel or a hotel

As of June 2022, a night at a capsule hotel costs somewhere between ¥4,500 and ¥7,500. While ¥4,500 is definitely cheap, a bed at a hostel can be even cheaper — as low as ¥3,000 a night. For example, popular hostel Nui has beds (actual beds!) for around ¥3,500 per night. And for ¥7,500 a night you can probably get a private room at a hostel or a budget hotel.

How much does a capsule hotel in Tokyo cost, then?

As with everything worthwhile in life, what you pay for is what you get. Specials notwithstanding, most capsule hotels have rooms — well, “rooms” — starting at about ¥2,500. You may occasionally find something cheaper during a big promo, but be a little wary of anywhere that has ordinary prices below ¥2,000 or so. (Of course, we’d be happy to be wrong about this, so if you discover the ultimate cheapo gem, let us know!).

The price ceiling on capsule hotels seems to be somewhere around ¥10,000 a night. This would be for a deluxe capsule, one with room to sit up in at least. But at that point you might as well consider booking a regular hotel room.

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They’re more than just pods stacked together

A fancy modern capsule hotel, sometimes called a “cabin hotel” | Photo by Gregory Lane

While private space in a capsule hotel is minimal, most have a good deal of communal areas and shared common facilities. For example, 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.

Not all capsule hotels have all these facilities and amenities, but you can rest assured that these pod hotels provide more than just sleeping cubicles. The least that they provide are bathing facilities, lockers (usually one locker area for shoes, and another one for other belongings), and a shared lounge. Some have laundry facilities or are attached to a coin laundry.

While capsule hotels don’t exactly exude the social vibe that hostels do, who knows — you might be able to make some friends in the lounge area. 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. Some newer capsule hotels, especially those targeting foreign tourists, might have private shower rooms instead of shared baths.

Many capsule hotels in Tokyo and elsewhere are only for men

Capsule hotels developed as cheap places for salarymen to stay when they couldn’t make it home for the night, 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 creating a floor with facilities just for female guests. Guests usually need a special key to access the sleeping quarters.

I’m traveling with my partner — can couples stay in capsule hotels?

Yes, but don’t expect to share a capsule. The vast majority of capsule hotels only have capsules that sleep one. Capsule Hotel Anshin Oyado Premier Tokyo Shinjuku Station has deluxe capsules that can sleep two — as far as we can tell, these are for men only, though.

You have to check out of your capsule hotel every morning

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 is usually by 10 a.m., but you can often extend for a small fee, usually a few hundred yen per hour.

Wait, but what about the nine-hour stay option?

This is not a thing — it may be an urban legend stemming from a now-obsolete time limit on how long you could stay in a capsule hotel (and kept going by the name of a popular chain of capsule hotels; see below for the listing).

As far as we know, these days you can stay in a capsule hotel for the same amount of time as you would in a normal hotel, i.e. roughly 12 hours. However, you can check in and check out in short order if that’s what you need to do. Some capsule hotels do have hourly options for travelers who just need a short rest. If this is what you need, ask the front desk staff. There might also be a sign with the rates posted at the entrance.

capsule hotel tokyo japan
Your future awaits… | Photo by iStock.com/chee gin tan

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

The best 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 attached to 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, plus a kind of futuristic interior design. Toiletries are provided. You can also book a capsule by the hour during the day, for a quick refresh.

How much does it cost?

A standard plan costs about ¥6,500 and includes breakfast. During the day, a capsule costs ¥1,500 for the first hour and ¥500 for each additional hour.

Address: Narita Airport Terminal 2 (outside security)
Check-in: from 2 p.m.
Check-out: by 10 a.m.
Bookings can be made here.

2. First Cabin Haneda

First Cabin Haneda room
A First Cabin Haneda capsule, slightly more roomy than average | Photo by Gregory Lane

Not to be beaten by Narita, Haneda Airport also has a capsule hotel, 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 ¥7,000 a night for a first-class cabin and ¥6,000 for a smaller cabin. The only difference between first and business class is size — the former has more space for your luggage.

Address: 1st fl., Haneda Airport Terminal 1
Check-in: from 7 p.m.
Check-out: by 10 a.m.
Bookings can be made here.

shinjuku night rainy tokyo
Shinjuku doesn’t sleep, but you probably should | Photo by iStock.com/HeathSmith73

3. Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel

A short walk from Shinjuku Station’s east exit is this classic Tokyo capsule hotel, which has a 24-hour bath and sauna, and a business-and-relaxation lounge with wi-fi and PCs. The hotel also has a restaurant and coin laundry machines.

How much is it?

You can expect to pay ¥3,200¥3,800 a night for women and ¥3,200¥3,600 a night for men. All rooms come with wi-fi and power outlets.

Address: 3rd fl., Tōyo Bldg., 1-2-5 Kabukichō, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Access: Shinjuku Station
Check-in: from 4 p.m.
Check-out: by 10 a.m.
Bookings can be made here.

4. Capsule Inn Kinshichō

Situated a few stops from Akihabara, this capsule hotel is a great jumping-off point for anyone bent on exploring the city-center. It’s also near some popular attractions, like 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 wi-fi in public area, and free LAN in the capsules themselves.

How much does it cost?

Male and female capsules both start at between ¥2,600 and ¥3,000, but there are usually promos and discounts available.

Address: 2-6-3 Kinshi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Access: Kinshichō Station
Check-in: from 3 p.m.
Check-out: by noon
Bookings can be made here.

5.Smart Stay SHIZUKU Shinagawa-Ōimachi

A 5-minute train ride from Shinagawa Station is Smart Stay Shizuku Shinagawa-Ōimachi, a capsule hotel that opened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its location makes it a great choice for sleeping after a late-night or before an early morning Shinkansen ride. All ammenities are new and the facilities include a sauna, public bath, canteen, and lounge.

How much does it cost?

Male and female capsules are about ¥4,380, but there are usually promos and discounts available.

Address: 5-2-8 Ōimachi, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
Access: Ōimachi Station
Check-in: from 4 p.m.
Check-out: by 10 a.m.
Bookings can be made here.

This post was originally published in February, 2015, and last updated in June, 2022. 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.

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