They like to refer to themselves as a “hotel”, but really, Capsule Hotels are hostels, where you share the bedroom and bathroom facilities with everyone else. However, you do have your own budget “room”, which is your bed space with walls and/or curtains that can conceal you from other lodgers.
There are no minimum size requirements to a capsule hotel “room”. I stayed at four different ones in Japan (two in Tokyo, one in Kyoto and Osaka), and they were all quite different in spaciousness and set up. If you get easily claustrophobic, you are better off at an actual hotel, or hostels with the classic bunk beds.
I was in Japan late Feb to March. A room at Centurion Cabin in Akasaka, Bay Hotel in Akihabara and Fuku Hostel in Osaka cost approx $50/night. Wind Villa in Kyoto cost half that price.
Photo provided by Centurion Cabin and Spa in Akasaka, the first place I stayed at in Tokyo. If you got the cheapest room, you’ll have to crawl into your lower-bunk “room”. If you paid for TV in your room, you will get the top bunk. Centurion is a big chain of hotels and hostels in Japan. I remember this place had an unreliable supply of hot water. I’d have to turn the tap on and wait 15 seconds before the warm water would come back on.
The “room” is pretty much the space of your bed, but with walls on all sides. There is an opening in the wall for you to get in and out. The opening can be covered with sliding curtains. People can still see your body parts through the cracks of the curtains though, depending on the type of curtain provided by the place. Don’t be butt nekked in your room, just in case. The mattress is always a thin futon. The futon is fit perfectly to the size of the room, so there is usually no extra floor space. You’re not allowed to eat or drink (other than water) in your bed.
Some capsule hotels are Women Only (or as they like to express it, “Caters to Women”), or Men Only, as clarified in the name of the hostel in the booking sites. If no indication, it’s unisex. Centurion in Akasaka and Akihabara Bay Hotel were Women Only. These places always provide women-friendly toiletries (facial toner, make up remover, etc.), which the the unisex places don’t.
Unisex hostels may not be Women Only, but all of them have a Women Only floor or section. Japan is pretty big on Women Only. There are buses or subway trains that are only for women, after a certain time of night. In a city with very low crime rate, I wonder if this is really necessary…
A typical capsule room has a light, a face mirror (if it’s Women Only, it has a mirror for sure), plugs and sometimes, a rotating dial to control the intensity of your light. There is a narrow shelf at the back or side of your room for your to put your stuff on. The ceiling is always low, so you can’t stand up properly. This is the typical setting of a capsule room. Although I must say, Centurion was the most chicken-coop-y out of all 4 that I stayed at.
I took this picture from the very back of my Centurion “room”, and this is all of the front that I could fit into my camera. Don’t get this room if you have claustrophobic tendencies. I had jet lag, so I would go to sleep at daytime and the curtain they gave me left a crack, so I had hallway light leaking into my room. The hallway light is turned off around 11pm.
This was my Akihabara Bay Hotel room (picture taken from doorway). Looks like a baking oven or something. The bed was a lot more spacious than Centurion. A lot brighter, and the curtain actually shut all the way so I didn’t have light leaking into my room if I wanted to go to sleep early.
Akihabara Bay Hotel cleans your room every single day. Other places only clean your room after you check out, but not Bay Hotel. This place doesn’t let you into your room from 10am to 4pm; 6 whole hours, you’re not allowed to be there, because they’re cleaning. Would be a lot better if they had shut-off hours per floor, instead of kicking everyone out for 6 hours of a day.
This is the common washroom and makeup area at Bay Hotel. Reliable supply of warm water, which was not the case in Centurion. Super clean, and even provided hair straightener/curlers. Paper cups for your dental needs, and good quality facial cleanser, makeup remover, toner and lotion. I didn’t even have to use any of the stuff I had brought. They also provide q-tips, bath scrub towels, cotton pads for free, which wasn’t the case in Centurion.
At all the hostels I stayed at, there were sinks and mirrors on every floor. HOWEVER, most sinks had the hot water turned off. Only the sinks on the same floor as the shower stalls had hot water. I’d have to go to those specific sinks on that floor, if I wanted to wash my face properly with warm water. The hot water was never scorching hot either. It was pretty surprising that such a rich and advanced country like Japan limited hot water supply. I guess hot water is a lot more expensive here?
A full corridor of private shower stalls in Akihabara Bay Capsule Hotel.
Really nice, private shower stalls in Akihabara Bay Hotel. Centurion had a common shower and bathtub, which was a nice experience as well. Lots of nekked ladies just doing their thang.
Akihabara Bay Hotel was pretty big on security. They had these fob key entrances at the main door and at every floor.
There is always a common area which is a communal eating and relaxing space. Generally, there are tables, self-serve beverages, vending machines, hot water machines for your cup ramen, and Japanese TV being played. Out of the 4 hostels, Akihabara Bay Hotel is the only one that did not provide a shared refrigerator. The one in Centurion broke down while I was there, so the smell of rotting food hit me in the face full-on when I opened it.
The common area at Akihabara Bay Hotel.
All hostels will have a common area with a microwave and hot water to cook your convenience store foods and ramen. Also some vending machines for your drink needs. Some places like Centurion and Wind Villa provide free self-serve beverages, but Bay Hotel and Fuku Hostel did not.
The one I stayed at in Kyoto, Guesthouse Wind Villa, was an actual room.
I was pleasantly surprised by my room in Wind Villa that was HALF THE PRICE of the rooms I had in Tokyo, and Osaka.
Wind Villa in Kyoto has got to be the best experience. It had extra floor space for me to put all my stuff, and it HAD A WINDOW. It also had hooks in the room for me to hang my jackets. Also a real door that I could slide to close my room completely, instead of curtains. There is also a hook thing on the door to lock your room.
My room in Kyoto had a window! And it had this sliding mosquito screen. How cool is that.
Wind Villa at Kyoto was easily my favorite hostel in Japan. It wasn’t at an as central of a location, but it was designed for travelers to feel at home. Here’s me looking out of their window in the morning.
All four places did not allow outdoor shoes to be worn inside. I thought this was smart; you couldn’t bring in all that cat poo and trodded-on yakisoba noodles at the bottom of your shoes, onto their floor. They provide indoor sandals at no charge.
Also, all four places had coin laundry facility. It cost me 400 yen everytime (200 to wash, 200 to dry for an hour), so it’s pretty expensive. Wind Villa in Kyoto had a powerful wash/dry machine that only charged me 100 yen in total!
200 yen to wash your clothes, and 200 yen to dry your clothes (100 yen for 30 minutes of drying; 30 minutes was never enough). There are instructions in English. I like that the washing machine has an option where you can wash the washing machine (yes, wash the washing machine) before you put your clothes in.
The two hostels in Tokyo provided me with a set of shirts and pants as pajamas, free of charge.
Some places charge you a 100 yen to rent you a towel. Some provide a new one everyday at no extra charge, and some provide you one for free when you check in, and then charge you when you want a new towel.
Some have 24 hr check in and front desk, but most do not, and their closing time is indicated on booking sites. If you will be checking in past their closing time, you must notify them beforehand and they can make an exception for you. If the hostel doesn’t have 24 hour front desk, it provides you a security code that you must enter at the building door after a certain time in the night. Take a picture of this code so that you’re not locked out if you forget it.
Out of 4 “rooms” I stayed at, 3 did not have any locks on the doors, so do not leave anything valuable in your room. Keep it in your locker, which is provided free of charge. Most lockers can fit a carry-on luggage, and more. Some places have really small lockers (I’ve had as small as 20cm x 15cm, at Fuku), so it’d be just big enough to fit your small electronics and pricey valuables.
Some places have really charming common area, and I spent a lot of time in them.
Enjoying a cup of tea and a traditional Japanese snack as I stare out the common room window in Kyoto.
Me enjoying a foot bath in my complimentary pajamas provided by the hostel. It wasn’t a real bath with water, but you cover your feet with plastic and dunk it into this box with warmed beads. Takes away some of the fatigue from all that walking. They also provided Japanese fashion magazines and recipe books for me to read as I relax. Some hostels have these surprising perks that are available for free.
All in all, capsule hotels differ widely in policies and size, and what they do or do not provide. My favorite was Guesthouse Wind Villa in Kyoto, and my least favorite was Fuku Hostel in Nanba, Osaka. I don’t have any pictures of Fuku hostel, because it was a really underwhelming place that only provided the bare necessities, and you had to make your own bedding when you use the bed for the first time, etc.