Staying in a futuristic capsule hotel is something uniquely Japanese that should definitely be on your bucket list! Minimalist and inexpensive, quirky and fun, capsule hotels are very popular in Japan and something you have to include on your Japanese trip.
We spent a night in 9 Hours, Kyoto . Upon arriving, as is usual etiquette in Japan, shoes are removed in the entrance and left in small cubbyholes by the door. The reception area was open, stark and blindingly white. We checked in and were given our capsule numbers and which floors we would be sleeping on. Capsule hotels were originally for men only, designed for business travellers, but most now cater for women as well with separate floors and bathroom facilities for each gender. This is strictly managed and you need a key card to access your floor, which meant David and I said "see you tomorrow" and headed off to the lifts to our respective dormitories.
The whole of the hotel was immaculate, and the same sleek minimalist white as the reception. It felt like a space ship, or a Swedish wellness clinic.
You will be allocated a tall locker to keep your things in, including your suitcase. Mine was in the ladies' bathroom on the same floor as my capsule, David's was on a different floor to his. You'll be given a net bag containing pyjamas, a towel, a toothbrush and slippers (or this might have been already in the locker).
First of all, ditch your suitcase in your locker, shower and change into your pyjamas. The bathroom facilities were equally pristine: long row of mirrors with gleaming white countertops, and plenty of showers and toilets. Shampoo and hairdryers are provided.
Put everything that you want to take to your capsule in your net bag, like a book, your phone charger and ear plugs if you need them. Food isn't allowed in the hotel, but I took a bottle of water in with me for the night.
The dormitories were dimly lit, with double rows of fibreglass capsules stacked the length of the room. It was cosy, but surreal, a bit like something out of the Matrix, or one of those space films where people are put into hibernation pods for a long journey.
Numbers on the floor show you which pod is yours, and while they are small, they were more spacious than we expected. You can comfortably lie full length and have room either side to roll around, and I could just about touch the ceiling lying on my back if I stretched my arms. Not as claustrophobic as I thought it might be!
Each capsule has a mattress, pillow and blanket, plus a light, digital alarm clock and a USB input for your charger. The end is closed off with a privacy screen, which stops people from looking in but doesn't do much for noise. Luckily, most people were generally very respectful and crept in and out of the room quietly, but David had someone in his room rustling a carrier bag all night and someone else talking quietly on a phone which was annoying. You'll also hear everyone's alarms going off in the morning, so if you're a light sleeper, ear plugs might be useful. I found it no worse to the sounds of people stirring and getting up when we go camping. Much better than shared rooms in hostels I've used before!
Check out in the morning is strict, no later than 10am, but you can leave your luggage in the reception area and explore Kyoto before checking into your next hotel.
If you need an inexpensive place to sleep (I think we spent less than £15 each), or want to tick it off your Japanese bucket list, staying in a capsule hotel is something you have to try when travelling in Japan. I would say one night is enough, then move on to somewhere more spacious and private!
Would you stay in a capsule hotel?