I stayed at Nine Hours Otemachi, a capsule hotel in central Tokyo. One night cost me $26.
The hotel was separated by gender, and the pods looked like something out of a sci-fi movie.
The accommodation was comfortable enough for one night, but I probably wouldn’t stay longer.
I’m an expat living in Japan, and I paid $26 for a one-night stay at a capsule hotel.
As a freelance journalist and travel writer living in Japan, I move around a lot for work. When I want to save a few yen on my accommodation, I often stay at capsule hotels, also known as pod hotels.
These multi-story buildings are filled with cuboidal sleeping pods and were originally designed as rest stops for traveling workers during the late 1970s. Though capsule-style living has found mixed success since then, pod hotels remain a popular choice for thrifty solo travelers.
My recent stay at a capsule hotel called Nine Hours Otemachi was cheap — I paid $26 for a one-night stay — but I did forgo some of the comforts I’d have in a business hotel or a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.
I stayed at Nine Hours Otemachi in central Tokyo.
Nine Hours has several branches in the capital’s business districts and a handful of others scattered across the country. The hotels share similarities, but each one caters to the district where it’s located.
Nine Hours Otemachi’s simple white facade and no-frills decor were indicative of the capsule hotel’s functional approach.
The hotel is also a run station where guests and non-guests can rent jogging gear.
Located on the northern side of the Imperial Palace, the hotel is also a run station, meaning guests and non-guests can rent jogging gear and hit the nearby streets to break a sweat.
Nine Hours Otemachi rents out windbreakers for 400 yen, or roughly $3; a set of pants and a t-shirt for 500 yen, or about $4, and various sizes of Nike running shoes, which are included free of charge.
Conveniently, the roughly 3-mile area surrounding the palace gardens has become a popular route for joggers.
I checked in at the reception area on the ground floor near a common area.
People on one-night work trips often stay in capsule hotels, especially if they’re on a budget. Nine Hours Otemachi’s low rates and common area — which has desks, chairs, and Wi-Fi — make it specifically well-suited for this demographic.
When I arrived for check-in, guests seemed to be clacking dutifully away on their laptops and engrossed in business calls.
Next, I took the men’s elevator to my capsule.
The dorms and elevators are separated by gender. This is a standard practice in most of the capsule hotels where I’ve stayed.
At Nine Hours Otemachi, the men’s capsules are on the second floor through the fifth floor, and the women’s are on the sixth floor through the eighth floor.
The corridor’s central atrium makes the floors feel spacious and full of natural light in the morning.
The glass walls allowed me to see guests milling around on the other L-shaped floors. It made Nine Hours Otemachi feel more lively, even on the quiet Tuesday night when I was there.
The sleeping capsules are fitted into the walls along the L-shaped corridors.
Nine Hours Otemachi felt squeaky clean and it has the kind of minimalist design style that’s widely favored in modern Japan.
This decor can feel impersonal to some, but capsule hotels have long been considered futuristic. A sleek, less-is-more style feeds into that idea.
Though capsule hotels have a similar setup to hostels, they don’t necessarily invite the same amount of mingling.
When I was at Nine Hours Otemachi, many guests maintained their privacy by pulling down an opaque blind at the end of their sleeping pods.
My capsule, number 419, was at the end of the corridor on the fourth floor.
I had to remove my shoes in the dorm area, as is customary in Japanese homes. There are lockers in an adjacent room where I stored my clothes and luggage. I could open and close them using a QR code I received at check-in.
I’ve always felt safe in capsule hotels but travelers should always be cautious and aware of their surroundings, just in case.
My sleeping pod looked like it was straight out of a science-fiction movie, but it had all the basic amenities.
I thought my capsule looked like a cryosleep chamber on a space flight.
In spite of its small dimensions and cocooned interior, it had all the basic hotel amenities: a USB charging port, a dial to control the light, and two small shelves to hold my phone and any other valuables I chose not to store in the locker room.
The capsule was also fairly comfortable, though this is obviously my personal opinion. I’m 5 feet 8 inches tall and had a fairly easy time fitting into the capsule.
If you’re taller or have lankier limbs, you might have to bend your knees to prevent your feet from dangling over the edge.
The lack of space in capsule hotels didn’t come as a complete surprise since many apartments in major Japanese cities are very small. However, I wouldn’t recommend capsule hotels for those with claustrophobia.
When I pulled the blind down, I became very aware of just how tight my pod was.
The capsules are completely separate, but the corridor can still get noisy at night.
Light sleepers should bring earplugs because even though walls separate the capsules, sounds seem to always drift through the corridors at night. Every time I’ve stayed in a capsule hotel, I’ve heard a snorer growl somewhere on the floor.
For a higher price, Nine Hours Otemachi guests can stay in the recently released 9H sleep docks, which have hatch-shaped doors that supposedly make the pods more soundproof.
A sleep-scan analysis service, which measures guests’ sleep quality and breathing patterns, is also available upon request as part of Nine Hours Otemachi’s new wellness-hotel concept.
Each floor has a shared bathroom at the end of the dorm corridor.
The bathroom features shower stalls, sinks, water closets, and a locker for each guest. The showers have complimentary toiletries, and the hotel provides guests with towels and pajamas.
I stayed on a Tuesday night, and there seemed to be few guests around the bathroom area. I imagine it gets more crowded in the locker and shower area when there’s a full house though.
After the necessary ablutions and a few beers in a local gastropub, I crawled into my pod for a fitful eight hours of sleep.
Partially because of a loud snorer down the hallway, I tossed and turned in frustration until I eventually entered my own dream world.
Staying in a capsule hotel can be a mixed bag, and your experience largely depends on your ability to sleep in tight environments and your fellow guests’ behavior.
I’ve stayed in several before and would have no qualms doing so again, but I’m not sure if I’d relish the prospect of sleeping in a pod several nights in a row.
One of the primary issues is that you have to sacrifice your privacy without getting the sense of community you often do in a hostel filled with backpackers.
If budget is your primary concern and you expect to spend little time in your accommodation, then it’s worth giving capsule hotels a shot. At the very least, you’ll have a quintessentially Japanese experience.
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