Thursday, May 7, 2015

I Slept In a Capsule Hotel: Review of the Shinjuku Kuyakushomae Capsule Hotel

While my sister was here one of the things she most wanted to do was stay in a capsule hotel. If you're not familiar with this concept, capsule hotels rent out very small spaces for low prices - generally to people who have stayed out past the last train and need a place to rest for a few hours. I don't think that people in Japan give a lot of thought to it, but in the west is seems very strange and very Japanese.

I was not very enthusiastic about this idea. I thought it would be uncomfortable, possibly dirty or seedy, and it seemed silly to pay to sleep somewhere in Tokyo when I could be in my own bed for free, but Raku got excited about the idea, and together she and Julie talked me into it.

We booked three capsules at the Shinjuku Kuyakushomae Capsule Hotel through If you're looking to book a capsule I found their website to be the most helpful. As a note, many capsule hotels don't offer accommodations for women. Interestingly, I came across several all night spas that offer inexpensive accommodations for women, but not men. The hotel we stayed in only had one floor for women and several for men. Because there are so few that allow women we found that the women's capsules filled up much more quickly. It is my understanding that normally you can just walk into a hotel and rent a capsuel after a late night of drinking, but because it was the height of cherry blossom season and ALL the hotels in the city were booked the capsule hotels booked up as well.

Although I had very low expectations I am happy to report that it was actually a really fun experience, and I would whole-heartedly recommend this hotel to others. Some of the reviews online said it was dirty, uncomfortable, or other bad things, but I thought it was excellent - of course I can only speak to the women's floor.

When we arrived it was really hard to find the entrance. Although there are signs on the building, the entrance is completely hidden. It's on the ground floor of the building with a Hub British Pub in it. If you walk towards the red Chinese restaurant and then look to the left you'll find an elevator that will take you the third floor where the reception desk is. First you deposit your shoes in a locker, much as you would at an onsen, and then head to the front desk where they will keep your key to the shoe locker and provide you with a key to your locker upstairs that corresponds to the number of your capsule. We were also given a special code printed on a piece of paper to gain access to the women's floor. The lockers we were provided with contained a pair of slippers, a set of pajamas, a face towel, and a bath towel - so you really could show up here with nothing at all. The lockers are big enough to hold a purse, hang up a coat, and hold a few things, but they are much too small for a suitcase - if you bring one it will have to sit out in the open. Many people had suitcases and they seemed nervous to leave them out, but the general atmosphere was very respectful and it felt very safe to me. It seemed like we all shared a sense of camaraderie over this strange experience we were having.

The bathrooms had free toothbrushes and toiletries, and all the showers had shampoo and conditioner inside. Even better, they were spotlessly clean. The website shows a really nice communal bath, but it's only for men. The women's floor only has shower stalls.

The capsules themselves look absolutely hilarious, sort of like a hallway filled with ovens stacked two high. They come with a pillow, a duvet, and a shade that pulls down to "close" the capsule. Inside there is a small shelf with a clock and radio built in along with an outlet in case you need to charge your phone. There is also a light switch for the capsule and a tiny TV. I didn't try the TV - it seemed like it would be too loud, but all in all it was much more comfortable than I expected. I could easily sit up without touching the ceiling, and stretch my arms out a fair amount. The mattress wasn't super thick but I didn't find it uncomfortable - though Raku did.

I wasn't sure how well I'd sleep in a capsule, but I never felt claustrophobic or unsafe, and after thoroughly photographing the place I didn't have any trouble falling asleep. While it wasn't silent inside I thought everyone was very conscientious and respectful of not making loud noise. An interesting note about our experience is that because it was peak tourist season most of the guests were not Japanese. About half of the women were white, which I assume is not the norm. In the end, it seemed a lot like staying in the dorm of a hostel, but with a little more privacy and a better story to tell at the end. I'm surprised by how much fun I had, but it was a great experience and I'm glad Julie and Raku convinced me to do it!

The  sneaky entrance, the small blue sign on the left is for the capsule hotel

The hidden elevator 
Am I a huge creeper for taking this photo?

Entrance to the women's floor

Isn't this bathroom spotless?

And super nice showers!

I can't get over how funny they look

Cozy isn't it?

Settling in for the night

Shinjuku Kuyakushomae Hotel
Phone: 03-3232-1110
Location: 1-2-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

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