I tried my first capsule hotel last week. I was hosting a meeting at the Tokyo offices of our university. I booked a “capsule” at First Cabin Kyobashi in the central business district. First Cabin is a chain of these hotels.
I think capsule hotels are designed for business people who need inexpensive accommodation, especially after a night of dining and drinking with clients and colleagues. Men and women are separated immediately after check-in. In this First Cabin, the lobby is on the second floor and men can rent “pods” on floors 3, 4 or 5. Women can have rooms on floors 6 and 7. There is a “public” (shared) bath for men on floor 8 and women on floor 9. The bath is similar to any sento in Japan. The lobby had some nice lounge and work areas and the entire hotel was new and tastefully decorated.
The bad part of the stay were the rooms. They are basically pods with a sliding curtain that does not reach to the ceiling or floor. I could hear men snoring down the hallway, guys coming in later than me, and one guy left his alarm on a 5:30 for about 15 minutes. I did not get a great night’s sleep. I ordered the “premium” cabin that had a bit of leg room. The regular cabins had only a bed and a small floor space just behind the curtain. The pajamas (yukata) provided were comfortable.
I can see how this would be such a foreign experience for people not used to Japan. The ideas of sharing a bathroom with other guests, wearing hotel-issued pajamas, being separated by gender, etc. are all kind of weird for foreigners. Only in Japan!
I am glad I experienced one, but I would not stay at another one, especially at my age. I did not get a restful night’s sleep. The hot bath in the morning almost made up for it however, and it is much better than the plastic, pre-fabricated bathrooms that come with most standard Japanese business hotels.
The hotel was conveniently located and it is such a thrill for me to be able to work in downtown Tokyo, the largest metropolitan area in the world! The university offices are in Sapia Tower, which is just a few steps away from Tokyo Station. From the 10th floor, you can watch the coming and going of trains and people. The skyscrapers and busy streets make it all the more glamorous, for me, who grew up in a village of less than 1,000 people in the north woods of Michigan.
I will be hosting a couple of other meetings in May and am looking forward to my final trip to Tokyo.