Hotels in Japan: The Basics

Reference Pages Index -- Oniko Goes To Japan Main Page

There are a lot of different styles of hotels in Japan, and some need explaining because they are definitely different for your average foreign visitor. Here's some brief breakdowns about each I've run into.

Capsule Hotels - Spas - Ryokans

Capsule Hotels -- a.k.a. the "dog kennels"
These are literally called "capsule" hotels (Ka-Pu-Se-Lu in Japanese pronounciation), and have existed in Japan since at least 1990 when I first saw them; I suspect they came into existence in the mid 1980's, but I don't know yet.
These are the hotels that American news dubbed "dog kennel hotels" in the 1980's. This is because the 'rooms' are a mere 3 feet by 3 feet by 7 feet... just big enough to lie down in and go to sleep. What the American news didn't mention was that these rooms also include, despite their size, a television, a radio, a fan for hot nights, and a mirror and shelf. Originally intended as a refuge for business men who missed the last train at night (public transportation in Tokyo stops between 1am and 7am every night), these hotels are for males only and tend to be located in Japan's red light districts (gee, why did they miss the train?), which are typically in walking distance of a train station of one sort or another.
Manga & Anime Fans: What came first, "capsule" hotels or the Dragonball comic series which included a character with equipment miniturized into "capsule"s? Both seem to come into existence at the same time... did the comic inspire the nameing of the hotels?
No matter what the actual name of the hotel is, there will always be a prominant sign with the words "capsule hotel" in Japanese displayed, assuming you can read enough Japanese to recognize foreign words like that. You can check in anytime after 4:00 PM, and it will cost you between 2800-5000yen a night; oh, and you get the 'room' for just one night... there are no reservations or long-term stays at a capsule hotel. You check in at night, and you check out in the morning, period. Once in, you can leave for a walk; but be sure to check with the front desk whether or not you should leave the key.
Either before or after paying for the night, you will need to swap your shoes for slippers; after paying, you will be given a key on a bracelet and be directed to some lockers where you will stow all you are carrying and wearing in exchange for the yukata (light robe) that all the guests wear. The lockers are not large -- remember, the hotel is intended for stranded businessmen -- so if you are toteing suitcases, this ain't the hotel for you. Me and my shoulder bag are just about the right fit for these lockers. In any case, once you are in your yukata with your key on your wrist, you're set. Usually the "rooms" are up an elevator from the locker room, and there are other perks; obviously, each floor has a communal toilet, generally pre-stocked with toothbrushes and shaving gear. But there will also be a communal bath on one floor where you can kick up your heels and relax, and vending machines offering cigarettes, beer, and juices (and sometimes sodas). Some capsule hotels will even have a community room with table and chairs and a large TV, but I've only seen this once.
Time to go to your 'room'; like other hotels, your room number (which will be on the key) corresponds to the floor it is on -- any number in the 200's is on the second floor, in the 300's is on the third, etc. The actual 'rooms' are stacked about three tall and ten to fifteen wide on each floor, and if you are in the top layer of rooms you will have to climb a ladder to get up into it. Once there, click on your light so you can see what's going on, and then pull your curtain over the entrance to insure a scant bit of privacy.
The capsules are really pretty comfortable, as long as you are not claustrophobic. You have a nice mattress, pillow, and sheets, a fan if it's hot, and a radio and TV. I'd say to keep the volume on these last two down, but my neighbors in the past have rarely been that considerate. In any case, checkout time is usually by ten in the morning; in the locker room throw your yukata into the laundry basket everyone else is dumping theirs into, get your stuff out of the locker, and head out... having dressed first, of course.

Capsule Hotels - Spas - Ryokans

Back to the Index & Reference Page - Back to Main! - Back to Top!

All illustrations in these pages are copyright (c)2002/2015 Garth Haslam, and shouldn't be used without his permission. To contact him Click Here!