What’s a capsule hotel? Is it a capsule in a hotel, or a hotel in a capsule? Is it pocket-friendly?
While it’s neither pocket-sized nor portable, for now I’m sure that it is a hotel in a “capsule”. But who knows what those genius Japanese minds would think of in the future. Maybe a “portable” capsule hotel would happen, not impossible if you ask me.
Anyway, a capsule hotel is a backpacker’s dream come true. Or a solo traveler, provided they’re just looking for a cozier space to spend the night at. The first time I stayed at a capsule hotel, or capsule room to be specific, was at Single Inn when I visited Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The experience was one-of-a-kind and, in a way, became part of my trip’s unforgettable experience.
So when I finally decided to visit Tokyo, Japan, I decided to stay in a capsule room again. After all, this is where the concept originated. This time, I stayed at Centurion Hotel Residential Cabin Tower in Akasaka. I had high expectations and was expecting to be wowed.
I ended up getting more than I expected.
Where are these capsule accomodations located?
From experience, I’d say capsule rooms tend to be located near major public transports.
Actually, this is one of my favorite things about Centurion. It’s smack in the middle of two Tokyo metro stations (Akasaka and Tameike-Sanno) and restaurants that serve various Asian and Western cuisines, ranging from affordable to high-end prices.
Is it comfortable?
Ideally, capsule rooms are the same size as a nitso 😛 with all the basic amenities of a regular hotel room. I haven’t tried staying in those box-like capsule rooms because it’s just too claustrophobic for my taste.
So why did I still choose a capsule room over a hotel room aside from the experience? Price, and mind you that’s a loaded word in terms of capsule room experience if you pick the right place. Whatever capsule rooms lack in space, they overcompensate for by way of amenities—from what’s available in your room to what’s in the shared areas. I actually find capsule rooms truly worth the price than most hotels that are most likely hit-or-miss, especially the mid-range ones.
As for comfort in terms of space, it’s relative. I’m not claustrophobic so I’m okay with capsule rooms as long as there’s extra space for my stuff inside the room itself. Traditional capsule hotels, and the ones I stayed in, have lockers where you can keep your stuff. But I find this a nuisance since most lockers are located away from the sleeping area. I also don’t want to keep another key (aside from the usual hotel key card) or memorize a locker combination.
What do you get inside a capsule room?
It depends, but I think this is where research becomes very important. When I was combing Booking.com for possible capsule hotel options, I checked reviews religiously and avoided capsule hotels that (shocker alert!) require customers to stay for just 8 hours, leave the capsule, then come back again later! It’s like a vendo machine for sleeping! I’m not sure though if that’s a standard or a business model that exists elsewhere aside from Japan.
Typically, capsule rooms would include these in your sleeping space—TV with a remote and cable channels, wall lamp, a control area with ports/outlets for charging and power connection, and a headset for listening to the TV. Towels are also included. Centurion has a hanger which, doesn’t seem like a big deal, but is a godsend I tell you. Not all capsule rooms have this.
I got a superior capsule room in Centurion, which meant that I also had a small chair and table inside the room. And of course, my own tatami-inspired door for privacy.
What are the shared areas?
By default, the toilet and bath area are shared spaces in capsule hotels. A few more additions may be available, such as sauna, spa, and a living room, depending on the hotel.
Centurion didn’t have the same shared living area as Single Inn but they have a Samurai lounge where you can spend time either working, eating, or meeting fellow tourists. They also have a common area with free drinks and snacks, right beside the hotel reception at the lobby.
Speaking of toilet and bath, it amazes me to no end how capsule rooms keep these areas spotlessly clean. Centurion’s shared toilet and bath area looks new every time I use it. It didn’t fall short against my Japanese expectations. Although the deluxe cabins only had two toilet rooms and two showers for a fully-booked deluxe quarters (6 rooms in all), the toilet and bath amenities were still kept pristine.
I also loved the extra amenities Centurion had aside from the ones in the cabin room and shared areas. It’s right at the entrance and has slippers, toiletries, and free use of yukata and obi!
How’s the food?
The capsule hotels I stayed in have their own small restaurant, but I also know of others that don’t have any restaurant or eating area whatsoever. You have to rely on nearby eating places for meals.
One of the reasons why I picked Centurion hotel was because they charge inclusive of daily buffet breakfast. Overall, it’s so-so, since the selections were mostly Western food (hotdogs, eggs, potatoes, rice) with some salad. But it’s nice that they have miso soup too though I didn’t try it. They also have coffee and tea, as well as bread and cereal.
What kinds of traveler are suited for capsule rooms?
Transients and solo travelers are perfect for it. Groups traveling on a budget would also like it because they can occupy an entire quarters made up of individual capsule spaces. Overall, it’s perfect for budget-conscious travelers who want to get that sweet spot between being practical and comfortable.
I actually find it cozy as opposed to a big hotel room that you can do cartwheels in.
Most of all, capsule rooms are perfect for travelers who want to spend more time sightseeing than staying in a room. If hotel experience is part of your travel itinerary, I’m not sure how a capsule room would fit your agenda unless you’re adventurous. But, really, why would you travel to another country for vacation, just to stay in your hotel?
If you want to try Centurion too, make sure you get a lower deluxe cabin. It can be tiresome to climb up the small ladder after a full day of sightseeing. I was given the option to choose a lower or upper cabin, but initially though the latter would be more exciting. I found out (the hard way) that it’s not a good idea after exploring Tokyo for more than 12 hours.
Also, familiarize yourself with the location of Akasaka metro station. It’s the nearest one to Centurion and easily connects you to the Chiyoda line. The other station near Centurion is Tameike-Sanno. It’s also close enough, but walking to Akasaka metro station also shows you around the dining spots of Akasaka, while going to Tameike-Sanno simply walks you along buildings and a temple entrance. Oh, and a Family Mart.
Just writing this post made me miss my cozy room and go back, now na! 😛