I wonder if you have ever heard of a term Capsule Hotel – an inexpensive accommodation, which allows you to sleep on a mattress placed inside a pod. Capsule hotels were once extremely successful, however, became a minor business. To begin with, the facility was never considered as an option for women. Confined and tasteless, the facility was considered for salarymen, who didn’t care much about the esthetic comfort. As Japanese economy declined, there were fewer reasons for Japanese businessmen to stay in these cheap hotels after work or work-related dinners overnight. And it did not help that there are competitors like 24-hour opened Manga Cafes in town, offering you with private rooms and comics to read.
Last year an interesting Capsule Hotel called Nine Hours opened in Kyoto. Photographs we see from their websites and Good Design Awards presented the facility as if it was a small design hotel.
Yesterday taking the opportunity of visiting Kyoto, I eagerly booked a room, no, a pod.
Just like I have seen on websites, the place was clean and approachable. As soon as you enter, you are attacked by white. From walls, ceilings, to reception desks, they come in bright white.
As the receptionist explains the system, you realize that the hotel made a lot of effort to segregate men and women, perhaps, for the sake of the comfort for women. Men and women, they take separate lifts, which is essential, as shower rooms and beds are on different floors.
After check-in, you can go up to the locker/shower room on the third floor (if in woman’s case that is). Inside the locker you will find room wear, or more commonly known as pajamas, toothbrush, and hair products.
What I particularly impressed was the shower area. As soon as you open an individual door that leads to a changing space, you see that there are two more glass doors in front of you. The first door leads you to the shower space, then the next door to the common bath. I was also impressed by the fact the door can be locked so that while you are in the bath, your belongings will be beyond reach from others.
Once you are ready, take a lift once again and go to the sleeping floor. The locker key you receive at the reception indicates not only the locker ID but also the pod for you to sleep in.
But when everyone sleeps so closely, next to each other, how can we wake up in the morning, without waking the others? The pod comes with some sort of an alarm clock, which controls the dimming of the light inside the pod. Once you set the time to wake-up, the light will gradually fade away. And in the morning, you realize that the light around you gets stronger as the time approaches. By the time the clock hits your wakeup time, the entire pod will be flashy white, which will most likely kick you out from a deep sleep.
To sum up, how was my experience? Well, if you cannot stand other people’s hair lying in the shower room, I suggest you don’t try. And if you cannot stand being awaken by the footsteps of the others, I don’t recommend the experience, either. For me, the place made me realize that I am not missing much although I may not have had much personal space. And the fact that the place was not packed also helped, as even though the space was open, I did not have to share much of the time with others and did not feel that I was stared at, or being forced to stare others.
And was I able to sleep well in the pod? Yes, I surprisingly did, with some help from my favorite podcasts coming into my ears.