THE JAPANESE CAPSULE HOTEL


When I was little, my mother used to caution me never to even think about crawling into a small space. Perhaps it was those multiple warnings while appliance shopping of “don’t get in that empty fridge and close the door, it’ll seal shut!” that planted a rebellious streak within me that some years later compelled me to do something crazy.  Spend a night at a Capsule Hotel.


Claustrophobics, consider yourself warned and if you need to turn away, I understand. For, this image of spending a night in a 4ft wide/6ft long space (and paying to do so) might be disturbing. I’m quite sure it’s disturbing to most people which is what also makes it so fascinating.
Though I must admit that the average dog in a cage has much more elbow room than a guest in the Capsule, it wasn’t entirely uncomfortable.

There is something inane about a cocooned feeling that evokes a sense of calm, but that all goes out the window as soon as you hear the first noise from your neighbor who's just way too close for comfort separated by a paper thin metal wall. Or, like me, until you start to burst out in hysterics with your travel companions scattered around you in Brady Bunch-opening-montage-formation.

It starts with a vending machine, granted with options you can’t comprehend, so you take your chances, insert some Yen and there you go. A handy ticket pops out that entitles you to one night in a Capsule. Walking down the corridor you get the dazed feeling that isn’t unlike being in a pet shop- hard nondescript linoleum floors under walls lined with cage-like structures 2 rows high.

Enter backwards and head-first and voila- you’ve got a sleep space complete with a thin mattress and blanket, a tv with limited channel selection, a funky 70-s hi-fi radio controller, and a pull down shade for maximum privacy. There’s even an alarm clock, but something told me that there was virtually no chance of me oversleeping. Bags stay locked up outside, as trying to insert anything else besides your body in the crawl space is virtually impossible, and there’s even a separate floor for ladies.

While it’s obvious the Hotel Asakusa & Capsule doesn’t equal comfort, the experience is certainly unforgettable.  Go for a few hours if you can’t spend the night, you’ve got to see it (and sleep in it) to believe it.

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