On the day I arrived in Japan, all the hostels in Fukuoka were booked solid. It was a Korean holiday, and the international ferry to Fukuoka is a popular jaunt for Busaners. I knew I’d need an alternative accommodation plan.
With the lack of hostel beds, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try a capsule hotel in Japan. I was intrigued by the sound of them and thought it would make a good story. Right? Wouldn’t you be curious to sleep inside of a capsule?
In Japan, capsule hotels are a common form of cheap accommodation. It’s a simple solution for packing a lot of people into a small space.
A few steps from Fukuoka’s Hakata train station you’ll find the Hotel Cabinas. In the lobby, guests take off their shoes and put them in a small locker before approaching the reception desk. At 11am, I was relieved they allowed me to half check in. This means I could stash my big backpack in the locker and was granted access to the spa area. To get into my capsule, I’d have to wait until 5pm.
That was fine by me and I ended up spending a good portion of the afternoon soaking in the five hot tubs they had on the 11th floor. The views out over the city were hard to beat. With showers, saunas, and hot tubs it was very much like the Korean sauna, or Jjimjilbang, that I experienced while traveling through Korea.
I did sneak away from the spa for a while to explore Fukuoka and get a taste of their esteemed ramen noodle. As five o’clock rolled around I was getting excited to see what my capsule would be like. Each floor had long aisles of probably a hundred or more capsules, stacked two high. I choose the upper. Each capsule was little over two meters long, high enough to sit upright, and as wide as a single bed. A screen rolled down for a little privacy and darkness and a TV was installed for entertainment. An alarm clock was also included.
Surprisingly the capsule didn’t feel claustrophobic at all. I got one of the best night’s sleep ever. Even though sound can get through the shade screen, it remained quiet inside the pod. Well rested, I went out for another bowl of ramen first thing in the morning before enjoying the hot tubs again.
I didn’t see any foreigners at the hotel, it was primarily used by Japanese businessmen. Although there are a few varieties, this capsule hotel was considered better than average and for men only. The nice spa and bathhouse area, as well as restaurant, put Hotel Cabinas in a higher class.
Capsules are also a traveler’s security in the fact that you don’t have to stress about arriving late in a new city. Most likely there will be a capsule hotel near the train station, so you don’t have to worry about being forced to spend a fortune on a hotel. Moreover, on the occasion that a Saturday night reveler misses the last train home, he knows the capsule is there and won’t get stranded at the station.
I’m not sure why capsules haven’t caught on the rest of the world. There is always a market for budget accommodation and I found the capsule quite comfortable. This one cost me 3,900 yen ($42 US), but I’ve paid as low as 2,500 yen ($27) for a simpler capsule (without a spa) in a smaller city. That one allowed women as well as men.