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  • Shona McCarthy

The Facts and Fiction of Capsule Accommodation


While on my last trip to Arashiyama, I managed to stay in a beautiful capsule hotel that was part of the Arashiyama Randen station. It was so much better than what I expected in many ways, so, I'm about to tell you what you might not expect, either.

(A picture of the capsules borrowed from ehotelsreviews.com/. The brown shape is pyjamas the hotel would provide for you. I was too big for the pants, but I did wear the shirt when I slept much of the time.)

1. It's not the cheapest, but it is the best value.


When people think of capsule accommodation, they usually imagine it as the cheapest way to stay in Japan. What I found on my escapades is that the cheapest accommodation in Japan is actually shared dormitories. If you're willing to stay in a mixed-gender dorm, that will allow you stay in some of the cheapest places possible. However, the thought of not having my own personal, private space was psychologically unbearable to me, so I opted for the capsules. I found that the extras were incredibly luxurious for the price I paid. Beautiful and clean common areas. All-In-One Washer-Dryers. An onsen that could be used any time by anyone staying in the floor. No smoking. Strict gender segregation. Food options. Futuristic yet comfortable restrooms. Beautiful views from the roof. Aircon. Access to luxury beauty products. When you consider that it cost me about a quarter what a full hotel room would, it really was amazing value.

(An image from the capsule hotel's website showing off it's luxury facilities. Borrowed from firstcabin.jp, 14/8/20. According to Google Maps, the Arashiyama location is closed. But other First Cabin locations remain open throughout Kyoto. I am optimistic that the Arashiyama location will simply be bought out by another hotel chain.)


2. It's not claustrophobic at all.

When I first booked capsule accommodation, I was fearful that the experience was going to make me feel trapped in a little plastic box. I was expecting the capsule to be heck to climb in and out of. I was expecting to be constantly dodging a television. I was fearful that I'd somehow get locked in and suffocate like a bug in a jar.


What I found was that the capsule was surprisingly generous in size. I'm around 5'3" and I was able to sit cross-legged in my capsule with room to spare above me. When I lay down there was easily another foot and a half after my feet. The TV was a flat-screen and sat neatly in a little alcove formed by small lockable storage. The end had a lovely clean roller blind that was very easy to open and close. Which brings me to my next point.


3. It's surprisingly secure.

I had thought that in shared accommodation one's possessions would be constantly at risk of theft. Or that I might be molested as I slept. But actually, security was very careful. To even access the accommodation on my floor I needed a special key the hotel would keep for me if I left the building. I wondered why they would keep it till I realized it was so that we couldn't simply copy it.


In the dormitory area, we all kept our suitcases out in the open. But nothing was ever stolen from me. Even when I forgot to close my bags and fell asleep with them open. And even though I had my spare money hidden in some of its pockets.


And the whole time I stayed there, no one other than staff breathed a word to me, much less touched me. Even when I was in the onsen, where nudity is mandatory.

(A live Google Streeview of the building where First Cabin Arashiyama was situated. As you can see, it contains many things that would be interesting for a tourist to peruse.)


All in all, I can recommend the capsule hotel experience. Not necessarily for the intensely budget conscious. To them I would recommend a mixed dorm. But if, for you, price is secondary to safety and cleanliness, as it is for me, I can suggest you try it out. You won't regret it.


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