Checking in: My pod at the Hotel Nihonbashi Villa


Two years ago on my visit to Japan I slept in a plywood box. It was a crude approximation of the somewhat famous "pod" hotels as implemented by a hostel in the Asakusa region of Tokyo. On this trip I decided to actually plan a bit more in advance and find a proper pod hotel to try a couple nights. I ended up in the Hotel Nihonbashi Villa and, well, it was definitely a good deal for the price paid.

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To be clear, I wasn’t expecting much. I needed a bed. And somewhere to shower in the morning. The capsule room at Nihonbashi Villa definitely met those requirements. They even threw in a small TV with a dozen or so channels and a radio/alarm clock, too. And it was cheap. I booked through hotels.com to get my Welcome Rewards credits and got a rate there of about $34/night, a bit less than the JPY2900/night advertised on the hotel’s site. For that price it probably rates a 3-4 star ranking.

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The main negative bit about it was the heat. The capsule was stifling with the "door" closed. Cracking it just a couple inches at the bottom made a huge difference and the common room air conditioner kicked in nicely at that point. Plus pretty much all of Tokyo was on the verge of steaming in the heat and humidity. Still, the lack of ventilation was a bit rough. Jet lag can do amazing things, however, and I managed to sleep quite well both nights.

Also, if you’re much taller than 5’11" expect to fill the sleeping space completely. I was definitely "cozy" inside from head to toe, though there was plenty of width for me, even with the small shelf on the inside wall.

At check in you get a set of towels, a robe and a toiletry kit of a razor and toothbrush. It is clear that most guests are not book in advance types who plan the stay in advance.

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My other (minor) complaint is that I was in a capsule on the 4th floor and the showers were on the first, with just a sweltering stairwell to connect them. Such is life.

Speaking of showers, the best analogy I can draw is a high school gym with a few semi-private stalls. Clean enough (though not necessarily clean) and more than functional, but definitely a shared use facility. There was also a small sink area for finishing up prep before returning to your room to get dressed and head out for the day.

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The common area offers free WiFi but there is none in the room areas. The common areas also have a couch, vending machines and it is the designated smoking area for guests in the pods; fortunately the capsule areas are non-smoking.

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Would I do it again? Probably if the trip was night or two. Would I do it again during the hottest week of the year in Tokyo? Absolutely not. Would I try to save some cash if it was more than one person by doing two of them? Not a chance. The capsule/pod hotels are great for the very specific demographic that they aim at. For most other folks they are a really, really bad idea.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

10 Comments

  1. Very interesting – thanks for the pics! I’ve always wanted to try out a pod hotel, and may give it a try soon.

    1. Definitely worth trying once. And if you’re on a budget , not too tall and not staying long worth trying again. But a pretty rough way to go for a longer stay.

  2. I assume there was no problem with communication with the staff? (Unless you speak decent Japanese, of course…)

    I’d like to try a pod hotel, although probably not in the hottest months, as you’ve done. Another thing that works against me is that I’m typically traveling with a fairly big checked bag, which just doesn’t work in these cases (unless you’re desperate).

    1. No language barriers; the clerks at the counter spoke enough English and I often find that most language barriers are solved when I present my passport and CC (or cash if it is that sort of place) as they can read/swipe the necessary information from them. There was a bit of confusion when I tried to explain that it was so hot in the room. The guy walked upstairs with me and we played a game of charades and broken English until we figured it out. Turns out that what I thought was an a/c vent in the pod was actually an exhaust fan pulling air out rather than pumping fresh in. That’s when I figured out that leaving the door slightly ajar created a sufficient raft to cool the capsule quite nicely.

      As for the baggage, that could be a problem. Since the pods are mostly targeted at businessmen who missed their train home the storage space is rather meager. In the second photo you can see the lockers on the left of the frame. I was probably 8-10″ wide at most. I don’t think my standard rolling bag would have fit inside. Good thing I packed light this trip – small backpack and camera pouch only.

  3. How was the smoking in the common area? :-).
    I’ve never stayed at one, but did check one out in Nagoya. They were more than our normal hotel, so we opted to not stay there. But I will do so at some point in the future.
    Also, were told that they are men-only, was that the case at yours?

    1. @Kerwin: Yes, it is men-only. I don’t think there are any that would be co-ed or female-only based on a lack of market demand. And the smoking wasn’t too bad – one guy at one point while I was there – but I can see it being rather disgusting if it were more crowded.

      @Alan: I’m not there anymore…just a bit late in getting my posts online from all the crazy fun the past couple weeks. I’m actually in Bangkok right now, headed to South Africa and Argentina later in the week. I hope you’re enjoying the hotel though; at that price point it is pretty solid.

  4. This was really interesting, Ive booked two nights in a capsule in this hostel and moving to Kyoto after the second night. I know there is a storage area to leave your luggage but will I be able to leave my rucksack there for those two days while I go around in Tokyo? If that is actually possible is it safe enough? Thank you!

    1. There was a small locker in the room where I was able to keep my bag. I didn’t worry about it, though I suppose maybe I should have a bit.

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