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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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