A Night In A Japanese Capsule Hotel Is Intriguing & Terrifying At Once

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Do you ever walk into a hotel room and notice something immediately wrong? Maybe the sheets are still dirty. Or there are double beds instead of a king. Or the room is too big. Maybe you just long for your room to be smaller. Like really small. So freaking small that you can’t even crouch. Like coffin-ish.

Enter: Japanese Capsule hotels. The concept is fascinating. The capsule hotel is a predominately Japanese institution that provides hundreds of sleeping pods instead of full-sized rooms. They cater mostly to businessmen who are on-the-go, price conscious, and know they are using the no-frills space for one thing: Sleeping. But lately, be it for novelty, cheapness, or some grander sense of curiosity, capsule hotels have become increasingly intriguing to backpackers. This backpacker included.

Inquisitiveness got the best of me on my last trip to Tokyo. Coming in on a late flight, I arrived at Capsule Hotel Anshin Oyado in Shinjuku, unsure of how this whole experience would go down. I was unprepared for what was to come, to put it lightly. Reading about the pods for the first time a few days earlier in the Melbourne airport, I’d envisioned Matrix-like cocoons. The space fantasyland setting of the Tokyo ward of Shinjuku – with a robot restaurant and enough neon to rival Vegas – didn’t help to dispel the notion I was walking into the future.

I received a locker upon checking in. I would learn later that your capsule does not close off or seal — so the hotel provides lockers for valuables, which is opened by using a wristband, issued at check-in. Also issued is a set of brown clothing similar to scrubs and brown slippers. This is when the first of the dystopian vibes set in. They would not be the last.

I threw my belongings in the locker (after a month in Asia I’d still kept everything to one medium sized backpack), and checked the time. Being on a massive ramen kick, I soon bolted to a nearby ramen hole. Nothing affirms that I’m living my best life quite like a bowl of tonkotsu ramen. It’s like a superpower akin to Popeye’s spinach. With renewed vigor, I reengaged with the capsule hotel, confident I would not be drafted into an unconscious energy sac for the machine army.