I DID. Finally, I did.
The idea of sleeping in a pod always excited me. Wouldn’t it be great to try something new, something economical in a country where most accommodations can be costly especially on peak seasons?
Capsule hotels were born out of necessity in Japan. The salary men, either too tired or intoxicated to catch the last train home, needed a place to spend the night and these hotels, usually located near the train station, are the go-to places. But these days, even traveling businessmen and tourists avail of this accommodation.
Think: compressed hotel room. The accommodation is kept to the bare necessities—a bed, music or TV and headphones, electronic console, air blower, lighting, wireless internet connectivity, and cabin wear (aka pajamas)— in a 2m x 1m x 1.25m plastic or fiberglass block. The pods are stacked side by side and two units high.
Luggage can be stored in a locker, the bathroom is shared, food is available either via the vending machine or a restaurant, coin-operated laundry and some hotels offer entertainment facilities like pool, onsen and massage. Of course, a separate smoking room is made available to smokers.
With Japanese’s attention to design and detail, the capsule hotels have evolved into more modern and attractive places to stay.
But if you’re claustrophobic, then the capsule hotel is not for you. I, for one, prefer a room with a window, but how did I survive two-nights? Well, I can say I “cheated” on the whole idea of pod living.
Kyoto has been on my bucket list for ages and it was time to visit it. The scheduled visit was in autumn with an important festival happening. It would be one of Kyoto’s busiest times ergo hotel rates will be higher than its usual. It was the perfect time to try a capsule hotel.
I checked out the Agoda website for a hotel at the city center and selected First Cabin Kyoto-Karasuma because of its proximity to the subway station and Kyoto’s shopping and business district.
How did I cheat?
First Cabin’s design concept is based on airplanes and offers 121 cabins (77 for men and 44 for women) in the economy (2.5sqm), business class (2.5sqm), first class sections (4.4sqm) and premium class (20sqm), which can sleep two people.
The economy section offers the usual stacked cabin, but First Cabin offers a more generous space. The other three classes offer a bigger area and the cabins are not stacked, a feature that allows the guest to stand inside the cabins. As the cabin gets bigger, the rates go higher.
Since I can’t have a window, then might as well choose a bigger breathing space. I didn’t mind shelling out a few more hundred yens and went for the First Class cabin, which they refer to as “a comfortable time in the luxury space, an experience of a first class cabin on the ground”. It had a double bed and ample space to move about. I guess I wasn’t ready to embrace the real essence of the capsule hotel concept—yet.
Of course, the entire facility was clean and the service efficient. I arrived in the morning and check-in time was not until 3 p.m. The front desk staff kept my luggage and I went off to start my exploration of Kyoto. On the first two days of touring Tokyo, First Cabin was a good place to come home to and recharge. I would recommend it.
Perhaps on the next visit to Japan, I will try the traditional cabin size.
How much did it cost me? Since it was high season when I visited Kyoto, I paid close to P8,000 for two nights including taxes and booking fees. Rates are cheaper during low season or if you book months ahead.
Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.