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What are Capsule Hotels?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 23, 2024
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A capsule hotel is a hotel that offers incredibly small rooms. In fact, the rooms are effectively long drawers in which lodgers can catch some shut-eye. In these hotels of very dense occupancy, a “room,” or capsule, is a modular space of approximately 2 x 1.25 x 2 meters (6.6 x 4.1 x 3.2 feet). Because of the space restrictions, it is not possible to stand inside of these “rooms.” Squatting could be difficult for a person of great height. These capsules are often stacked two or more high along the hotel corridor. Generally, the modules are made of fiberglass.

A capsule hotel offers guests little more than a place to sleep. However, many capsules come outfitted with small television sets that are hung from the ceiling at such an angle that they can be viewed while the occupant is lying down. Guests are assigned a locker that is in close proximity to the capsule where they can store their luggage and other belongings. Although the door to the capsule is transparent, it is outfitted with a curtain so that guests may have privacy while they sleep. The curtain is also important for shutting out the light from the corridor. It is important to note, however, that capsule hotels are not ideal lodging facilities for those who are light sleepers. Because of the close proximity to other lodgers, noise pollution can be a problem.

Of course, after a night of sleep, most people want to begin their day by freshening up. In capsule hotels, bathing facilities are communal, much as they are in hostels. Many capsule hotels also have restaurants inside or quite nearby. Travelers planning on staying in a capsule hotel can expect access to vending machines at the very least.

The capsule hotel was developed in Japan. Because space is at a serious premium in Japan, architects and interior designers are constantly looking for ways to conserve space, down to inches and centimeters. It is this sense of space economy that has led to such innovations as the cubic watermelon. Japanese capsule hotels vary in size. Some of them hold only about 50 capsules. There are others that can accommodate upwards of 700 guests.

Although capsule hotels are highly regarded for their price and convenience, they are usually utilized by businessmen who require a place to stay after missing the last train home. The price of a night’s sleep at a capsule hotel usually ranges between 2,000 and 4,000 yen ($16 - $34 [USD]).

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Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel , Former Writer
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"

Discussion Comments

By indemnifyme — On Jul 09, 2011

@SZapper - I can understand why this kind of hotel wouldn't work for you. I've actually never heard of any hotels like this in the US so I don't think you need to worry about this becoming a trend anytime soon.

I doubt this type of thing would even take off in the United States anyway. I read somewhere that we like the most amount of "personal space" in the world!

I can see why this invention originated in Japan though. For a smallish island nation, Japan is extremely populous. With space being so scarce I can understand why a capsule hotel would be a good idea.

By SZapper — On Jul 09, 2011

I'm claustrophobic so I don't think this kind of hotel would work very well for me. Sleeping in a "long drawer" sounds positively awful! And to top things off, I'm also a light sleeper so I doubt I could sleep a wink in a capsule hotel anyway.

I'm glad to hear this type of hotel is at least cheap though. When I was reading the first part of the article I was wondering if it as going to be one of those things that was expensive because of the novelty value!

Diane Goettel

Diane Goettel

Former Writer

"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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