For those of us who enjoy coffins
December 5, 2007 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Capsule hotels (or modular hotels , if you prefer) are all the rage these days. They started in Japan in the 1980s, but have only recently spread elsewhere to places like England. They aren't the cushiest digs you'll find, but they're a cheap no-frills alternative, and they're getting better all the time.
posted by Autarky (41 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. A friend of mine once told me that "you'd be surprised to learn just how small of a space you can comfortably live in". Now maybe if they could start up apartments like this in high-rent areas (Manhattan, San Fransisco) we'd be getting somewhere.
posted by Avenger at 6:48 PM on December 5, 2007

Love em, and they're not terribly small. Well, not as small as you'd think.
posted by dreamsign at 6:49 PM on December 5, 2007

See also NYC's Pod Hotel. Not a true capsule hotel, but in a similar spirit.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:56 PM on December 5, 2007

Capsule hotels are mainly frequented by business people staying in town overnight and people who have missed the last train home...

Hmmm.... drunk business folk?
posted by R. Mutt at 7:02 PM on December 5, 2007

I prefer the term "coffin hotel".
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:06 PM on December 5, 2007

"For those of us who enjoy coffins"

Capsule hotels are bigger than you think.

Well, that, or Western coffins are way way bigger than they look on TV.
posted by Bugbread at 7:09 PM on December 5, 2007

This is a great idea. Having them at airports would be really nice for when you have a 3+ hour stopover and would like to catch some Zzzzs.
posted by sien at 7:23 PM on December 5, 2007

How's the soundproofing? If you have a snorer on your floor are you SOL?
posted by texorama at 7:26 PM on December 5, 2007

Hmmm.... drunk business folk?

Very often, yes.

And sien is right: they should be in airports worldwide.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:26 PM on December 5, 2007

Don't forget this firsthand account from our very own stavrosthewonderchicken.

Just a ride-on question, are there capsule inns in Tokyo for married couples?
posted by brownpau at 7:29 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

That London pod hotel is pretty darned tempting from the POV of a relatively cash-strapped academic. (And it's also not that much smaller than the godawful dorm room I had to rent the last time I was there.)
posted by thomas j wise at 7:40 PM on December 5, 2007

That link to stavros' blog entry made this post at least five times better. I think I'll head to Tokyo this summer. Maybe on the way to Beijing. Asia is seductive in these strange times.
posted by blacklite at 7:53 PM on December 5, 2007

"the Pod Hotel, which offers hip, convenient accommodations for the stylish and spendthrifty traveler."

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:03 PM on December 5, 2007

I don't know .. I get claustrophobic just looking at it. How is the ventilation? They look like dog kennels. I do like the airport idea - kind of a storage locker for humans.
posted by Kangaroo at 8:04 PM on December 5, 2007

Hahah! "Spendthrifty"! Those knuckleheads! Folks should really know what a word means before they use it in their ad copy!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:12 PM on December 5, 2007

I've long thought we should combine American industry's love for the cargo container and need for efficient, affordable lodgings, and break up 40 foot containers into 2/3/4 'pods' that can be moved around and snapped together. 100,000 people showing up for an outdoor concert? Bring in a few extra 'hotels' worth of containers. Hurricane damage? Here you go....

And I know, there are designers showing off 'Quik House' and such made from these, but I'm thinking more utilitarian, ready to move around the country at a moment's (ok, few hours) notice.
posted by pupdog at 8:16 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

Sorry, but nothing can match the world's best modular motel in Bisbee, Arizona.
posted by Creosote at 8:18 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]

I don't like the flimsy curtain, and my feet would probably stick out. In fact, for myself, I'd need an edge of the bed inside the curtain, as my feet can't tolerate confinement. Put a real door on the thing, and I'd be content enough to sleep.

The NYC "pod hotel" looks fancier than a Formula 1 Hotel, a chain in Europe I've used that is quite acceptable. Calling it a 'pod' is hyperbole.
posted by Goofyy at 8:29 PM on December 5, 2007

I have always wished these took off in the states (esp. in airports).

The closest thing I've seen, is Metronaps, a 'nap' pod.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:41 PM on December 5, 2007

I stayed in one of the capsule hotels mentioned above for a night this summer in Tokyo, and I would totally do it again should the need arise. The capsule itself was surprisingly comfortable, well-ventilated, and roomy; at 6'2" I could sit up with maybe ten inches of clearance above my head and stretch out lying down. Claustrophobia was not an issue, and I got in a good night's sleep, despite the relatively thin pull-down curtain on the door. The hotel otherwise offered basic dormitory-style comforts including a nice Japanese-style bath. Although it was not as modern-looking as the one in Stavros' account above, the seventies-ish decor and equipment was very well-maintained and every nook and cranny was spotless. It had a women's floor, which is atypical but increasingly common; my female traveling companion had a similarly positive opinion of the place. The clincher was the price of 4000 yen a head per night, which by Japanese standards is insanely cheap, especially for somewhere within the Yamanote line.

One convenient feature of this hotel was its proximity two stops from Ueno station, allowing us to easily catch the airport express for an early flight the next morning, something not shared by our previous hotel, which I otherwise highly recommend as well. Even if the convenience factor isn't there, I'd recommend any traveller to give it a try for at least one night; international metastases notwithstanding, it's a uniquely Japanese experience and one which will not break the bank.
posted by monocyte at 8:45 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

As an obligate napper, I wish these would catch on in the states. There are plenty of times I'd shell out $25 for a few hours of rest.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:05 PM on December 5, 2007

Calling it a pod is hyperbole

That would be hypobole, in this case.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:43 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]

They're a wonderful example of conservation of space, but arrrrgh I get claustrophobic just looking at the pics.
posted by amyms at 9:47 PM on December 5, 2007

Don't forget this firsthand account from our very own stavrosthewonderchicken.

Heh. Thanks, brownpau -- I was going to post the link myself.

I wish they had those things here in Korea, too.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:51 AM on December 6, 2007

I wish they had those things here in Korea, too.

Wow, I'm surprised they haven't imported the idea yet, I really am. I mean, karaoke is frikkin huge, right?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:22 AM on December 6, 2007

I could be wrong (there might be some capsule places in Seoul or maybe Busan), but I've never heard of or seen. And yeah, the default post-prandial entertainment mode of an evening is indeed the 노래방 (noraebang), the Korean version of karaoke.

Of course that may also be related to the number of noraebang places that offer sexual services in addition to the expected beer and horrifying echoey auditory torture.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:34 AM on December 6, 2007

I wish they had those things here in Korea, too.

To my knowledge, the Korean/Seoulean replacement for capsule hotels are jjimjilbangs, or saunas. I haven't had the occasion to do so, but I know many friends who will sleep at saunas (they have a separate sleeping room) if they're stuck somewhere after the subway's closed. It's a pretty common thing to do, and probably satisfies the majority of the target market for capsule hotels.
posted by suedehead at 2:56 AM on December 6, 2007

"The first Yotel, a low-cost Japanese-style “capsule hotel,” opened June 30 at Gatwick Airport, and many of its first guests were travelers in need of a place to stay in London because of security delays following the attack on the Glasgow airport that day."

Wow. I've always heard marketing people were evil (wuddup, Bill Hicks?), but planning and implementing a terrorist attack in order to fill up your pods? This...this is the last straw.
posted by nosila at 6:04 AM on December 6, 2007

I spent two nights at the Yotel at Gatwick with my boyfriend. So usefull when you have to catch an early flight and comfortable.
Forget about any privacy and if a late night bathroom break is needed, you may have to go use the Terminal airport as he did!
posted by jek at 6:52 AM on December 6, 2007

The Yotel is great particularly if you have an early flight. Although you really have to er, know the person you're staying with quite well.

Also, there wasn't anywhere to put the luggage anywhere other than the shower. And I wasn't sure where the coat hook was. Turned out what I thought was the coat hook was in fact the on switch. I and the bags got soaked.
posted by randomination at 8:06 AM on December 6, 2007

There is a big red button that costs Y300 to press. That's the porn button.

That's all I really need. That, and a bottle of Pocari Sweat.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:22 AM on December 6, 2007


Before the rise of capsule, saunas filled that need in Japan, too. I don't know why saunas became less popular and capsules more popular, but I do know that the existence of saunas did not prevent the rise of the capsule.

Besides which, the capsule hotel is probably going to die off in Japan soon, due to the rise over the last 6 or 7 years of internet cafes with private booths.
posted by Bugbread at 10:04 AM on December 6, 2007

F’ing Gibson.
You know, it’d be pretty cool if they were more futuristic looking tho. Like retro-future. I’m thinking 2001 Space Odyssey sort of future. (yeah, yeah ‘open the pod bay door Hal’, but I’m in earnest). And of course with the equvalent level of cleanliness. Everything in that film looked spotless.
Otherwise I could go back to sleeping in the woods (did that on a trip once, kept my suit bag clean, etc, and slept in a tent, it’s nice being absolutely unlocatable for a bit)
posted by Smedleyman at 11:11 AM on December 6, 2007

We stayed in one in Tokyo in June 2006, and it was a lot of fun. I'm female, and my friend and I had to stay on one floor while my husband had to stay on another. The capsule was one point I got paranoid about storing my luggage and purse in their lockers, so went and got it and it fit fine in my capsule all night with me.
posted by GaelFC at 12:31 PM on December 6, 2007

All I keep thinking, Smedleyman, is how did Case and Molly both fit in one of those?
posted by Shebear at 12:42 PM on December 6, 2007

4.000 yens is cheap,
but 55 pounds isn't.
posted by nicolin at 1:38 PM on December 6, 2007

What keeps these places from turning into hot-sheet joints?
posted by Faze at 6:54 PM on December 6, 2007

Turning into?

Shebear, didn’t Harry Harrison (or someone) do a parody of these things in the cyberpunk genre? I remember reading something about a ‘fuk-fome’ surface on the inside, lurid light, someone ‘jacking on’
...course I dropped a lot of acid.
(the beakers in science class were really slippery)
posted by Smedleyman at 7:11 PM on December 6, 2007

What keeps these places from turning into hot-sheet joints?

They are always, as far as I'm aware, segregated by sex. I stayed in a capsule hotel only once, in Nagoya, and that was strictly men-only. But I don't think they turn into "hot-sheet" joints for boys either, though. At least, I've never heard of capsule hotels being gay rendezvous points or anything.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:12 AM on December 7, 2007

Toronto's Nuit Blanche (all night art thing) featured a Dumpster hotel this year. (note: video link)
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:44 AM on December 7, 2007

Faze writes "What keeps these places from turning into hot-sheet joints?"

As flapjax says, they're segregated by gender. Either the whole hotel is male only (or possibly female only, though I've never seen that), or males and females are on different floors. Plus, they don't have doors, just curtain-like things at the foot of the bed, so sound gets out easy. If you had sex in one, you can be almost 100% certain that other folks trying to sleep would complain to management, and you'd get kicked out of the hotel. Not to say that one couldn't have a gay tryst in one, but the small amount of space, combined with the lack of ability to make get your funk on without worrying about noise, prevents that from becoming a trend.
posted by Bugbread at 11:46 AM on December 7, 2007

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