Osaka was home to the world’s first-ever capsule hotel, which remains one of the best places to spend a night in the neon city, also known as the “kitchen of Japan”.

Modern Capsule Hotel Bed
Photo by istock.com/cheegintan

Favoring privacy over space, capsule hotels are a hotel-hostel hybrid, ideal for those who don’t fancy a night in a dorm with eight backpackers keen for “a big night”, but can’t quite justify a full hotel room either. Originally designed for salarymen who missed the last train, the once-futuristic sleeping pods are coming back into fashion as Japan draws in more budget travelers. Each capsule has everything you could need for a good night’s sleep, which turns out doesn’t include headroom—but once you get over that, it’s a pretty enjoyable night.

Unlike some of the pod-style hostels popping up with boxed-in dorm beds, real capsules have an unshakeably retro aesthetic. A pure 80s imagining of the future: They are minimalist, plastic, fitted with the latest (dated) technology and are basically really fun because of it. Take note that many hotels are jumping on the “capsule” bandwagon to explain tiny, tiny rooms, so if you’re looking for the real thing, check photos before you book. Although TBF, if you don’t do that anyway, you’re a renegade we can’t change. The rules are: if you have headroom, floorspace or a door—it’s not a true capsule hotel.

Pro tip: Be sure to read our guide on what to do in Osaka as well as what to eat—it’s not known for kuidaore (bankruptcy from overeating) for nothing!

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The history: A time capsule (#sorrynotsorry)

Some old-school capsules in Osaka. | Photo by istock.com/lifehouseimage

Back to the world’s first capsule hotel though—it was not-so-creatively named the Capsule Inn Osaka and was designed by Metabolist architect Kisho Kurokawa. While you may not know the name, you’ll probably recognize his more famous design in Tokyo: the Nakagin Capsule Tower. He designed not only the hotel building but the capsules themselves. The designs were reproduced around the world and are still used (with some updates) at the original hotel.

The Inn was opened back in 1979 and was a pretty world-changing affair. While many capsule hotels have retained the yellowing 80s style, plenty have been refurbished and even built brand new. Depending on the experience you’re after, you can try out the old-school version or the iPhone-controlled upgrades.

What to know about capsule hotels

Bed at traditional capsule hotel
Photo by istock.com/Torsakarin

Proper capsule hotels have some pretty strange rules, and there are certainly some downsides to staying in them. These rules are more common among “traditional” capsule hotels, which are still aimed at Japanese salarymen,. The ones favoring visitors run a little more like the hostels or hotels you’re used to. Here’s a mini-list of handy things to know:

The cons (or at least, potential cons)

  • Capsule hotels are often men-only, although it’s becoming more common to have women-only floors. Check in advance to avoid being turned away.
  • Anyone with a hint of claustrophobia should think twice—the spaces are small, coffin-like, and you will bang your head multiple times if you’re not used to it.
  • They are designed for single-night stays, so don’t be surprised if you have to check out and in again if you’re staying a few days.
  • Some capsules allow or have allowed smoking—although this is being phased out due to law changes (finally). Be sure to look for the no-smoking option when booking.
  • Your “door” is usually just a blind, so you are victim to the sleep sounds of others. In women’s dorms I have never had any issues personally, but have heard it can be very different for guys.

The pros

  • Those that have a women’s floor often have great “powder rooms” with free samples, hair dryers and the like—so you don’t have to look like you slept in a box!
  • You’ll be given lockers in which to store your bags. It’s a bit strange at first but you’ll appreciate not sharing your limited space with a bag pretty fast.
  • Due to quick turnaround on cleaning, they are a great option for those looking for an early check in. Many allow you to arrive as early as 12 pm, and will store luggage for you too.

If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then check out our full guide to accommodation in Osaka—it has hostels and hotels that will look positively massive after considering capsules!



1. Capsule Inn Osaka: The original

Male only | Umeda

In addition to being a part of capsule-hotel history, this place is in a great location and has refurbished some floors, while keeping some to the original design. It’s within walking distance of the Umeda Station complex which is great for transport and restaurants as well as the impressive winter illuminations. The prices vary depending on the upgrade level of your physical capsule as well as the comfort items (like duvets). Even the most basic capsules have plug sockets and spa access here, while fancy options include sauna use, breakfast, twin mattresses and Tempur pillows.

Check in: 12 pm
Check out: 10 am
Price range: From ¥2,600 to ¥4,700

Booking options available here

2. Asahi Plaza Capsule Hotel: Very visitor friendly

Male and female floors | Shinsaibashi

One of the best and biggest capsule hotels in Osaka, the Asahi Plaza is a great balance of old-school capsules and foreigner-friendly facilities. The location is great—a short walk from both Namba Station and Dotonbori. Plus it’s surrounded by cafes and restaurants (including breakfast favorite Eggs ‘n Things around the corner). They have special deals for foreign tourists starting at ¥2,500 a night. And if you book on their site, you can choose the capsule amenities (third-party booking sites sometimes randomly allocate a pod, but may have deals).

The capsules here are simple—no down duvets or iPod docks, but everything you need. Prices vary depending on the capsule option (outlet only, or TV and outlet), weekends vs. weekdays, and whether or not you can take advantage of that discount.

(Please note that the “male only” in the image refers to a certain floor, it’s not the entire facility!)

Check in: 2 pm
Check out: 10 am
Price range: From ¥2,800 to ¥3,300 (non-tourists)

Booking options available here

3. Nine Hours, Shin Osaka branch: Capsule, but make it fashion

Male and female floors | Shin Osaka

A Japan-wide chain of smart and simple capsule chains, Nine Hours puts a stylish twist on the capsule look. With an unmissable exterior, the hotel has equally fancy interior, with separate floors for men and women. The shared spaces are unusually nice and channel a kind of hostel/coffee-shop vibe with a rooftop space that includes a projection screen cinema. There are options for a full stay, a nap (between 2 pm and 9 pm) or just shower use—sort of like a love hotel but not sketchy. There isn’t the old-school TV in your pod, but it does have an “sleep ambient control system”, so if you know what that is, enjoy.

Check in: 2 pm
Check out: 10 am
Price range: From ¥4,900

Booking options available here

4. B&S Eco Cube: As described

Male and female floors | Shinsaibashi

Very similar to Asahi Plaza (they’re actually neighbors), Eco Cube is a traditional capsule hotel with the old-fashioned pods and in a great location. The main difference here is that there are no shared baths, only private showers. Rooms are non-smoking, wifi is available throughout, and there are veding machines. It’s a bit of a poor-man’s Asahi, but if the former is booked up, this is a solid choice location-wise.

Check in: 3 pm
Check out: 10 am
Price range: From ¥1,600 to ¥3,000.

Booking options available here

5. Cabin and Capsule Hotel J-ship: For that hotel feel

Male and female floors | Namba

A fancy capsule hotel that isn’t ridiculously futuristic, the J-ship is a smart and simple option for those not keen on the retro versions. The lobby and common spaces feel more like a nice hotel, with some traditional Japanese touches like ikebana displays. The women’s floor has everything in one place including a powder room, a dressing room and shared baths (so no awkward elevator rides after your soak). The men have two floors to themselves with a separate bath. If you’re after bargain accommodation, but not into the whole capsule experience, they also have cabins available. They are regular height and have a small desk. While they’re small and you still only have a blind as a door, you can at least stand up. Unfortunately they have a remarkably late check-in time, which is something to keep in mind.

Check in: 5 pm–1 am
Check out: 10 am
Price range: From ¥1,890 to ¥3,000.

Booking options available here

6. Book and Bed: The wildcard

Male and female floors | Shinsaibashi

Ok, so it’s kind of hostel-y and possibly exactly what we said wasn’t a “real” capsule hotel a mere handful of paragraphs ago, but hear us out. This is the option for everyone who has scanned the previous five and thought: meh. And that’s fair; it requires a certain person to be tempted by the capsule hotel aesthetic—a strange historical vision of the future, plus cramped quarters. This option is more fun, not to mention they have double beds. The Book and Bed hostels have taken Japan by storm, and if you like to make your hostels part of the adventure why not combine capsule with quirky? You have the same dimensions but replace all the futurism with books. The hostels are a little luxe for sure, and pretty hipster—but you know what, sometimes so are we. For more details, check out our full review of Book and Bed Tokyo.

Check in: 5 pm–1 am
Check out: 10 am
Price range: ¥4,818 for a single | ¥7,818 for a double

Booking options available here

Need ideas for accommodation elsewhere in Japan? We have some great tips on where to stay in Kyoto, Kanazawa and Tokyo too!

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