Osaka is home to the world’s first-ever capsule hotel, so it’s the perfect place to try one out.
Favoring privacy over space, capsule hotels are a hotel-hostel hybrid. They’re ideal for those who don’t fancy a night in a hostel dorm but can’t quite justify a full hotel room either. Each capsule has everything you could need for a good night’s sleep — which apparently doesn’t include headroom — but once you get over that, it’s a pretty enjoyable night.
What is a capsule hotel?
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. The rules are: if you have headroom, floorspace or a door — it’s not a true capsule hotel.
Editor’s note: You usually get about one meter (or 3ft or so) from roof to mattress so if you are well under two-meters-tall, like me, then you can actually sit up in a capsule bed just fine.
The history: A time capsule (#sorrynotsorry)
Back to the world’s first capsule hotel, though, which was designed by Metabolist architect Kishō Kurokawa. While you may not know the name, you’ll probably recognize his more famous design in Tokyo: the recently demolished 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 opened back in 1979 and was a world-changing affair. Originally, capsule hotels targeted salarymen who missed the last train home for the night; however, the once-futuristic sleeping pods are coming back into fashion as Japan draws in more budget travelers.
While many capsule hotels have retained the yellowing 80s style, plenty have been refurbished or even built brand new. Depending on the experience you’re after, you can try out the old-school version or the new one with the iPhone-controlled upgrades.
What to know about capsule hotels
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 still think of Japanese salarymen as their target audience. The ones favoring overseas visitors run 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 for properties to add 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.
- 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 p.m. 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!
Capsule hotels in Osaka
Capsule Inn Osaka: The originalUmeda
From ¥2,800 to ¥15,000
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 and the comfort items. Even the most basic capsules have plug sockets and spa access here, while fancy options include actual beds in private rooms — but let’s be real, that’s not what you’re here for. One thing to note though is that this place is male only.
Capsule & Spa Grand Sauna: For men who like a nice bathShinsaibashi
From ¥3,000 to ¥5,000
Half capsule-hotel, half bathhouse, and all retro, Capsule & Spa Grand Sauna’s got it all it the name. Located in Shinsaibashi, right by Dōtonbori, this hotel is convenient for nightlife and Osaka’s famous food scene. They have regular capsules, as well as deluxe capsules for both men and women. Both types of capsule have charging ports, and are surprisingly spacious. Unfortunately though, the other fun stuff is all on men’s only floors, including a retro games corner, massage room, and most notably, the sauna. The sauna has five different kinds of baths, and three different saunas, so men; count yourselves lucky and make the most of it.
Book and Bed: For people who would happily spend the night in a libraryShinsaibashi
From ¥3,500 to ¥11,000
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. It requires a certain person to be tempted by the capsule hotel aesthetic. 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.
Ninja & Geisha: The aesthetic oneAwaji
From ¥2,000 to ¥5,000
Not so much into books? Then what about a nice strong old-Japan vibe complete with lanterns and traditional (looking) art? Ninja & Geisha is another not-a-real-capsule-hotel but it’s still worth your consideration. It combines the small and simple capsule-style rooms with modern amenities and a strong sense of self. Sure, some might find the aesthetic a little tacky, and it’s not in the most convenient of locations, but look at those prices. Included in the price is a nice range of basic amenities including shampoo/conditioner, toothbrushes, and towels. All capsules also have charging ports and air conditioning, but there’s only one room type so no cushy upgrades.
This post was originally published in April 2020. Last updated in February 2023 by Maria Danuco.