Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Living In Tokyo's Capsule Hotels 269

afabbro writes "Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510 once offered a night’s refuge to salarymen who had missed the last train home. Now with Japan enduring its worst recession since World War II, it is becoming an affordable option for people with nowhere else to go. The Hotel 510’s capsules are only 6 1/2 feet long by 5 feet wide. Guests must keep possessions, like shirts and shaving cream, in lockers outside of the capsules. Atsushi Nakanishi, jobless since Christmas says, 'It’s just a place to crawl into and sleep. You get used to it.'”


This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Living In Tokyo's Capsule Hotels

Comments Filter:
  • by xxuserxx ( 1341131 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @05:36PM (#30661050)
    I did 6 months of that multiple times. Its not too bad.
    • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @06:11PM (#30661586)

      I did 6 months of that multiple times. Its not too bad.

      Then again, your paycheck is being deposited to the proper account, the chow is regular and nutritious, and the guys next to you are your fellow sailors.
      I imagine it's an entirely different experience when your looking for a job, counting the remaining yen in your wallet, lying next to a bunch of strangers similar only in their unfortunate circumstances.

    • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @06:40PM (#30661944) Homepage

      Just don't take the bottom rack. Remember folks, drunken pee flows downhill.

  • by calmofthestorm ( 1344385 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @05:40PM (#30661100)

    but if it came time to give up luxuries, it would be one of the first to go.

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @06:24PM (#30661720) Journal
      The things cost about $640 a month. That's better than a hotel, but still a pretty brutal monthly expense.
      • Yeah I read TFA after commenting. It costs more than my room. So screw that;)

        • by voss ( 52565 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @06:37PM (#30661884)

          By Tokyo standards $640 a month is cheap

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by phantomfive ( 622387 )
            It's cheap for an apartment or hotel. Looking over rent prices in Tokyo [] it seems an apartment isn't all that much more expensive than the San Francisco area, and it seems you can get one for around $850 if you're not too picky. It seems it would be cheaper to just get a roommate than to live in one of these boxes.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              It's cheap for an apartment or hotel. Looking over rent prices in Tokyo it seems an apartment isn't all that much more expensive than the San Francisco area, and it seems you can get one for around $850 if you're not too picky. It seems it would be cheaper to just get a roommate than to live in one of these boxes.

              The problem with the whole "get a roommate" thing is this: can you trust him/her to pay their portion of the rent? How about if he loses his job? I had a roommate who stiffed me out of rent money

              • You are right of course, but when I look at this sort of thing, I always think, "I wonder if I could live there on a regular basis in order to cut my expenses." In this case, the answer seems to be no. It's not really worth it.
            • by PhantomHarlock ( 189617 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @08:10PM (#30663074)

              Except that to get an apartment, you have to pay a ridiculously large bribe called "key money" to secure the apartment, equivalent to a bunch of month's worth of rent. It's probably this that is keeping people at the capsule hotel that has a similar monthly expense to a tiny studio walk up.

              • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @12:05PM (#30670556)

                Not to mention finding a co-signer... in Japan, you need to have someone co-sign on your lease. This is much like co-signing on a loan and the Japanese treat it about as seriously. It's a huge obstacle to anyone foreign trying to get an apartment or something (who would sign for a gaijin?).

                Moreover, it's also kinda evil. If you're alone, you'd have a hard time finding a co-signer. But this essentially prevents non-Japanese couples from getting an apartment. If you marry someone who's Japanese, that person will surely have relatives who would be glad to co-sign. But if you are married to someone who isn't a native, then you're going to have a difficult time finding a co-signer.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @09:47PM (#30664144)

              But in japan, moving into a new place requires between 4-6 months rent in deposits, key money, gifts to the landlord/realtor, etc. It's pretty horrific.

      • Well real estate prices are pretty insane in and around the Tokyo metropolitan area. Tokyo was ranked #1 in the entire world for cost of living, followed by Osaka at #2. To put that in perspective, NYC isn't even in the top 5. Yeah, a lot of things are faster, better, AND cheaper (yes, pick all 3), notably public transportation, cellular phones and service, and internet access -- but a lot of things are much more expensive AND provided in much smaller quantities than we're used to in the US.

  • Westerners (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @05:43PM (#30661130)
    I wonder if Westerners are accepted at these places?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Suki I ( 1546431 )
      I am pretty sure beloved boyfriend would not fit comfortably and it would have to be an interesting fantasy scene if he wanted me to join him.
      • As long as the neighbours get to enjoy the audio

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by harp2812 ( 891875 )

        Every one of these that I've seen were single occupant only, and men/women had completely separate wings of the building at least, or often entirely separate floors. For double occupancy, there's plenty of "love hotels" to be found. :)

        • For double occupancy, there's plenty of "love hotels" to be found. :)

          Although at probably a higher price.

          • Hey, those theme rooms don't pay for themselves! ;)

            Actually, I think they were like only $40-$60 a night ($25 for a few hours), but I wasn't paying that much attention to the signs beyond getting a chuckle out of the pictures of the rooms... never actually stayed in one though, so maybe I misread the rates.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by geekoid ( 135745 )

          If anything will stop two horny people from having sex, it's a list of rules~

        • there's plenty of "love hotels" to be found. :)

          In my experience, some of them don't allow gaijin either.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      only if they fit

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by will_die ( 586523 )
      There are booking sites for various capsule hotels in English so yes.
      However from reading reviews most seem to be separated by sex if you are going as a couple.
    • Yup - I stayed a couple nights in a capsule hotel back in March, and I'm a pretty standard Seattle-ite... My hotel was also somewhere around Shinjuku IIRC, however
      my cubby hole didn't look quite that nice. Only $25 a night in downtown Tokyo though, so ya can't knock that.

      • I haven't been skiing in many years, but I've thought that something like this could do well in Tahoe, for people who come up just to ski.. Come up, ski, go to casinos or whatever for a while, then sleep in one of these capsules, cheaper than a regular hotel..

    • Re:Westerners (Score:5, Informative)

      by midnightJackal ( 680627 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @06:13PM (#30661598)

      I wonder if Westerners are accepted at these places?

      As with all things in Japan, it depends. Westerners will be allowed in if they satisfy the requirements posted on the wall at the reception area. In most cases, anyone with tattoos will be barred entry (since tattoos == yakuza in japan).

      Also, most capsule hotels are exclusively for men because it reduces the risk of rape (versus co-ed). There are one or two capsule hotels in Tokyo that I could find that are exclusively for women, but since the whole point of a capsule hotel is to provide a place for a salaryman (read: regular joe schmoe employee) to catch some sleep after a night of drinking and missing his last train home, it doesn't often happen that a woman would *need* to stay in a capsule hotel. Especially since Japanese society still largely encourages women to abandon their careers once they have children. And, as we all know, Japanese women are expected to be baby making machines [], so *not* having children isn't really seen as an option.

      Disclaimer: I lived in (albeit rural) Japan from 2005-2007, and I'm female. I looked for capsule hotels when I was there, and there were few that would accept me. My views on women's rights and societal expectations in Japan may be somewhat biased by my small-town life there, as even in Canada small-town women get exposed to fewer options and seemingly have fewer acceptable life choices than those in major cities.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually that's a thorny problem. Obviously a society that does not have it's women have at least 2.1 children average dies (and given the number of problems, medical and otherwise, that means every woman should strive to put between 3 and 4 children on this world. And frankly, especially in Japan, if women are "baby making machines" they're not doing their job (and neither are the men, of course. But obviously babies don't appear out of nowhere and a woman will be out of comission for 5 months at least, no

        • Re:Westerners (Score:5, Interesting)

          by MsGeek ( 162936 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @11:50PM (#30665300) Homepage Journal

          They aren't going to increase the Japanese population talking to women like that. One of the reasons why Japan is in the population fix it's in is because women have decided "Screw it, I'm having too much fun being single, and being a married woman is akin to a season in Hell anyway, especially if you are married to a First Son, so I'm going to live with my parents and spend my money on fashion and Host Clubs and Yaoi doujinshi."

          The reason why women make the choice to become a "parasite single" is not just a rebellion against society's expectations of being a "good wife and good mother," but it has a lot to do also with the economic situation that pretty much started with the end of the Showa era [] and the beginning of the Heisei era []. When the bubble economy [] burst in 1990, the earning power of the Japanese male burst as well. The old assumptions collapsed. You didn't graduate a prestigious university and get a job for life. Much of the excesses of Sarariman life was forgiven because, well, he would bring home the salary. Now, after the burst of the bubble economy, employment was scarce and tenuous.

          Marriage had long ago evolved from a business arrangement between families to a partnership arrangement between a man and a woman -- love usually was way down the list even during the go-go '70s and '80s -- so the economic viability of the potential husband determined his marriageability. With so many young men graduating from university without the guarantees their fathers and grandfathers have, you wind up with with lots of single men and single women.

          There is a huge stigma against birth out of wedlock in Japan, way more than in the West. So the economic and social situation means birth rates have plummeted.

          You cannot simply wish away the current situation, or sloganize it away. This is the result of a social collapse unprecedented in Japanese society.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @06:51PM (#30662088) Homepage Journal

        So there is a persopn whose job it is to stop Yakuza from using these? tough gig.

      • And, as we all know, Japanese women are expected to be baby making machines , so *not* having children isn't really seen as an option.

        Hey, at least he acknowledged that calling women "machines" may not be appropriate!


        even in Canada small-town women get exposed to fewer options

        Oh sure, blame Canada!

        They're not even a real country anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wiredlogic ( 135348 )

        If you ever run across the documentary called "Japan Land" you'll see the female adventurer treking about the country on her own. It's shown on PBS World from time to time.

        In one of the episodes she manages to get a night in a capsule hotel and films herself getting in and out. She managed to get into a few other places where women aren't completely welcome and got to see some interesting things like standing in the middle of a sea of Yakuza during a temple festival.

      • Wrong (mostly) (Score:2, Informative)

        by dgr73 ( 1055610 )
        Tattoos on westeners are not looked upon with the same stigma as tattoos on Japanese (and even this is lessening nowadays, especially for discreet non-yakuza tattoos).
        Even high end spas in the countryside accept westeners with discreet(ish) tattoos. Yes, the official policy is still "100% tattoo ban", but it's not enforced. Hell, some places even let Yakuza in, but maybe those are not the finest of establishments.

        On a topic more related to OP: The capsule hotels are not that bad, especially since you hav

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Yuuki Dasu ( 1416345 )

        As a western male living in Japan, I can attest that foreigners are (generally) accepted at capsule hotels.

        The tattoo issue is one worth knowing about for visitors. I've never had trouble at capsule hotels, but at public baths and spas (sento and onsen) I've known most places to bar entry if you have visible ink. I find that most of them don't kick you out if you're already inside, though they might want you to be circumspect.

    • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

      I think allot of Westerners wouldn't fit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    especially when you get to pay for the privilege

  • I stayed in a couple of capsule hotels during my trip to Japan in 2006. The good ones, such as one I can't remember the name of in Hakata, were great spa-like experiences which were still rather cheap. The worst one was actually in Shinjuku in Tokyo, where the capsules were badly ventilated and the in-hotel restaurant gave me food poisoning (cow-stomach ramen did not go down well in my own stomach, apparently).
  • Hiro Protagonist's place sounded awful, but much better than this in Snowcrash.
    • Guess we'll just have to wait for the rest of the world to turn to total shit before living in a storage unit becomes 'appealing'.

  • by irright ( 1369385 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @06:04PM (#30661484)
    I would get beaten to death by other patrons who didn't appreciate my revving-dirtbike-level snoring.
  • The fact that Japan's homelessness is large enough to now be visible is pretty shocking. Although as far back as 2001, I saw a few homeless in Ueno park. It's a problem they very much liked to sweep under the rug, but they can no longer. Most Japanese are taught to save as much as we spend, even if you're dirt poor, and that usually mitigates the chances of one becoming homeless, if it is only for lack of a job. But as the person at the end of the article shows, that will only go so far, if you are out

    • by jjohnson ( 62583 )

      I traveled to Japan in 2002 with a Japanese coworker who'd left in the mid-90s. He was shocked almost to tears at the number of blue-tarp squatting settlements in Ueno, which were totally absent in the 90s.

    • Japan is changing (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DesScorp ( 410532 )

      "The fact that Japan's homelessness is large enough to now be visible is pretty shocking"

      A lot of things about Japan would surprise people. But this is only going to get worse. I was reading this weekend about just how much trouble Japan is in. IIRC from the newspaper article, their national debt is 212% of the GDP, twice what the US's is. The savings rate for Japanese citizens used to average 10%. As the old have died off, and the less-numerous young entered adulthood, that rate has dropped precipitously t

  • Hey what do you know...just like my Carl Fargman drawers back at home.
  • by nwanua ( 70972 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @06:09PM (#30661570) Journal

    I do feel for the poor chaps who must do it, but personally, I do this _every_ chance I get. Longest was about 2 weeks. I actually prefer capsules to conventional hotels: nice long saunas, a chance to meet and hang out with interesting people (rather than holing up in a room), it forces you to stay out (again, so you don't stay holed in), and you can't beat the price: $25-$35 a night, right in the middle of all the action.

    You could also do pretty much the same at Internet Cafes. I've found the accommodation (couch+cubicle+snacks+internet+manga+games) to be far better than even most first-class flight cabins. You still need your everyday clothes on, so I'd stay there max 2 days.

    Tip: best way to visit Japan: travel very light. Buy shaving supplies, soap, t-shirts, etc. at the local combini or 99 yen store. Instead of spend money at a single hotel, spend it traveling to different parts of the country: danjiri festival here, live music there, temple over there, robots over there, party over here. All without luggage to slow you down.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Gothmolly ( 148874 )

      Or stay out of Japan all together. Safer, less tentacle-rapey, less schoolgirl panty sniffy, less racist, less xenophobic, etc.

    • so basically it is like a posh hostel, with an enclosure built around your bed. are there any real hostels in japan, the non-enclosed kind?
      • Yes, everything from the hilton to the capsule hotels and below. In kyoto, I stayed in a non-enclosed hostel that was about 10 dollars a night, holes in the walls were patched with cardboard but very clean. Mats on the floor and kersonene powered space heater. I didn't see any cheap hostels with western-style mattresses, the western hotels do of course.

      • Yep, and outside of tokyo they are often cheaper than the capsule hotels. Those are more like ... bathroom sized.

        Internet cafes are great as GP said... they usually have bedding and showers but they usually charge by the hour which can get steep if you sleep a long time.

        Last option is homestays or ryokan. Homestays are something like living in a room in some people's house. Which for the cultural thing is great, they are very nice generally and they'll personally help you out with whatever they can so...
    • by ari_j ( 90255 )

      robots over there, party over here

      I find your discrimination to be both unkind and irrational. What kind of a Japanese party would it be without robots?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster ( 516420 )
      Tip 2: Always watch Japanese television ninja game shows only after being jet-lagged by a 14 hour plane ride and drinking at least 2 large bottles of the cheapest sake (purchased from the nearest airport vending machines); it's twice as funny that way.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by StikyPad ( 445176 )

        Tip 3: Don't buy the adult PPV channels; they're heavily censored. Although after a few minutes of watching, you're sort of glad for the censoring.

    • You could also do pretty much the same at Internet Cafes. I've found the accommodation (couch+cubicle+snacks+internet+manga+games) to be far better than even most first-class flight cabins. You still need your everyday clothes on, so I'd stay there max 2 days

      And at least a few years ago, free all-you-can-drink mellon flavored slurpies.

  • Smoke (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rasperin ( 1034758 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @06:17PM (#30661646)
    When I traveled to Japan I ended up staying in a capsule hotel for one night. The problem (and only problem) I had with them is the fact that they allow smoking. Almost every japanese male (male only btw) smokes, as one of my old japanese coworkers said "You aren't a man if you don't smoke". Well, when you have 510 people smoking in a very very small building it becomes not only disgusting but I got really sick from it. After that day I stopped smoking, and haven't lit up since.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Actually the number of smokers has dropped precipitously in the last 10 years. When did you go? When I first went in 2001 it was everywhere, unavoidable. Every restaurant was billowing clouds. On the last of four trips, it was practically nonexistent in comparison. No smoking on the JR trains, hardly any smoke in the restaurants. There has been a large campaign against smoking in public.

  • This is great (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    (Opinion Alert)

    I'd love to see it implemented in the states. We yanks over the pond seem to think the size of your sleeping quarters is essentially proportional to your rank in society, and having this totally alternative means of housing, even for just a short term, could provide a constructive new perspective to a lot of people. Hitting "rock bottom," while still absolutely devastating, would be survivable. You'd have to start from the beginning (and bottom), but for people that fall off the wagon that's

  • Craigslist for NYC shows single rooms in sublets or shared apartments at a minimum of $125/week, so it's not outrageous to have your own space with a lockable door this way.

  • by Zadaz ( 950521 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @07:17PM (#30662414)

    I've been thinking about this since I first saw it reported. I haven't been to Japan in two years, but I did live in central Tokyo for several years and I think I got a feel for the place. I know exactly where this hotel is and walked by it quite often.

    A Shinjuku capsule hotels are not the cheapest in the city by any means. A $3 train ride can save you 50%. The only reason most people don't do that is because they missed the last train--not a problem for the unemployed.

    And while yes, it is cheaper than a Tokyo apartment, many (most?) people who -work- in Tokyo can't afford to -live- there. They live out in the 'burbs, up in Saitama or down in Kawasaki or wherever, where you can get your own place for a lot less. Sure, it's an hour train ride to work, but in Tokyo that's pretty standard. And you'd get your own place rather than a luxury coffin.

    I've talked to my friends who still work in central Tokyo trying to get conformation of this 'trend' but all of them have reported back that this is bogus. But none of them are homeless businessmen, so my sampling is biased.

    • Remember how much 'key money' is to get an apartment? Like a bunch of month's rent up front as a bribe? I'm guessing that's a contributing factor.

      If the figures from the people who run the hotel are correct, that seems like an actual trend to me. the # of long term residents vs. one-nighter drunkards.

    • by tknd ( 979052 )

      I visited in October. You probably have more experience than I, but while I was there I saw a number of things:

      • I met a japanese guy in my hostel that was looking for work. He found jobs but I'm guessing none of them were "full time" jobs. He was young and wasn't really a salaryman so his situation was a little different. But he did stay at the hostel dormitory pretty much the entire time I was in Japan (weeks).
      • I saw plenty of homeless. By that I mean people sleeping in boxes on the street.
      • A train ride
  • by Dr_Ken ( 1163339 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @07:39PM (#30662656) Journal
    I'd rather live in a capsule than in a cardboard box in an alley somewhere. Safer, warmer, and more secure.
  • The neuromancer tagline is pretty apropros. It is a shame that stuff like this has to spring up. I feel bad for the economic victims.
  • by caywen ( 942955 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @08:19PM (#30663184)

    The capsule motels, despite the cigarette smoke, are actually quite nice inside. The only reason this works is that the Japanese value cleanliness more than most other cultures, and even the perpetually unemployed tend to pick up their own trash. Here in San Francisco, I'm sure the floors would be riddled with needles and the stench would pervade over a 3 block radius.

    Also, I'm pretty sure they like to rent out the lower bunks first as I can see major injuries occurring with drunken salarymen trying to get their head into the second row.

  • They spooked me a bit but then I'm a little claustrophobic. I was doing business with one a company who had developed one and I was given a tour. They also reminded me of the sort of thing William Gibson described in Neuromancer.

  • Even better (Score:3, Interesting)

    by patbernier ( 9544 ) * on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @11:06PM (#30664874) Homepage

    Nowadays, if you're willing to stay even just a little bit outside of the Yamanote loop line, and if you know where to look (hint: online, especially if you can read a bit of Japanese, in which case is the place to go), you can get small hotel rooms for the same price as capsule hotels in Tokyo.

    I should know: I'm sitting in such a room right now. The place where I'm staying has weekly rates which rival the cheapest apartment room rentals -- which usually have the inconvenience of requiring upfront monthly payments, deposits, and often "key money" and "gift money" (unless dealing with special agencies like Sakura House who specialize in housing foreigners, the first month of rent can easily cost you four times the normal rent, and we haven't talked about the utilities yet)

    Since this is /. : did I mention that my room has top-notch Internet connectivity? I was downloading stuff from my Montreal-based "home" server at over 50 Mb/s yesterday night! You get an Ethernet jack in the room, and the place is blanketed with free wifi. (Of course you still end up behind a NAT, but I don't think I've ever seen a hotel handing out public IPs...)

    The hotel is split in smoking and non-smoking floors, and there's even a women-only floor. There's a coin laundry on the first floor, nice bathing and toilet facilities (cleaner than most 6000-8000 yen/night downtown Shinjuku business hotels I've stayed in), microwave ovens and hot water on each floor... With convenience stores and 100yen shops close by, it makes it really easy to live on a shoestring budget even in this supposedly extremely expensive city.

    And this place is far from unique: hell, there's another one just like it right across the street.

    Did I mention the best part yet? Unlike most budget hotels... there are virtually no noisy foreigners here!

    Which is why I won't tell you where it is ;->

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.