ninehours, experiencing a Capsule Hotel in Kyoto
You haven't truly experienced Japanese culture if you haven't spent at least one night in a capsule hotel. One of the most modern one is in Kyoto and is called ninehours. But if you plan on spending some cuddly rest with your loved one, just know that men and women won't stay on the same floor.
I promised myself that when I would come to Japan, I will try to sleep in a capsule hotel. The term itself was so mysterious; it was as if I was going to outer space. I was lucky enough to book a sleep pod in one of the most avant-garde looking hotels of this kind: ninehours in Kyoto. With its Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe, this pristine establishment was a great way to step in this foreign part of the Morpheus Kingdom.
What is a capsule hotel?
If China and Singapore have tried their own version of the capsule hotel, the first one opened in 1979. It was designed by Kisho Kurokawa and located in the Umeda district of Osaka. It offered a solution to two main problems in Japanese society: the lack of space and overwork. Japanese businessmen and women are indeed often unable to catch their last train back home because of the amount of work they are expected to daily produce and the usual team building socializing afterwards. More convenient than 24 hours opened coffee shops, capsule hotels are a great way to rest few hours before heading back to work. Most establishments provide you with the essentials (basictoiletry articles, a yukata and slippers), which means that all your clothes and belonging will be kept in a locker.
The capsule itself is roughly 2 by 1 by 1.25 m. The open end of the capsule can be closed, for privacy, with a curtain or a fibreglass door. The capsules are usually stacked side-by-side, two units high, with steps providing access to the second level rooms. Much like dorms in youth hostels, men and women don't sleep in the same rooms and more often not on the same floor. It provides safety for women travelling on their own.
ninehours, a very modern capsule hotel
Located right near the modern part of Kyoto, ninehours is a unique space to be experienced. It takes its name from the concept that for resetting your day, from one day to the next, you need three basic actions: take a shower, sleep, and get yourself dressed. They have simply replaced these actions with the time spent for each one: one hour to shower + seven hours to rest + one hour to get ready. Nine hours total to be fresh for the new day. But if you just need a quick catnap you can also stay there for an hour or more (1900 yen per hour). You can also come to check in at anytime of the day or night, as the reception will always stay opened.
There isn't any TV in the sleep pod, but just a WiFi access, which allows you to use your phone or computer to stay connected with your loved ones. Before heading to the land of dreams, you can still socialize with other guests in the lounge areas, there is one for both genders and one only for women. If other tourists and backpackers will mostly be friendly, it will be more difficult to talk to Japanese people, as they are mostly using the facilities for the strict necessaries: shower and sleep.
A "Sleep Ambient Control System" or gradual luminosity system will help you to relax and prepare you to a night of sweet dreams. It is a silent and peaceful way to fall asleep and to wake up without disturbing the other guests.
If the "coffin-like" shape of your bed scares you, just know that it is actually much more spacious and cozy than it may look. And once the time comes to part with your capsule and share the common facilities with other guests, you will realize you have lived a " only in Japan" experience, getting you closer to an understanding of what Japanese society is so proud of: its efficiency. Except if you are really claustrophobic, chances are you will be well rested to explore what the beautiful city of Kyoto has to offer. And believe me, you better feel fresh to enjoy it all.
tel: 03-5413-7108 (6am to 9pm)
Book on their website
2 minutes on foot from Hankyu Kawaramachi Station
5 minutes on foot from Keihan Gion Shijyo Station
5 minutes from Subway Shijyo Station
588 Teianmaeno-cho, Shijyo, Teramachi-dori,
Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8031 Japan