For my past 2 Japan trips last year, I had to search for solo accommodation as I had to spend a night or two in Tokyo alone. Capsule hotel might sound like a popular option, but the options for females back in 2015 were very limited.
As a result, I chose to spend the night at the Oedo onsen for my first trip. It was possible as I did not have a huge luggage with me, only a backpack for that one night stay in Tokyo. Luggage storage facility may be uncommon in such onsen facility. It was great to enjoy the hot spring baths but I had to catch my sleep on a sofa in a public mixed gender area (which I struggled to find an available one). It was pretty pricey too – at 4180Y in Odaiba which cost additional 700Y+ for the train tickets.
For the second trip, the onsen idea was shelved as I had to stay 2 nights alone and lug my huge luggage along with me. I found a Capsule hotel (with female floors) at Shinjuku area but I didn’t really want to stay at that area alone as it was near the red light district. I ended up staying at an airbnb eventually.
Capsule Hotel Choice – Nihonbashi Bay Hotel
Well, as staying in a capsule hotel is still in my list of things to do in Japan, I finally stayed in a Capsule hotel this trip even though I was not traveling alone. After weeks of searching for the perfect Capsule hotel, we finally chose Nihonbashi Bay Hotel.
The hotel is located within walking distance of Tokyo Station – perfect for us as as we took the 1000Y Airport bus (cheapest mode of transport) between Narita Airport to Tokyo Station. Next, this capsule hotel does not provide the authentic sento experience (communal bathing) which we were more than happy to avoid. Being comfortably naked in front of strangers is something that I would prefer to avoid. Also, it is clearly indicated in its website that luggage can be kept at the reception (before & after check-in). Do note that this service is rather uncommon of capsule hotels which usually caters to the Japanese market. This place (newly opened in Dec 2015) was definitely designed to attract foreigners & tourists. Anyway, with a score of 8.8 on booking.com with more than 500 reviews, what could go wrong?
When I stayed in May 2016, the price for a female capsule without TV was 3,400Y (Early bird pricing booked from their official website at least 14 days in advance). This price is a premium compared to the Shinjuku options which ranges at 2,000Y.
Do note that you will have to leave the accommodation between 11AM & 5PM, for the staff to clean even if you are staying consecutive nights! This is a standard rule across all capsule hotels – which may be rather inconvenient for many. Some people may prefer booking hostel as a result.
Note: “Bay Hotel” branding is a hotel chain. Do read properly when you book and route the correct address for directions. The one I stayed at was Nihonbashi Bay hotel. Please do not confuse it with the Ginza Bay Hotel which is nearer to Tsukiji or the other Bay Hotel which is 10 minutes walk away from this one.
On the ground floor, you will be greeted with this signboard.
Walk in and take the lift (yes, a lift for your luggage!) to 2F for the reception.
Pass your reservation slip to the staff at the counter and they will direct you to make payment at the machine. They will also make a photocopy of your passport. Seems like a common practice throughout the whole of Japan now.
English instructions available. Pretty straightforward. Put in cash and a receipt will be printed.
Pass receipt to staff at counter and collect lanyard with locker key and access card. They will give you a simple User guide (English available) and advise that this lanyard must be kept with you at all times. It is required in the lifts to access your floor, to enter the different rooms (from toilet/common area) to bedroom etc.
Card number 821 = 8 Floor, Bed 21
There are 3 female floors and I guess I’m lucky that my floor has a lounge area.
After we were done with checking in, we went to the 2F lounge area and took out the smaller bag that we had prepared for this 1N stay. I kind of over prepared that bag – I brought a set of PJs, toiletries, charging cables, make up stuff, a set of clothes for the next morning and even stuff to do if I do get bored.
Then, we handled over our huge luggage to the staff and they kept them in a room near the counter.
As expected, the locker assigned to us was too narrow to store our luggage. It can barely fit my fat backpack.
Upon opening the locker, you will see a black mesh bag and indoor slippers which you will have to change into. Japanese emphasis a lot on cleanliness. The shoes that you wear outside is not clean enough for the sleeping area. There are toilet slippers to change into if you are walking to the cubicles.
Toilets & Shower facilities
As expected, the toilets were sparking clean. It was perhaps about 40% occupancy in our floor that night and we were the only ones that were not alone.
Private shower cubicles were available – really love the rattan changing basket and extra space allocated for changing area. The water flow of the shower was good too. Shampoo, Soap and conditioner all available for use. The mirror is pretty random though – but I do remember seeing mirrors in the individual sections of communal baths too. I guess Japanese like to look at their reflection when they bathe. There were 4 cubicles available for the 20-30 beds in our floor. I was happy to have my shower in a fresh shower room! Maybe we were early or perhaps some of them don’t bathe. (Note: Taking daily showers is not a habit in many countries.)
Capsule hotels often have a misconception that it is really small and perhaps claustrophobic but my 1 night experience was quite a pleasant one. There was enough space for me to flip from side to side, sit upright and move around within the tiny space. Length wasn’t an issue for me as I’m only 1.6Xm. Most capsules are 1.8 or 2m long. I was thankful to be given the bottom capsule (not sure if you are allowed to request) as I don’t like climbing up and down.
Every capsule has a number and you will have to sleep in the one that has been assigned to you. Looks pretty neat? All that will be destroyed with my entrance.
The “room” comes with a thick blanket (which I slept on, not under), 2 lights, 1 spotlight and ambience light (coming from the back of the back rest) which you can adjust brightness. There’s a small mirror and ledge which was really useful for makeup the next morning. There was also an alarm clock which I did not bother setting up.
Inside the black mesh bag, which you collected from the locker earlier on, you can find a set of Pyjamas (which could fit me!). Not sure if they have bigger sizes though but I was prepared with my own PJs if it didn’t fit. There are 2 towels – 1 bath and 1 for hair/face. There was a disposable rough towel (sealed in a bag) which you can use for scrubbing, comb and toothbrush with mini toothpaste too. Note: Cotton bud and cotton pad were available in the toilet. Apart from the disposables, you are not supposed to bring any of the other items home.
Power plug is available within the capsule.
There was enough space at the sides of the capsule to display all my barang barang- like 6 different pouches..
Washer + Dryer available at certain floors. The pricing is very affordable – 200Y for washing machine (detergent included i suppose) and 100Y for 30 minutes of the dryer!
Other facilities include hot water dispenser (no normal or cold water dispenser) which makes it convenient to eat cup noodles for supper. There was a lounge area in my floor where you can sit down and eat, use your laptop or study/read. It would be good to hang out in this area if you don’t plan to sleep yet as the air may get a little stuffy within the capsule if you’re not sleeping. Unlike the usual hostels, don’t expect anyone to start a conversation with you despite being in close proximity. Quietness within the hotel is strongly encouraged and recommended. I ended up struggling to chew my chips quietly. My friend and I had to whisper to converse as we did not want to disturb the other people in the room.
Vending machines (selling cold/hot drinks + cup noodles) are available on some floors and the reception.
As there is nothing to do within your own capsule (I did not get the one with the TV), it is very easy to fall asleep when you’re inside. It felt a little stuffy in the beginning when I pulled down the shutter but after keeping calm and taking regular breathes, I soon fell asleep (with the phone falling on my face a couple of times). As japan likes to conserve energy, air conditioning was probably set to room temperature – maybe it was maintained at 25 to 28 degrees permanently. You may be disturbed by the pulling of blinds and opening of doors, so if you are a light sleeper, you may consider bringing earplugs.
I think I had a pretty deep sleep, only remember waking up once to toss and turn myself into the blanket that I was sleeping on. It gets colded in the night or rather my body has cooled down from the warm shower that I took. (I am an average sleeper, I do wake up when there are noises but I usually have no issues falling back into sleep quickly). The next morning, I was was woken up by my phone alarm. We woke up pretty early – more than half of the people were still sleeping in their capsules when I visited the toilet.
Chairs are provided at the sink area if you choose to do your makeup by the sink and mirror. Do note that there are only 4 or 5 sinks so you might have to wait a while if there’s a queue as Japanese takes very long to put on their makeup. Hair Dryer is available by the sink. When you are done, there’s a basket at the lockers area where you can throw your used towels and PJs. I returned the black mesh bag to the locker, took out my stuff, packed up and went down to the reception to check out and pack our bigger luggage. You will be able to leave your luggage at the reception after you check out (not sure if bag storage service is available for multiple days).
The not so good parts..
I had a female friend who stayed at the same Capsule hotel 2 weeks after i checked out. Her experience was not as satisfactory as there were drunkards staying at her floor. They puked in the toilets and the smell lingered in the rooms and toilets. As they were kind of drunk, they made quite a bit of noise (at later hours) which was quite a far cry from the expected quietness and serene environment.
I guess this is really a heng/suay thing and I was really lucky to be staying in a half filled floor with no issues with drunkards. hmm.
Post Checkout Ideas
My post checkout activity in the morning was to visit Tsukiji Market which was a 20 to 25 minutes walk away. After which, we went over to Asasuka for the shrine and walked over to SkyTree (quite a far walk) and shopped around before returning to collect our luggage in the afternoon. As we were traveling from Tokyo Station, we were able to find elevators to get down comfortable to the train station. Usually, bigger stations will have elevators if you search hard enough!
Overall, my experience is a pleasant one and I wouldn’t mind staying here again for another night if necessary. I would not encourage staying multiple nights as you will have to check out and check in daily which means packing and unpacking your luggage twice a day. It is an interesting experience and extremely perfect for people who don’t like making new friends. If you prefer knowing new people, hostels would still be a better option!