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Only in Japan!
Capsule Hotels were invented in the 1970s by the Japanese architect Kurokawa Kisho who modified a shipping container to make a space-saving one-man room complete with TV, radio and alarm clock. The original aim of the design was to provide very economical housing for businessmen who would work in central Tokyo during the week before returning home to their wives and families in the surrounding countryside at weekends.
The first ever capsule hotel building built for actual use is to be found in the Ginza area of Tokyo. Designed by Kurokawa and completed in 1972 the The Nagakin Capsule Tower (pictured below, right) is 14 stories high with 140 capsules all clustered around two cores, each with a diagonally sloping roof and pointed top. This doesn't make a lot of sense until you actually see the building with it's bizarre exterior of crate like rooms stacked at curious angles on top of one another.
Today's capsules are every different each measuring about two metres by one metre by one metre and but still retaining the radio/alarm clocks and TVs which often show nothing besides adult movies at a rate of 100 yen for 5 minutes. The hotels are vast with many hundreds of capsules providing convenient beds for those drunken business men who didn't quite make the last train home. Each floor tends to have large bathhouses and the salaryman banter can be quite entertaining as they scrub up and sober up. If you pay one a visit for a night you are sure to strike up some interesting conversations! Some capsule hotels also have separate floors for women although this is not common.
Capsules are truly accommodation for the space age. But don't worry, if you don't like the idea of waking up in some kind of a '2001: A Space Odyssey' nightmare, then rest assured, no nights in a capsule are included on our standard tours. However, if for you a trip to Japan is not complete without this unique experience, then we can advise on where best to leave a space in your itinerary for that night in your own private box!
Left - Capsule Hotel, America Mura (Osaka); Right - The Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo
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