by Brian – JAPANiCAN.com Staff
Last week, I finally got to cross an item off of my to-do list that was long overdue: capsule hotel. Specifically, I was invited to stay at the Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel, which is located right on the edge of one of the biggest entertainment centers in Japan’s very own city that never sleeps, Shinjuku. Keep reading below for all the details. Important note: Since the facilities of this hotel are completely communal, the Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel is for men only.
As you may have guessed from its name, this capsule hotel is located in Shinjuku, which is on the western side of Tokyo’s central 23 wards. The location is excellent: it’s about a five to ten minute walk at a leisurely pace from the massive transit hub that is Shinjuku Station, and it’s right on the edge of Kabukicho, one of Tokyo’s hottest entertainment districts. Restaurants, department stores and boutiques abound.
Getting there is pretty straightforward. Coming from Shinjuku Station, you’ll want to exit from the east side of the station and head towards Kabukicho. Since the hotel is right across the street from the Shinjuku Ward Office (“Kuyakusho”), it makes a convenient landmark when asking for directions or consulting one of the city maps located along the street if you get turned around.
The hotel is located on the third to eighth floors of a building with a Chinese restaurant on the first floor and show pub on the second (more on these establishments later). If you walk towards the entrance of the Chinese restaurant and hang a left, you can find the elevator (with English signage) that will take you to the hotel’s front desk on the third floor. Once inside, take off your shows and store them in a lockbox. At the check-in counter, fill out a short information form and hand in your shoebox key, and the staff will give you your locker key. The number on the key corresponds to the number of your capsule. You’ll receive a locker that accommodates about a standard-sized backpack, but if you have larger baggage, the staff will be glad to hold it for you at the front. You will also receive a sheet of the basic rules of the capsule hotel, which is available in Japanese, English, and Chinese.
Lockbox for your shoes at check-in. Don’t worry, the capsules are bigger than this.
Once you get your key, it’s time to get settled in! Head back to the locker area and find the one assigned to you. Inside you’ll find a bath towel, a washcloth and a light garment to wear around the hotel (and a couple hangers). Don’t worry about where to keep your key; the keys are attached to watch band-style bracelets for safe-keeping around your wrist. Once you’ve changed, it’s off to your capsule, the hotel’s restaurant/lounge, the bath and sauna, or even the massage room.
Stash your stuff and get changed.
Let’s get to the main event: the capsules themselves. Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel’s two square meter capsules are stacked in two levels, which is a standard capsule configuration. The capsules are equipped with a screen, called a yoroido in Japanese, for privacy’s sake. Inside the capsule you’ll find bedding (mattress pad, pillow, comforter), a TV, and your capsule’s control panel which operates the TV, lighting and alarm clock. You might also notice that each capsule is equipped with an emergency sprinkler in the case of fire. Make sure you don’t smoke in your capsule (all capsules are non-smoking), or you might turn your capsule into a shower booth!
Climb on in and get cozy.
Depending on availability, there is typically some room for choice about certain aspects of your capsule such as floor level or upper level, neighboring capsules for those traveling in groups, and upgraded capsules equipped with electrical outlets and Internet connections (wired). These upgraded capsules require an additional fee of JPY 500 (paid at the hotel). If you decide not to spring for the upgraded capsule but still want to charge your cell phone, there are pay-chargers located around the hotel. Please note that these chargers are made for Japanese cell phones and may not be compatible with your phone.
Just because you’re staying at practically the bare minimum certainly doesn’t mean that your time here will be uncomfortable, and Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel offers more than just sleeping space. Check out the other facilities on offer in the hotel below.
Toilets, Baths and Sauna
There are bathrooms on every floor offering both urinals and stalls. The toilets are fitted with state-of-the-art and ever popular Japanese washlet systems, and the bathrooms in general are kept immaculately clean.
The bathing facilities here are communal, and anyone who has visited a public Japanese bath before will know what to expect. There are individual shower stations along the walls where you can wash up (shampoo, rinse and body wash provided). The main attraction of the bathing area, though, is of course the bath itself, and Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel offers a large, lavish bath that’s perfect for relaxing and melting away your troubles. If relaxing in the bath isn’t enough, have no fear: there is also a sauna.
Just outside the bathing area are the powder rooms, which are lined with mirrors and sinks for your personal grooming needs. For you fellas out there with longer hair, hair dryers are also available.
On the 4th floor you’ll find the hotel’s restaurant, which is open for dinner from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. (last order at 2:45 a.m.) and for breakfast from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The menu for dinner offers a wide variety including set meals, rice bowls, and noodles, and a range of set meals are available for breakfast in the morning. The restaurant doubles as a communal lounge area and features a big screen TV, massage chairs (ten minutes for JPY 200) and an Internet-ready computer (ten minutes for JPY 100).
If the massage chairs aren’t enough for you, right next to the restaurant is the hotel’s massage room. Prices start at JPY 980 for ten minutes for body massages, and foot massages are available from JPY 2,200 for 20 minutes. Both types of massage are available from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel places great importance on the safety of its guests. As you’ll notice, there are security cameras throughout the hotel. Furthermore, the staff has been trained and certified in life-saving techniques, and the hotel is equipped with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for use in medical emergencies.
As I mentioned above, this was my first time staying in a capsule hotel, and it has only stoked my interest in checking out more. Two of the things that made a real impression on me were the friendly service and how clean everything was. After speaking at length with the manager of the hotel, he made it clear that these were two of the driving concepts behind his vision for the hotel. Capsule hotels are, in general, cheap. They provide you with the essentials: someplace to sleep, someplace to bathe, and depending on the hotel, someplace to eat. Shinjuku Kuyakosho-mae Capsule Hotel makes it a point to go above and beyond this. Just because you’re paying a basement bargain price certainly doesn’t mean you have to be reminded of it during your stay, especially here at Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae. I had a great time chilling in the common room with some tasty fried rice, melted away my weariness in the jet bubble bath (highly recommended), and I got a comfortable night’s sleep. The staff was always bright and friendly, and the facilities were spick-and-span clean. I enjoyed staying here, and whether you’re looking for a uniquely Japanese lodging experience or a super reasonable place to stay (or both!), look no further. But don’t take my word for it; check out what our customers thought below.
Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel, while offering the highly affordable, functional accommodations typical of a capsule hotel, strives to provide an experience that guests may not be expecting from such an establishment. The service is impeccable, the facilities are kept very clean, and the efforts show: Shinjuku Kuyakosho-mae is currently ranked #2 on TripAdvisor.com out of all specialty lodgings in Shinjuku, and it has a resoundingly favorable guest rating of 3.8/5 here on JAPANiCAN.com. The reviews almost invariably make reference to the friendly service, cleanliness, incredible access and of course affordability.
(Note: Remember, this hotel is guys-only. Sorry ladies!)
A Taste of the Kabukicho Nightlife
So you’ve got your capsule all lined up, and you’re looking to find out what Kabukicho is all about. Just head down the street to find the nightlife paradise that is Kabukicho. But maybe you’re not quite ready to venture out right into the thick of things just yet. No problem. Remember those two other establishments located in the same building as the capsule hotel that I mentioned before? Both the Chinese restaurant, Kinensyuka, on the first floor and the show pub, Alcazar, on the second are owned by the same company as the hotel, and they cordially invite you to get a taste of the Kabukicho nightlife without having to go far at all.
Start off your meal with the special JPY 1,280 Manager’s Choice set! Includes a beer, three gyoza (pot stickers),
a super long spring roll, a small appetizer sampler, and shrimp chip.
Kinensyuka’s handmade noodles come highly recommended.
Please note that the show pub is for adults only. The show consists of a variety of dance performances by a cast of male, female, and transgender dancers. These types of show pubs are just one facet of Kabukicho nightlife, and they may not be for everyone. The performance may feature some sexual themes and minimal nudity.