We’d heard about the fascinating tradition of a Tokyo capsule hotel for years on travel shows. These futuristic pod hotels come from a need for a convenient place to sleep after working late and missing the last train home. The Japanese salaryman’s lifestyle is hard working and hard playing, so it’s probable that “missing the train” was also a euphemism for being caught out late at an izakaya, a little local pub where you can snack on skewers called yakitori and drink tall bottles of beer and Sake.
Traditionally, Japan’s capsule hotels were segregated affairs either exclusively for the salaryman or with separate floors for men and women. In the past, they were like somewhere between a hyperbaric chamber and bunk beds, with self-contained spaces just big enough to fit a human in and a controller for lights and the mini television mounted from its roof. The Millennials is one of many Tokyo capsule hotels, but it takes that concept and brings it up to today’s expectations and standards. Boasting 120 smart pods across mixed, female-only, and an arty floor, this is a place that will win over the hearts of anyone who likes hotels with a quirk.
The Millennials pod hotel in Shibuya
When we sought out a pod hotel, we were pleasantly surprised to find a capsule hotel in Shibuya, a vibrant shopping and entertainment precinct.
The Millennials Shibuya is situated just two blocks from the famed Shibuya intersection, close to all the bars and nightlife, but offering a quiet haven where you can literally shut out the world for a pleasant sleep.
Checking in at a Tokyo Capsule Hotel
Your check-in is at the main counter in a small lobby with an adjoining lounge full of communal tables. This is where breakfast is served and where you can enjoy a beer with other travelers – as you have to be quiet and respectful on the other floors. We’re given a quick tutorial video on how it all works – your key is an iPod (one of the ones that look like an iPhone4), you are given a small bag with slippers, towel, face towel, and toothbrush. After signing a waiver that you won’t eat, drink or disturb others while in your pod, you head up to your assigned floor.
As a couple, we stay on a non-segregated floor, but can’t share a capsule room. It makes perfect sense when you see them in context. Unlike the ones that originated in the 1980s, these are no double-decker space-inspired rooms. Instead, they look more like a series of wood and cloth storage sheds, with a simple woven blind the door to your abode. Pulling it gently down to get it to spring up, you’re greeted with the space equivalent to a double bed. There’s no standing room inside to change or move around, so any dressing is done in the bathroom. On the capsule level, there are three showers, three toilets, and four washer-dryers.
Life on the inside
Crawling inside the capsule room feels like a pillow fort or a glamping tent. There’s not a lot of room in a Tokyo capsule hotel, but it’s all very comfortable and way more spacious than the traditional pods of the 80s and 90s when these unique accommodations came into style. Inside is a 120cm-wide Serta mattress bed that can be adjusted – think one of those sleep number beds – set as a sofa at first, but it adjusts to a plush mattress.
You control the comfort level
The iPod controls the lights and bed and there is storage space under the bed. There is also a projector that turns the pulled-down blind into a large screen TV. One particularly amusing curio is that instead of setting an audible alarm that has the chance of waking others in neighboring pods, the alarm will tilt you upright and turn the light on (it has a snooze option which is funny in its own right).
After waking up deathly cold and realizing there are actual blankets (got a little excited playing with the app and fell to sleep without covering up) it’s much more comfortable under the blankets but the lack of climate control ensures a raspy morning throat.
Wake up to a tasty breakfast
A rejuvenating rainwater shower head cures any ills and the price includes a free basic breakfast consisting of danishes, a curry roll, and a Hakone milk pastry which is sweet but very smooth. The dining area is well designed but the honor system of washing up your own dishes makes it feel like a nice backpacker’s – which is a fair assessment. It’s a refreshing change really and not for everyone, but its prime location, budget price and the sheer novelty value of staying in a Tokyo capsule hotel make it a worthy choice at least for one night in the Japanese capital.
The Millennials Shibuya is a modern take on Tokyo capsule hotel with its roomy sleeping pods controlled by an Apple iPod. Additional selling points include a happy hour with free beer between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm daily, free breakfast, and an art floor with smart pods designed by artists including Yusuke Hanai, Shinpei Onishi, Niky Rohreke, Mariya Suzuki, and Cookieboy.
This unique Japanese pod hotel is situated in one of the most desirable areas to stay if you want to check out Tokyo nightlife. It is only a couple of minutes from the famous Shibuya crossing and close to the Meiji Jingu Shrine by train.
1-20-13 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku
A night at The Millennials Capsule Hotel will set you back around $80US a night per smart pod. There are female only options, artier pods on the Art Floor, and ones with full projectors that turn the pod door into a screen.Follow & Connect with us