I didn’t book any hotels in Tokyo before I left Manila. It was only when I was in the Keisei Skyliner, a high speed train from Narita International Airport did I bother to check for accommodations because I actually had no plans on what to do in this Japanese capital other than to visit a grand architecture, the St. Mary’s Cathedral by Pritzker Prize winner, Architect Kenzo Tange. I didn’t know what area of Tokyo I will be staying but just decided to find an accommodation near the end station at Ueno.
I have been intrigued with capsule hotels of which Japan is quite famous for. These are coffin like pods good for one person, several to a wall and usually two per column. In Japan, these are often used by locals who spend the night after an evening of after work drinking in the many izakayas. And it is around these kind of places that you can find capsule hotels with saunas along a street where these Japanese gastropubs are also located. For foreign and budget travelers, capsule hotels provide a taste of the Japanese novelty as well as one of the best way to save on accommodation as hotels here are known for being very expensive.
I fired up my Agoda app and found one that was cheaper at that time: Capsule and Sauna Oriental – Men Only. For two nights, it just cost me P2,614.99 and readily booked this one. It was not difficult to find as as well as it was just within 100 meters from Ueno Station. But the place is noisy with lots of pachinko parlors, izakayas, massage places, capsule hotels, hole in the wall diners as well as small shops selling everything from clothes to trinkets. But it was a sensory experience: bright neon lights, sounds of vendors calling out for buyers, loud laughter and spoken Nippongo abuzz all over the place.
There was a bit of a language barrier when the man from the counter said something to me when I stepped inside from the elevator. They are a bit strict and one has to remove one’s shoes before stepping on the carpet. I was given a sheet of paper where the dos and don’ts were written in English. I think this capsule hotel is quite popular with foreigners as there were lots of non-Japanese when I arrived. After showing my Agoda booking, I was given a key which serves also as my shoe locker and another one for my belongings. As it was already night time when I arrived and a bit tired, I placed my things at the small locker, changed to the robes and headed to check my capsule.
I got the premier capsule which offers a slighty wider space. I was enthralled at finally seeing one. Small but manageable. Ventilation was also good while the entrance cover is only a retractable plastic sheet with a hook at the end. As I was hungry, I checked out the vendo machines and was amazed at the sheer variety of what’s available. I got a pack of yakisoba. But as I was still amazed, tried another one, this time, a pack of takoyaki, and from the inside, my order tumbled into the bottom. Interesting. Quite interesting! I remarked to myself with a smile.
The toilets are separate from the showers and by shower I mean its Japanese style inside the sauna. You have to go au naturel except for a small towel that you wipe your body with or place on top of your head while at the suana. You sit on a small stool side by side with other bathers and do you own thing. There’s a high pressure hose, liquid soap and shampoo. If you can take it, there’s a 40 degree celsius heated pool beside a super cold pool. And you just don’t mind other people.
How was my experience at this capsule hotel? Quite comfortable, really. I love also the simplicity and that it is cheaper. But downside, from 12 noon to around 3PM, you can’t stay at your capsule as its cleaning time when they change all sheets. The lockers are also a bit small considering that I have my backpack, my tripod and camera bag. I had to charge all my gear at the capsule and sleep with my gear too overhead. But it was definitely a great experience and fun.
This trip was made possible by Philippine Airlines who provided the Manila-Tokyo/Osaka-Manila plane tickets. Check their website Philippine Airlines for tickets and promos. Like their Facebook page and follow them in Twitter.
Capsule and Sauna Oriental – Men Only
6-9-9 Ueno, Tokyo