While traveling solo in Japan, I complained to a friend how expensive accommodation can get in Tokyo. She looked at me, and then asked, “You want to save money? And try something really unusual? Only found in Japan?”
“Only in Japan? Sure!” I went. Anything to save, so I thought. And it would make a great story too.
She looks at me intensely for a while before asking, “Are you claustrophobic?”
I felt the hairs at the back of my head tingling. “Wait – what exactly do I have to do to save money?”
“Nothing life-threatening. Nothing humiliating too. But some find it – how shall I say this – uncomfortable.”
“Well, I was stuck in a fallen cabinet many years ago… and once in a lift. I was in cold sweat on both occasions…”
“Okay… are you willing to face that experience again?
That was how it all began. A night in a capsule hotel in Tokyo…
Capsule Hotel Asakusa
What my friend did not tell me that not many women stay in Capsule Hotels in Tokyo. In fact, not many capsule hotels take in female guests. Which made the experience more unique and unusual for me.
The first thing that struck me was how deafeningly quiet it was. This was an all-female floor, and there weren’t many women that night. The quietness and the lack of other living people made the place feel morbid – as I stared down the two rows of capsules, they reminded me of sanitized coffins stacked one over the other.
It took me a while to open the little door, and more courage to crawl into that little hole. Before I shut the ‘door’, all my memories of being stuck and feeling totally alone came rushing in as well, to share what little space I had in that capsule.
Now, I’m not a very large person, just above 1.6m, weighing around 50kg. Boy, it was small. And I felt closed in. Here I was, alone, me, myself and I, in a small space. When I was able to get over my memories, I could appreciate the efficiency and neatness that came with the compactness of the capsule.
It had all I needed to help me get through the night – my curious fingers played for a bit with the alarm clock, a radio/TV and the light switch. I literally laughed when I saw the panic button. Ah – they really do think about everything, don’t they? There was also a small screen to draw down for privacy.
So my friend asked the next day. Did I like the experience?
My answer to her was, it was, and remains, till today, my ultimate modern Japanese experience.
I loved it.
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