They used to refer to them as (miserable) boxes. This is because the Japanese capsule hotels really looked like coffins. To use them, you’d have to slide into the narrow compartment, with the entrance covered by a short curtain. For many people, these tubes could be intensely claustrophobic but for the price, hey, why not?
But the capsule hotels are growing up. As more investors in the hospitality business take them more seriously, better versions of the budget facilities are springing up.
Now, it is not unusual to find luxurious capsules with 4.5-inch beds, 32-inch flat screen TVs, and storage cabinets. Business executives who travel to Japan routinely choose capsules for their stays. They reckon that for a price much lower than what a hotel demands, they can have a good night sleep, and sometimes, even make friends with other businessmen.
CNN correspondent, Johan Nylander, said the best mattress he ever slept on was in a Japanese capsule hotel. That hotel was the First Cabin Tsukiji,Tokyo. From its lobby, which holds an airport business class-style bar, to the roomy and quite cosy capsules, First Cabin recreates the first class cabin experience you’d find on a five-star airline.
Nylander also reported meeting a Marriott group hotel manager who was studying the growing popularity of these Japanese capsule hotels.
Beyond Japan, however, some real estate businesspeople have moved beyond just observing the trend. Take real estate entrepreneur Sandy Wong, for example. In his hometown of Hong Kong, he’s invested HK$700,000 and now makes a profit of HK$120,000 per month.
Wong’s “Space Pods” borrowed ideas from Japan’s capsule hotels to create an alternative to Hong Kong’s infamous”coffin” apartments, which have been the option available to poor residents of the crowded city.
The pods come with a key card, bedding, charging ports, three different types of lights, and a mini fire extinguisher. Wong makes his capsules in Guangzhou, China, with interior dimensions of about 25 sq. ft. This way, he’s able to fit 10 pods in a 700 sq. ft apartment.
Within three months, the optimistic innovator rented out 51 units in six apartments across the city to tenants who paid HK$2,800 and HK$4,500 per unit per month. His ambition is to rent out1,000 units within one year.
Since the Japanese capsule hotels, and pods like Wong’s, only offer shared bathrooms, toilets, and kitchens, many customers are worried about the lack of privacy. They also frequently complain about the thin walls in the compartments. But as the concept receives more attention, creators will have to design soundproof cabins and contained restrooms.
As Wong said, “[Sharing] is an issue that can’t be solved. But if you’re living in these comparatively nicer spaces, then you can accept sharing facilities.”
In the meantime, some owners are choosing to build single gender facilities. In Shinjuku, Tokyo, the Green Plaza Shinjuku is for men only while the Le Luck Spa caters to women only. Also, Centurion Cabin & Spa only serves women and Spa & Capsule Hotel Grandpark Inn Kitasenju is strictly for men.