Capsule Hotels: Osaka Eco-Cube VS Kyoto 9h ninehours
Many things makes the Japanese culture unique, and capsule hotels is a strange yet interesting concept that every visitor has to try during a visit to Japan. Capsules hotels originated in Japan and the first capsule hotel opened in 1979 in Osaka.
It was created as a cheap alternative to expensive hotels for travelling businessmen looking for somewhere cheap to stay for the night, but still providing the basic functionality of a hotel. It is still used for this purpose, but is now a novelty among visitors from abroad, although it might not suit everyone (especially if you’re tall) who checks-in.
Here we will provide a comparison between two capsule hotels in both Osaka and Kyoto to give you an idea of what to expect from our experience. Both hotels are uni-gender, catered to both male and female guests (separated by floors) which are not yet common in Japan.
OSAKA: B&S ECO-CUBE SHINSAIBASHI
A 5 minute walk from Shinsaibashi station (M19 red line, 5 stops from Shin-Osaka station), the cosy Eco-Cube is not too hard to find. The Eco-Cube has an old Japanese 1980’s feel with cream-coloured sleeping cubes and the use of dark brown as a consistent theme throughout the hotel. Check-in is at 5pm and if you arrive earlier staff will let you leave your bags at reception.
If you do arrive early, I would suggest dropping off your bags and visiting the nearby Namba area which is very close to Eco-Cube.
At check in, you get a key which will correspond to both a shoe-locker at the entrance, and to another locker for your belongings located on the level of your stay. The levels are divided into male and female only sections. Just behind the front reception, there is access to hot water and cold water, with roughly 20 seats which you can sit and eat.
One big plus is the hot and cold water provided for a coffee, tea or some instant ramen noodles (Note: no cups or utensils provided). Slippers are provided for a small fee from reception. Towels, change of clothes, toothbrush and other amenities are also provided upon check-in.
A security swipe card for access to your designated floor is required for safety. Females can feel assured as an individual can only enter the lift and floor with a personal access card given to guests by reception.
The front access to male floors has lockers to store small bags and clothes, but if you have a backpack or suitcase, there is a small shared section just behind to put your belongings, most guests just leave their luggages outside the front of the cubes. Five shared showers are available, and the cubes themselves are very small.
My height is 175cm and was able to fit in without too much hassle, but if you’re any taller you might start to feel crammed. Ventilation in the cube is adequate and did not feel too stuffy.
The cubes themselves are made out of plastic which makes it feel hollow like you’re in a container you might dent if you knock it a little too hard. As the cubes are constructed from plastic, this also means poor acoustics. Noise can be heard from other cubes including snoring, televisions, small movements… so bring ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper.
Each cube has a shutter which can be pulled down for privacy. A TV is available in each cube,but all the channels are all in Japanese. Wifi connectivity is fast and there are charging ports inside the cubes.
There is also a panel with an alarm clock.
STAYING LONGER THAN A NIGHT?
The capsule hotels were built intended for only an overnight stay for Japanese businessmen missing their late-trains home. Once check-out time for each day arrives, even if you have booked a stay of a few nights, you have to clear out your cube, pack up your belongings and leave it at reception while they clean the cubes.
In saying this, from 10am check-out to 5pm check-in, you will not be allowed to stay in the hotel area, having to check-in at 5pm again for the night.
OTHER SERVICES AND PRICES
Larger lockers can be rented from 100 yen to 200 yen. Vending machines are on the ground floor, but are slightly more expensive than the shops. There is a local ‘Lawsons’ within 5 minutes walking distance for cheaper purchases.
For booking the capsule hotel, the price we ended up paying was 1800 yen/night in a male capsule, and 2700 yen/night for a female. We booked about month in advance and got a discounted price as a result.
KYOTO: 9h ninehours CAPSULE HOTEL
The Kyoto 9h ninehours capsule hotel is located within a 5-8 minutes walk from both Kawamanchi station and Gion Shijo station. It looks very modern with a minimalist, clean, white theme, making it feel spacious (although it can feel sterile for some).
Check-in is at 12pm with a locker to leave your shoes on arrival. At the front reception, you can leave your luggage, or take it up to your capsule level.
The lounge room has a seating areas for around 15 people, with charging ports available. However, there is no hot or cold drinking water available. A separate key is then designated to your locker and capsule.
SHOWERS AND LOCKERS
The lockers for your belongings are located on the same level as the communal shower (with divided individual shower doors. The layout made us feel like we were in a set from Interstellar. Towels, toothbrush, toothpaste, pyjamas, slippers and other amenities are provided.
The locker itself isn’t very wide or tall, however it is big enough to fit basic clothing/towel.
There are two toilets on this level, and 5 communal showers. Body soap, shampoo and conditioner are located in each shower stall. Behind each shower, there is access to a sauna and or steam room.
Pyjamas provided in your locker, making you feel like you’re on the set of 1984.
Upon entering the floor, I found the area having a pleasant dimmed-yellow light glowing instead of bright white lights. Each capsule number is indicated on the floor with a dim light (similar to glow-in-the-dark ones at the cinemas).
The floor is clean and has a nice overall ambient feel. The capsule pod itself makes you feel like you are in the sleeping quarters of a sci-fi movie.
Every floor has one toilet on entry, (I believe in female floors there are a few more).
The capsule is more spacious than that of Osaka’s Eco-Cube Hotel, but the walls inside were just as thin. Snoring and other noises can be heard from nearby pods. Charging ports are also available in each pod. A clock is provided on a panel above you with some sort of technical circadian-rhythm alarm. The front of each pod has a white shutter which comes down for privacy.
If you book in advance on their website, you may find early-bird discounts for both male and female at 1800 yen. Booking last minute might leave you paying anywhere from 3500 yen to 6500 yen.
When making your booking, no payment is accepted online, only paying once you arrive. No cancellation fee is charged if you miss your arrival or plan to stay somewhere else for the night. You can cancel any bookings online by following the links in your confirmation email, or simply by calling.
We found the Eco-Cube Hotel cozy, but due to the high volume of people staying there (mostly tourists), and they only have a few floors available, it was a lot noiser than the Kyoto 9h ninehours hotel.
Osaka’s Eco-Cube had access to hot and cold water, giving you the options of making some tea or instant ramen noodles. On the other hand, Kyoto’s 9h ninehours hotel had no access to this.
Kyoto 9h ninehours’s atmosphere felt more futuristic whereas Eco-cube had a traditional 1980’s capsule style feel. Both had its appeal and were an experience itself. I personally preferred Osaka’s Eco-cube simply for the fact that it suited the old-style feel THAT IS OSAKA, but that’s just my preference.
For the experience of staying at a capsule hotel that is uniquely Japanese, it is definitely a must try even if it’s only for a night.
Have you had a similar experience with a capsule hotel? What do you think?
Disclaimer: This post is 100% based on our personal experience and is in no way sponsored by any of the companies mentioned above.