Pod hotels in Japan are definitely a unique experience… But, before you try sleeping in one, you should know what they’re really like.
We usually use Airbnb, but since using Airbnb in Japan has become much more of a challenge lately, Joshua decided to try out some pod hotels in Tokyo. After a lot of research, he settled on three different places to get a feel for the options available.
Well, after trying a premium pod with a view, one without out one, and a basic, but futuristic pod we’ll give you a thorough introduction to what the experience is really like. So, if you’ve been debating whether or not to stay in a pod hotel (or are just curious about them) than this is the article for you.
What exactly is a pod hotel?
First, lets talk about a pod hotel is. While you probably understand the basic concept of sleeping in a small capsule, it can be hard to imagine what that’s really like before you try it. It’s also hard to imagine what the common spaces are like. Is it like a hostel? A hotel?
It’s more like a little bit of both.
You have more privacy than a bed in a hostel, but you still have to share many amenities that would be private in a hotel. Each hotel is different, but the commonality is that you’re sleeping in a pod. These capsule-shaped rooms are enclosed with three walls and an open entrance with a curtain or pull-down shade to make into a little room.
Inside your pod, you will have a small shelf or two, plus a plug to charge your devices.
Some pod hotels are men only or women only, but these seem to be less common. Most of what I found was for everyone, but men and women were on separate floors and had separate facilities.
Pod hotels in Japan: Showers and lockers
Since the capsules are so small, you’ll need to store most of your stuff in another area. There will usually be lockers and a luggage space with locks to secure your suitcase—kind of like how you lock a bike.
Showers and toilets will usually be near the lockers and it’s common to have a large public bath available. Most places with public baths have showers available, too… but, not always so be sure to check.
(For public bath tips in Japan be sure to check out previous article about Japanese Onsen)
Pod hotels in Japan: Amenities
Every hotel I stayed in had some type of system in place that made it pretty easy to sleep, shower, and go to the bathroom.
When you arrive you will get a small kit that has slippers, pajamas, a toothbrush kit, a face towel, and a body towel (sometimes more). Inside the bathroom area, there will be a section with toilets, a section with showers and a section with sinks. At the very least, there will be shampoo, conditioner, and body soap in the showers. Near the sink will hair driers and water cups.
Additionally, there’s a place for used towels and another one for used pajamas. So, after you shower you can put on pajamas, put your used towel in the bin, put away your stuff, and go to bed. When you leave in the morning, get ready, put your pajamas in the bin, get your stuff, and go.
Pod hotels in Japan: Common spaces
For the most part, pod hotels in Japan are designed for people to just sleep and shower. But, just like in hostels, there will be some kind of common space for eating or working. Don’t expect a kitchen, fridge, or similar amenities, but there’s usually a place to sit and eat food. You usually can’t eat in the pod area so be prepared to only eat in common area.
While pod hotels have common spaces, they usually don’t have the social atmosphere of a hostel. It’s more like a hotel where everyone is doing their own thing and people don’t really hang out there much, except for a quick bite to eat.
How different is one hotel from another?
When comparing pod hotels, the main difference will be how nice the pods are, the location, and the amenities. Some places will have 2-3 different levels of pod available, while others will all be the same.
Pods like the one pictured above are really modern and clean with a very minimal type of design. They are big enough for a reasonably tall person to sleep in an there’s no one directly above or below you. Others are much closer to a bunk bed with pods stacked on top of each other.
Beyond the standard pods, many hotels have a small number of premium pods available. These usually have more space and resemble a small hotel room, rather than a typical pod.
Rather than just a bed, there will be enough space to stand up, private storage space, and better amenities. Joshua stayed in one that had a window with a killer view of Tokyo. In another, there was storage space under the bed, along with a small table in the room.
Both were much better than standard pods and in fantastic locations in the center of Tokyo. If you want something better than a hostel, but less expensive than a hotel, premium pods are a great choice.
Bigger common spaces
While there’s usually some type of common space, the amount varies dramatically from one place to the next. Some may have almost no common space, while others have a fairly large amount of space. If you plan to eat in the hotel be sure to check this in advance.
Shower rooms also vary quite a bit. Some of the nicer pod hotels are set up almost like a spa. There will be lots of bathroom amenities and a large public bath. Others will just have the basics.
There may be coin operated washing machines and dryers, too. If you plan to do laundry you should pay attention to this because public laundromat’s aren’t very common in much of Japan.
While most hotels have quite a few amenities, there’s a big difference between basic and premium ones. At the premium pod above, they had a lot more on offer in the bathrooms. The showers and toilets were all large and new, plus there were leather bathroom slippers.
Beyond the basic soaps, they had face wash and after shave available at every sink. There were also razors, combs and toothbrushes available in each sink area.
What are the downsides?
Space and privacy
If you’re someone who’s used to sleeping in hostels, this probably won’t be an issue, but compared to a hotel it will be. A premium pod is much better, but it’s still not like a hotel room.
Pod hotels are best for short stays without a lot of stuff. There’s not much space to store anything and lockers usually won’t fit a large suitcase. So, if you’re not traveling light, you should organize your essentials really well because opening luggage will probably be a hassle.
While most hotels try to keep the rooms quite, there’s only so much you can do when you have lots of people staying in an open space with no doors. I never had any issues with noise, but light sleepers could have an issue.
Even if you are staying multiple days, many pod hotels require you to leave the pod between 10AM-4PM. Some require you to completely check-out each day.
Also, most usually don’t have any kind of food storage place and you can’t eat in your pod. So, if you don’t want to eat out for every meal, your options are pretty limited.
Who should stay in a pod hotel?
If you’re considering a pod hotel, hopefully this has given you a good idea what to expect. But, if you’re still on the fence, here are some final thoughts about who should stay in a pod… and who shouldn’t.
- Traveling alone or with friends?
- Do you mind sharing a bathroom with strangers?
- Will you eat out most of the time?
If you answered yes to all three of those questions than you should definitely try a pod hotel. You can stay in a great location for a lot less than a hotel and if it’s your first time in Japan it’s a really unique experience.