This was the Future, Vol.40

typed for your pleasure on 17 September 2009, at 3.07 am

Sdtrk: ‘Fire, damp & air’ by the Advisory Circle

You can call me a madman, or you can accuse me of stretching my love of Space-age Modular Living to its extremes, or even both, but I’d really love to stay a couple of nights in one of Japan’s legendary capsule hotels. That’s right.

The capsule hotel, if you’re not familiar with it, is a uniquely Japanese phenomenon. Definitely not for the claustrophobic, they’re hotel rooms condensed to their essential components: a three by three by six-and-a-half foot chamber that contains a television, alarm clock, radio, vents for air conditioning, a couple of small directional lights, and a tiny shelf. The ‘rooms’ themselves are stacked in rows of two, with pull-down privacy screens at the entrance of each. When you make your stay, you deposit your luggage at the check-in area, and the clerk gives you a locker key and a capsule number. As the primary function of the capsule hotel is for salarymen who are too fantastically drunk to make it home, at the communal shower/lavatory located on each floor, you can find disposable razors, shaving cream, toothpaste, and toiletries of that nature. As it’s Japan, you can also get various drinks and snacks from the numerous vending machines each building has, and as you’d suspect, most of the capsule hotels have wifi as well.

Television in the upper left corner; photo taken from here

Some capsule hotels feature up to 600 units — goshou & Liann were going to stay at one when they hit Japan a couple of years ago, and learned that they have separate floors for men and women — and they’re usually open 24 hours. Per night, the average price of a room runs about ¥2000 – 4000, or $21 – 42 USD. Convenient and affordable? I’ll say!

Interestingly enough, the first capsule hotel was designed in 1979 by Kisho Kurosawa, who also designed the Nakagin Capsule Tower, a building which just happens to be the subject of the very first instalment of ‘This was the Future’, back when it wasn’t even called ‘This was the Future’. See how that wraps around?

Random similar posts, for more timewasting:

This was the Future, Vol.31 on October 13th, 2006

Behind the scenes of 'This was the Future' on May 11th, 2005

7 have spoken to “This was the Future, Vol.40”

  1. Euchre writes:

    good lord… a mausoleum for the living…

    ummm… yeah, count me out.

  2. Mahtek writes:

    Kind of reminds me of an old joke.

    “What would Elvis be doing if he were alive?”
    “Clawing the lid of his coffin.”

  3. Pat! writes:

    A friend of mine just got back from a vacation in Japan and made it a point to spend a night in a capsule hotel.

    He had a lot to say about his vacation, but he summed up his capsule hotel experience with one word: Sketchy.

    Apparently a teeming hive of drunkards just isn’t all that cozy.

  4. Davecat writes:

    Just think of them as escape pods! ESCAPE! From high hotel prices! ESCAPE! From the, ah, spaceship that’s currently on fire! ESCAPE! From non-wipable surfaces?

    Remind me to never take you to Japan. 😛

    Mahtek —
    Valid point. 🙂
    I’d heard that joke somewhere before as well… some film or something? Starring some people? Damn this short-term memory loss! Who are you and how did you get in here, anyway??

    Pat! —
    That’s, ah… that’s also a valid point. 😐 There’s gotta be some days where it’s not Drunk Salaryman Central, though! Undoubtedly that would be during daylight hours.

  5. Wolfgang writes:

    I would agree with the “teeming hive of drunkards” description. I’ve not stayed in one, but I’ve seen them close-up in Nagoya. The Nagoya one is men-only, and features a “massage service” for “soothing tired nerves”…
    Why is it drunken salaryman heaven? Because any salaryman worth anything to any reputable company is going to be put up in, at the very least, a business hotel, which, while featuring things like the submarine shower-toilet and floor space barely bigger than the double bed it contains, is still a proper room. Even love hotels offer a barely more expensive alternative if you just need a place to crash. Thus, the capsules are the refuge of the nearly-skint, those who need a place to crash because they were out drinking and missed the last train (and can’t afford a taxi), those who wish to take advantage of the “massage services” out of view of nosy wives, folks who want to disappear (think Case in Neuromancer… which is also why most capsule hotels are absolutely lousy with security cameras, to catch all the criminals who might try to use them) and, of course, traveling gaijin who are tickled pink by the whole concept until they actually try to stay in one and find it rather like sleeping on a bench in an urban park during free Mad Dog 20-20 Giveaway Days, only not as comfortable.
    Was that just the longest run-on sentence ever? 😉

  6. Cathy N' Angel writes:

    Hi Davecat,

    How are you feeling? better I hope.

    I can’t figure out how to register to Shouting to hear the echoes, I would like to add our picture (Angel and I) to the profile ?? Thanks !! Cathy

  7. Davecat writes:

    WG —
    At first that ‘massage service’ sounds like a pleasant and highly-morally-upstanding idea, but… I’d hope that it took place in a space that’s larger than one of those capsules. Otherwise, I mean, that’d be the very definition of ‘awkward’ — all that bumping and thumping against the plastic walls and ceiling and whatnot. Plus all those cameras. Not an option, that.

    Unfortunately, from your description and that of Pat!’s friend, I think I’d probably fall into the ‘traveling gaijin who are tickled pink by the whole concept until they actually try to stay in one’ category. Damnit, Japan.
    But hey, don’t knock those Mad Dog 20/20 Giveaway Days! That MD 20/20 will put hair on your chest! And on your throat!

    Cathy n’ Angel —
    Hey there! To change your picture, known as a Gravatar, you’ll want to register over at Gravatar, appropriately enough. It takes but a few seconds, and the process is entirely non-invasive. At least, it was when I got one; that may have changed. 😉

    And I’m getting betterish! I think I’ve knocked my pleurisy on the head finally; however, now I’m staving off a cold. It’s either a cold, or a highly inadequate flu, one or the other. All told, I should be in tip-top shape by about 2012!

    Tell Angel we said Hi!

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