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  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

Japan - Day 1 - staying in a capsule hotel!

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

Japan Day 1 - staying in a capsule hotel!

Capsules in Nine Hours Ningyochō
Nine Hours Ningyochō

Picking up from the last blog, we're currently at Haneda Airport, and the guys at the station, which is practically in the airport, gave us the train line and route we needed to get to our hotel with no changes. Even though they'd circled stuff for us to follow, doubt still creeps in, and you get on the platform and then look signs and are kinda like.. "what the fuck". Slightly amused by the funky jingle later (major train stations all have their own jingle at least), we do get on what we believe to be the right train.

After 20 mins or so riding the rails, the doubt creeps in, and I have to reassure our party that we're on the right train by asking a local. Luckily, I know enough Japanese to brave this...ish. The station name tripped me up as new vocabulary, but otherwise I can get enough out to ask and for this to be my first Japanese interaction out in the wild. As a nearly 6 foot white man covered in tattoos, I pick an older lady (compared to me) sitting down next to where we're standing with our bulky luggage. I choose to come down to her level while not being entirely sure of her reaction, after all, yet another rumour (common knowledge), is that train journeys are typically not very social and chatty affairs in Japan either, to the point that that can be seen as being rude. Luckily, as it is also rumoured of many Japanese (in a sea of contradiction and western fearmongering), the lady was super helpful and stood up to have a look at the map above the door. There's one above every train door, which is probably quite straight forward when you're used to their system, but as foreigners, it was enough to confuse us fresh off the plane and it was a complicated line with many stops and forks. Anyway, she confirms it's OK along with an OK hand gesture, which is something I wasn't expecting to be so common place in Japan, and then before departing when she gets off before us, turns to me with a massive smile and waves goodbye.. so maybe big white men with tattoos aren't all that scary in Japan after all!

Our capsule hotel was in a quieter part of Tokyo with not too much touristy or scenic stuff around, but that was cool as we were only staying for a night. We really wanted to experience a capsule hotel, and we figured we'd do it before we had more luggage and while we were still 'fresh'. There are loads of different types, some are interlaced in to bookshelves in library style feeling places, but we stayed in quite a modern one. On the way, our first real taste of Japanese Instagrammable quirkiness was in the form of the above noodle advertisement outside a Ramen and Rice joint right around the corner from where we were staying, and speaking of which..

Nine Hours Ningyochō Capsule Hotel Entering a pretty small reception meets common area space, we're greeted with an unmanned computer and yet more confusion, but with a little help from a half arsed attendee (again, surprising based on rumours of Japanese hospitality), we just about get through it. There are floors for women and floors for men, and two different elevators serve each. Your key card will only call the elevator of the floor you're staying on. We head up to the numbered lockers where your key card is also individual to your locker lock. There are signs stating to not unpack; they're called 9 hours for a reason, you're supposed to sleep and go! We, however, also have toiletries and fresh clothes in suitcases, so it's pretty inconvenient, but of course you ignore the signs and get what you need either way. It's super tight on space as a result, so it's pretty annoying to get what you need while blocking the hall. You are however provided with a toothbrush, towels and even nightwear, a common theme in Japan, but it's so hot, that fresh clothes are a must for our journey tomorrow of course. On our floor there are toilets, but you need to go downstairs to a male only shower room. You also need your key card to enter the bedroom from the locker hall, which houses about 28 capsules, and again of course for the downstairs showers too.

Capsule bed in Nine Hours Ningyochō
Nine Hours Ningyochō

If you fart or snore, people will hear you, but in general I quite like small spaces and find them cosy, and of course you can pull down the shutter on the front, so after only a little sleep on the plane, you'll probably get through the night if you aren't claustrophobic. Despite being a 9 hours, we were allowed to chill in our capsules from check in, which again surprised me based on what I'd heard. We did venture out early on though to find a 7-Eleven for food and refreshments. It's weird to think an American convenience store is the go to for Japan, but they're literally on every block and are a staple of every day life alongside either Family Mart or Lawsons. When not eating out, we pretty much lived off them, and they're super reasonably priced with how the Yen is at the moment, and also compared to UK food prices which are taking the piss. Back to the capsule, and some of us fall asleep, others get a feel for the experience and to mentally process everything while playing social media - I've gotta post those noodles!

After dark, which is about 7pm in Japan (it's rarely much later than 7.30 unlike the UK which can be 10.30pm), me and the nephews go for a wonder to see if we can find something, anything, and we head towards a tower which we're pretty sure later in the holiday is the Sky Tree. It never seemed to get closer despite Google giving us a doable time, and a tired nephew later, we decided not to venture all the way and stopped at a river so Dex could give his new Google Pixel camera a proper nighttime road test.

Sumida River, Tokyo, Japan
Sumida River, Tokyo, Japan

Prior, Linc decides to play it safe with a KFC, which if you don't know, weirdly, KFC is traditionally eaten at Christmas by the Japanese.. I guess it kinda makes sense, given we also randomly traditionally go for a Chinese every Christmas Eve. Alongside the convenience stores though, are vending machines. They're everywhere! Practically on every street, two or three times over, and they will be your new best friend too. The Japanese summer was consistently about 34 degrees, with a humidity making it feel like 40+. It was killer, even at 8pm at night! You'll drink a lot! One drink that I got was a crazy fruit drink that was 90% jelly, but we also discovered a funky neon Dr Pepper can too. Eventually you'll tie down your favourites and go to's, creatures of habit that we are.

Tomorrow we head to Mount Haruna and stay in a traditional style Onsen hotel.. Onsens are of course famous for refusing entry to people with tattoos, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy a few snapshots of the first night..


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