Capsule hotels, the uniquely Japanese accommodation solution no doubt on every Japanophile’s to-do list, have never really caught on outside of their homeland. Whether it’s down to individuals’ ideas of what constitutes comfort and privacy, or simply the fact that so many Westerners freak out at the very thought of climbing into a space resembling something between a spaceship escape pod and a coffin, most capsule startups outside of Japan have failed. While these unique hotels continue to serve those who are on a budget or simply too intoxicated to make it home safely, and show no signs of disappearing from Japan’s cityscapes any time soon, it is with deep regret that we bring you news today that Kyoto’s Nine Hours, arguably the coolest and most modern capsule hotel in the country, is to close.
Tourists, late-night drinkers and those who have always fantasised about waking up in an Aperture Science test chamber have only until October 31 to check out the hotel and experience space-age comfort, so we’re here to show you exactly why you should head over to Nine Hours’ website right now and make a reservation.
Named after the concept that a restful hotel visit should last approximately nine hours – one hour spent bathing, seven resting, and a final hour freshening up and grooming the next morning – the clean-lined capsule hotel aims to make guests’ stays as smooth and stress-free as possible by cutting out all the visible clutter and guiding them through the building with the use of simple line drawings that even the tipsiest businessman could comprehend.
The concept having existed since 1979, many capsule hotels built in cities such as Tokyo and Osaka in the 1980s are now decidedly grubby and in dire need of a facelift. Frequented mainly by middle-aged men, even the handful of capsule hotels that offer unisex accommodation are rarely visited by women, and are seen as something as a last resort rest-house by most Japanese. Kyoto’s Nine Hours, on the other hand, is a positive haven for tired tourists and upstanding businesspeople alike, and far from a place that anyone, male or female, should hesitate to enter.
Stepping inside the hotel, guests are directed by a series of simple icons painted on the floor to remove their shoes and store them in a locker before checking in. The desk itself is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and guests are welcome at any time, with rates varying depending on the length of stay, which notably can be more than the nine hours the hotel recommends should the guest so desire.
Once checked in, you’ll receive a key to both your locker and capsule, and can either take advantage of the appropriately minimalist lounge with its wi-fi access or begin following the arrows through the sexy monochrome interior, with men and women separating at the elevators, which serve different floors and provide an additional element of security for female visitors.
From there, the first stop, naturally, is the locker room. You’ll have enough space to hang your clothes and store a small bag and any valuables. You can then either head directly to your capsule or pick up some soft, fluffy towels (also white, of course) and head off to the bathing area to get soapy.
Bathing facilities are as spotless as you’d expect, with rows of pristine sinks and both individual shower cubicles and enormous spa-style baths to soak in. There is also a full complement of toiletries, from toothbrushes and toothpaste to shampoo and cotton swabs, which is included in the price of your stay.
Just like in other capsule hotels, guests are provided with sleepwear. At Nine Hours, however, rather than a traditional yukata light cotton kimono, you receive these rather trendy, breathable garments, which thankfully aren’t white like most of the interior decor so far or we’d genuinely start to wonder if we had accidentally signed up for a mission to Mars.
When you’re all washed, relaxed and PJ-ed up, it’s time to head to the sleeping area. The sleeping pods themselves are stacked two high, and are located in a room whose walls and floor are painted black. Lighting guiding each guest to their capsule is soft and warm so that those who have already turned in for the night are able to sleep. The pods’ interiors are clean, smooth and surprisingly roomy, with tiny little nooks for personal possessions such as a watch or mobile phone. These things are far from the stinky old capsules that entire generations of drunk businessmen have slept in since the capsule hotel’s original conception!
Even Nine Hours’ pillows have a space-age vibe to them, utilising a number of materials to help guests get a better, more relaxing night’s sleep.
Each pod’s alarm clock, meanwhile, is designed to wake each guest up without disturbing others. When it’s time to get up, the Panasonic-designed device slowly turns the pod lights on, meaning that you can get up at whatever hour you like without having to scramble to your alarm clock before people start yelling at you. As someone who has stayed in capsule hotels on multiple occasions and been woken at 4, 5 and 6 a.m. by other guests’ personal alarms, these things are an absolute god-send.
Seven hours of sleep later and it’s time to get up, wash and grab your gear from your locker before either heading back out into Kyoto to continue on your sightseeing adventure, or, if you’re that guy who missed the last train, to head home and apologise profusely to your wife, possibly picking up some flowers on the way.
Nine Hours is currently still taking reservations, and it’s possible to walk in off the street and grab a pod so long as there’s one available, but you’ll have to be quick. The precise reasons for the hotel’s closure were not given when the sad news broke, but it’s a great shame to see one of, if not the best capsule hotel in Japan close its doors just three years after opening. Hopefully the hotel will be snapped up by a new owner soon so that more of us can enjoy its simple, unique facilities while touring beautiful Kyoto, but just in case it might be worth heading over to Nine Hours’ bilingual website now to make a reservation before it’s too late.