Video: Kyoto’s 9h, a capsule hotel

9h capsule hotel kyotoKyoto’s nine-hour hotel isn’t a new concept, but rather, a new take on a popular Japanese business. The 9h hotel is, at its heart, exactly what its name sounds like. The planned stay includes one hour to shower, seven hours to sleep and one hour to rest. The minimum stay is four hours, and the maximum is 17 at a rate of 300 to 400 yen per hour. Check-in is available at any hour of the day, 365 days per year.

Designed in an an impeccably clean, minimalist layout (the entire hotel has only four colors) the 9h has separate floors for sleeping, showering and changing, each designated by gender. Men and women even ride separate elevators. All amenities are provided, right down to alarm clocks.

Sleeping takes place in a small pod, stacked two high, which includes a light-based alarm clock system engineered by Panasonic that wakes the traveler at their pre-set time by raising the level of light within the pod. From the outside, the most someone can see is a faint orange glow.

The hotel has not yet made inroads into other cities – the brand’s owner says he first wants to perfect the model in Japan. What do you think? Would you visit a capsule hotel?

Capsule hotels come to China

capsule hotelFollowing in the footsteps of Japan, China has introduced “capsule hotels” – a cheap, convenient and possibly claustrophobic option for travelers on a budget.

If your travel plans take you to Shanghai, you could enjoy a night at a capsule hotel for as little as $10 (68 Yuan). The 68 “room” hotel opened next to the Shanghai Railway Station, making it easy accessible for travelers on-the-go. The concept of capsule hotels — small pod-like spaces complete with a narrow bed, tiny TV, reading light and “shade” that you pull down for privacy — originated in Japan and book up with business and budget travelers needing a quick nap and cheap hotel option before their next stop.

The Shanghai capsule hotel imported the miniature hotel rooms from Japan, and each room is complete with a power point, clock, light, television and wireless internet. Each of the capsules is 1.1-meters (3 feet) high, 1.1-meters (3 feet) wide and 2.2-meters (7 feet) long. The hotel also has a public lavatory, shower room, smoking room and shared guest room.

As of right now, the hotel is for men only. Prices start at 68 yuan ($10) for 10 hours or 88 yuan ($14) for 24 hours.

Our friends at AOL Travel have more information.

Big in Japan: A Look Inside Capsule Hotels

Ever wonder what it’s like to sleep in a coffin? Perhaps you should consider spending a night in one of Japan’s wholly unique (and utterly bizarre) capsule hotels (capseru hoteru, ?????????????????????).

To Western eyes, Japan can at times be a strange place, though perhaps nothing is weirder to us than the idea of sleeping in what appears to be an enormous morgue. For those of you who have never heard about capsule hotels, the idea is simple.

Rather than spending your hard-earned cash on a pricey hotel room, you can save some yen by simply renting a capsule for a night. If all you need is a few hours shut-eye, you don’t mind sharing a hotel with a few thousand strangers and (most importantly) you’re not claustrophobic, then a capsule hotel is all you need.

Although Japanese travelers view capsule hotels as the last viable option (some even prefer sleeping in internet cafés), foreign travelers (myself included) can’t seem to get enough of them. They’re cheap (between US$20 and US$45 per night), surprisingly comfortable and about as authentically Japanese as you can get.

Plus, how many times in your life can you bed down in what is essentially a glorified coffin?

Capsule hotels are typically located in large cities near a train station, and cater primarily to Japanese salarymen who miss the last train home. In terms of style and cleanliness, they run the gamut from 1960s-inspired concrete and exposed beam monstrosities to ultra-modern steel and glass masterpieces of design. As with everything else in life, it pays to shop around and compare, and capsule hotels are no exception.

Ultimately, your experience really depends on the particular hotel. For instance, the first capsule hotel I ever stayed in was located in a somewhat dodgy part of Tokyo on the outskirts of the Red Light district. My fellow capsule mates were mostly loners, drifters, vagrants and the few odd foreigners like myself, who clearly had no idea where we are or what we doing. That night, I thrashed my legs against the sides of the capsule trying to find a comfortable position, hit my head on the ceiling more times than I can remember, and am pretty sure that I slept on bedding that hadn’t been changed in months.

Of course, if you’re ever in the city of Kobe, don’t miss their brand-spanking new capsule hotel. Upon entering, you will be handed a freshly pressed yukata (cotton robe, ゆかた), and escorted up to what can only be described as a ‘man spa.’ After an hour or two of soaking your travel-worn bones in a variety of hot and cold baths, you can retire to the dining room where you can choose from fresh sashimi, bowls of ramen or filets of Kobe beef, all of which can be washed down with ample pints of Kirin lager. When you’ve had your fill, you can rest soundly in the deluxe capsules, which come complete with personal television sets, mood lighting and a full library of Western and Japanese music.

Don’t believe me – those are my stinky feet in the picture!

Related: New capsule hotel in Gatwick gets mixed reviews, Japan’s Capsule Hotels

Japan’s Capsule Hotels

Asakusa HotelJapan is filled with busy businessmen who may not have time to return home after a long day. Japan is also filled with precious little space (well…you know what I mean), so many hotels do not have large footprints. Enter Japan’s capsule hotels. Each “room” in the hotel is filled with several sleeping compartments, which are, frankly, just large enough for a person to slide into.

Sort of like a morgue with a fresh coat of paint, capsule hotels are a great way to offer ample accommodation in tight spaces. Purchase your room through a vending machine, hand your bag to the attendant, and head up to the capsule. Obviously, this isn’t the hotel to hit if you have (a) a large family; (b) a pet; or (c) claustrophobia.

Want to learn more? Here are some other bite-sized resources about Japan’s tiny capsule hotels:

I’d like to visit a capsule hotel, just for the experience. Then again, I’d like to visit Japan, just for the experience.