Hotel Zen Tokyo has a bit of a different approach to the usual (somewhat gimmicky) capsule Hotel norm. Nestled in the traditional district of Nihonbashi Ningyocho, just five minutes from the train station is a place that promises rest, relaxation and a cheaper place to sleep than a standard hotel. Capsule hotels were first properly used by salarymen in the 70s. Their main purpose was to put a roof over the heads of hard-working businessmen and office workers that had spent the night “unwinding” after a hard day’s work and missed the last train home. They provided a “room” long enough to lie down in and tall enough to sit up in, a wall socket, and if you were a bit of a diva you could pay a bit more for a pod with a TV.
Nowadays, capsule hotels can range from tiny portholes in the wall stacked three at a time to lavish nooks with projectors and electric beds like the Millennials. There are some that are themed like the international space station, book stores or even a Ninja’s dojo. There is even a floating capsule hotel rumored to be opened at the end of the year in Japan’s Huis Ten Bosch (a Dutch theme park in Sasebo), where you can literally drift off to sleep.
It uses the Japanese aesthetic Wabi-sabi, (the perfection of imperfection). Using Japanese tea houses as its inspiration and utilizing natural materials and minimal space, they have created a calming and relaxing atmosphere.
The building itself has 78 rooms in total with some floors being female only. There are five different types of rooms each varying in size but all come with their own unique painting created by local artists. Hotel Zen Tokyo also offers a work/ study lounge, shared rain showers, lockers, pay to use washing machines/dryers, and a breakfast/lounge/bar that serves free pastries and coffee in the morning, and authentic Japanese whiskey, sake, and wine at night.
The entrance looks a lot like an old Japanese restaurant front. No giant neon “HOTEL” signs, no extravagant pictures of what the hotel looks like on the inside, no pretentious slogans or tag lines written all over the walls. Just a sign with the hotel’s name, a wall of bamboo, and a Noren hanging over the front door that says “Zen Tokyo” because that is all you really need to know. Just by looking at the hotel’s front you know you are here not to be distracted or stressed or sold to, but to meditate, relax, and be at peace.
Upon entering you’ll find yourself right in front of the reception desk. The people working at the reception speak perfect English and check-in takes a matter of seconds. You will be given a Zen Pod number and an electronic key to allow you on to your floor. After traveling to the floor by elevator and entering the corridor of Zen Pods the first thing I noticed was the temperature of the room. It was perfect! Usually, capsule hotels and manga cafes supply the room with one temperature and I have always found this “one size fits all” temperature to be way too damn hot to sleep! The fans that are sometimes in the pods sound like mini vacuum cleaners and do as much cooling as a piece of paper with the word “FAN” written on it. I never understood why a room can’t be a little bit cold. You could always put some clothes on, or just get under the covers and wait for two minutes to warm up. You can’t get more naked when you’re too hot! This is not a problem in Hotel Zen Tokyo.
The second thing I noticed was how peaceful and clean the room was. The Zen Pods stand above thousands of polished black sea stones (Zen Pebbles) and the natural wood and lights underneath each Zen Pod made me feel calm and a bit closer to nature, a far cry from the usual “corpse draws” associated with capsule hotels. It was also quiet enough to hear a pin drop! I already knew I was going to get some well deserved R&R here.
My pod was called the Fuji – Superior Pod. It was a very spacious small double bed (SD-120cm) and being 6’2, standing on the bed, with my arm stretched up still could not touch the ceiling! It’s so much easier to live in a capsule hotel when you can actually stand up and move around without getting out of your pod to sort out clothes and luggage. I had ample plugs to charge my phone, battery packs, and laptop. A little shelf to put my stuff on, a safe to put things in when I went out to get some dinner and the bed was by far the most comfortable bed in any of the capsule hotels I have stayed in so far.
My travel companion MariannaVlogs got the Sakura – Superior Pod with tatami. Because she’s extra. It’s basically the same as mine but with a little extra tatami floor space.
I had an amazing night’s sleep! The combination of a comfortable bed, slightly colder than normal room temperature and complete silence was enough to knock me straight out. I got down to the breakfast hall at about 8am, stuffed myself with pastries and coffee, grabbed my complimentary wash kit containing a few towels and everything you would need to freshen up and headed to the showers.
Checkout was literally just a case of dropping your keys into the dropbox and that was it, all done! All in all, I would say that Hotel Zen Tokyo is by far a superior capsule hotel. Gone are the days where people primarily use capsule hotels because they need to, but more because they want to. This is because of places like Hotel Zen Tokyo that make sleeping in a capsule hotel a more relaxing and peaceful experience.
Or, you know, just get trashed and miss the last train.
If you would like to visit Hotel Zen Tokyo or anywhere for that matter be sure to click the link and get £15 off your next trip with Booking.com!
Check out the Hotel Zen Tokyo’s website for more info! www.Hotelzentokyo.com