Monthly Archive August 2016

ByJade Brischke
Aug 25, 2016

The ‘purrfect’ place for coffee in Hiroshima

CatcafeAs with every city (or even town) in Japan, the fascination with both coffee and animals has resulted in the explosion of cafes dedicated to a particular animal, be it dog, rabbit, bird and of course, the ever popular, cat. Hiroshima is no exception.

Although there are now a few cat cafes in Hiroshima, I thought I’d focus on two that are located a walk (or easy streetcar or train ride) away from the main downtown area of Hondori. Sure the ones in the city centre are easy accessible and clearly visible, but I find the ones that are a little further away from where most people usually venture are more authentic and dare I say, less ‘touristy.’

The very first cat café I discovered was in my neighbourhood of Yokogawa. Café-Manekineko is one of the longest running cat cafes in Hiroshima and has an extensive website (shown as a link below), which clearly sets out the ‘cast,’ of cats, prices, goods to buy, as well as a blog that is updated regularly. Unfortunately the website is only in Japanese, but don’t let that stop you from visiting, as a Google search will show more than a few reviews from foreigners who have visited with no problems whatsoever. There’s also a map and the address in Japanese if you need to ask someone.

Café Manekineko has the greatest number of cats of any of the cafes and for 1200 yen for adults and 600 yen for children (one free drink) you are able to spend one hour playing with them. Although some people might think it’s a tad pricey, just remember that in some coffee shops you’ll be paying at least 400-500 yen for a coffee and there are no cats to entertain you. I believe it’s totally worth it, especially if you live in an apartment where pets aren’t allowed and you’re desperately missing your own furballs back in your native country.

The second of the cafes, ねこごこち (Neko gokochi) is located just a short walk from the Peace Park. It’s located on the left hand side of the road on the second floor just before Honkawacho streetcar stop. Here you will find six ‘staff,’ who are more than willing to look cute and let you pat them and take photos with them.

This café is much smaller than the one in Yokogawa, but it is also cheaper and has the option of parking deals if you need it.

As studies have shown, spending time in the company of animals, particularly cats, is a great way to de-stress and if you live in Hiroshima you should definitely take some time out and pay a visit to these two cat cafes. It’s a relaxing way to spend a morning or afternoon and the ‘purrfect,’ place to take your family and friends when they visit you.7

Café Manekineko

〒733-0003, 丸山ビル1F, 1 Chome-7-11 Misasamachi, Nishi Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture (google map)
082-962-3017
cafe-manekineko.com

Neko Gokochi

LAPIS本川 〒730-0802 Hiroshima-ken, Hiroshima-shi, Naka-ku, Honkawachō, 1 Chome−1−27 (google map)
090-2805-2993
nekogokochi.jugem.jp

ByJade Brischke
Aug 25, 2016

PASPY vs ICOCA: IC Cards in Hiroshima

800px-HiroshimabcpaspyWhen people mention Japan, one of the first things they think of is the fast and efficient means of transportation that are available for both locals and visitors alike. Trains, subways, buses and in Hiroshima, the streetcars, are clean, safe, always on time and perhaps best of all, relatively cheap compared to many other Western countries.

Arriving as a tourist in Hiroshima, most people take advantage of the Japan Rail (JR) Pass, but for us residents, this isn’t an option. Instead, we need to jump right in and become a ‘local,’ by purchasing one of either the PASPY or the ICOCA rechargeable cards. Now, this is often more than a little confusing for the newly arrived, so I’ve put together this guide using my own experiences and those of other local and expat friends. I assure you, after reading this you will be more than suitably equipped to know which card is the best for your situation.

Firstly, the local Hiroshima, PASPY, is very popular due to a number of discounts that are available. One example of this is on the streetcar, which normally costs 160 yen for adults, but is only 150 yen for PASPY holders. It might not be a lot, but I guess it does add up over time. If you’re looking to save some extra change, it’s a good option. PASPY can not only be used on the streetcar, but also the Astram line, the bus companies operating within Hiroshima and in cities like Kure, the Miyajima Ropeway and of course, the trains. One major drawback is that you won’t be able to use it outside of Hiroshima. Yep folks, that means that you’ll need to buy another card such as ICOCA if you go travelling within Japan. The best place to buy PASPY is at Hiroshima Bus Centre, which is located on the third floor of SOGO department store in downtown Hiroshima. You can also get it from vending machines. According to my friends, the best thing they like about PASPY is that you can choose the colour of your card. Yes, apparently that’s very important to some people!

My personal preference is the ICOCA card, simply because you can use it not only within Hiroshima but in the entire JR system. This means that if you visit Kansai area (Osaka and further afield), you don’t need to purchase another card to use during your time there. ICOCA cards can be purchased at JR ticket offices and vending machines that display the ICOCA card logo.

Both PASPY and ICOCA are easy to recharge and this can be done at ticket vending machines, convenience stores and even on the train, bus etc., themselves. Just tell the driver you want to “charji onegaishimasu” (チャージお願いします), which means “charge please” and add your money to the machine. Easy peasy!

A final note before you make your choice: remember, PASPY machines everywhere in Hiroshima will accept ICOCA cards, but sadly, the reverse is not true.

There you have it… it’s up to you to decide! Good luck!

By daichi-ishii via Wikimedia Commons

ByRay Proper
Aug 24, 2016

Aichi Vision International Film, Music and Arts Charity Festival

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Aichi Vision International Film, Music and Arts Charity Festival is an arts based charity event in its 8th year and a fun day in the park for Charity!  Join Aichi Vision in Tsuruma Park for music, theatre, magic, art and children’s activities.

Come enjoy a beautiful day in the park with a great stage lineup of musical genres, magic shows and dancers! Family and adult fun alike, with delicious food stalls, local craft beer & other beverage vendors, and the popular bouncy castle! Plus, new for this year will be local artists with art and crafts on sale, and a creative fun zone of over 10 art-based activities for the kids!! It’s a perfect day for all to enjoy the last days of summer and get involved with helping support our community charities.

Charity : Santa & Friends Nagoya

Aichi Vision every year donates all profits from the event to charities. This year we will continue to support the amazing work of Santa & Friends who help hundreds of children at local orphanages in Aichi Prefecture. This is their 10th year and with the assistance of over 100 volunteers and sponsors bring smiles to children less fortunate in our community.

www.santaandfriendsnagoya.com

★★★ STAGE LINEUP ★★★

– David Dycus
– Joe Hindman’s Magic Show
– Nanami & Friends
– WKZed 52
– Cansu Belly Dancers
– StarKat
– Coindrop 62 (Jukebox Paradise)
– The Mini Cookies (Aya and Takashi)
– Borrowed Brass

★★★ KID’S ACTIVITIES ★★★

– Bouncy Castle
– T-Shirt Printing
– Bubble Wrap Stomp Painting
– Let’s Weave and Create
– Sewing Station
– Sugar Writing
– Hula Hoops
And more…

★★★ FOOD and BEVERAGE STALLS ★★★
– Bar OXO (Beer, Cocktails and Food)
– Izakaya Janai (Craft Beers)
– Aichi Vision Volunteers Booth
(Wines, Soft drinks and Homemade Foods)


Aichi Vision International Film, Music and Arts Charity Festival 2016

  • Date: Sunday 18th September 2016, 12:00 to dusk – In the advent of rain or a need for postponement, then
    Monday 19th September (a National Holiday)
  • Location: Fusen Memorial Platform, Tsuruma Park, Nagoya
  • Directions: 5 min walk from Tsurumai Station on the JR Chuo Line and Nagoya Subway Tsurumai (blue) Line, Exit 4.
  • Entry fees: ¥1500 per adult purchased in advance or Ticket PIA Code 633-327 (+ fees)
    ¥2000 per adult at the gate on the day
    Children free admittance

Aichi Vision is an International Charity Film, Music & Arts Festival held once a year in Tsuruma Park. It first began in 2008 under the original name “The Red Rock Charity Film Festival” and organized by Joe Sichi and Tim Lennane. It showcased local and international filmmakers and their short movies, with film submissions from as far away as Norway and South Africa. Over the years the festival has raised thousands of dollars for local charities.

AICHI VISION’s mission is to bring together local and international artists, musicians, performers and businesses to help raise money for charities in the Chubu region.

www.facebook.com/AichiVision
www.aichivision.org

 

ByMark Guthrie
Aug 22, 2016

Make friends at Japanese cultural classes in Nagoya

IkebanaBeing relocated to a new country can be an amazing experience, though one not without its difficulties. One of the greatest of problems, particularly for the spouses or partners of those being relocated, is making friends in a new place where perhaps we do not know the language.

One great way of dealing with this is to join classes. In and around Nagoya there are plenty of classes at which you can meet new people. The below are just a few that focus particularly on enjoying Japanese culture.

Cooking

Ozeki Cooking School

With a different experience for each of the four seasons, cooking with Chef Shuji can take you into bamboo forests, through over rice paddies, and even amongst the ukai cormorant fishers of the Nagara river. From there it’s back to the 100 year-old Yamakyu Restaurant, where all the culinary delight takes place. Master Chef Shuji has 30 years of professional experience and there are a variety of workshops and cultural experiences in which you can participate, including picking the organic vegetables or catching the ayu sweet fish that you will be cooking.

Aki Home Visit Japan

Aki lives in the suburbs of Nagoya and she welcomes you into her home for an introduction and instruction of both Japanese cooking and the culture of the Japanese household. She thanks her Japanese chef husband – whom she met while studying in L.A. – for her cooking ability, and also her mother-in-law, which to me spells ‘harmonious household’. She has various recipes, and two courses: a traditional Japanese tempura meal or Kawaii (decorative) sushi rolls and each include tea ceremony. Classes can be held in Japanese, English or Spanish.

  • Websitewww,aki-homevisit.com
  • Average price: 4,000 JPY
  • Address: Kachigawa Station 5 Chome Kachigawachō, Kasugai-shi

Ikebana Flower Arranging

Kayoko’s Ikebana

Kayoko teaches the basic Moribana style of flower arranging from her home close to downtown Nagoya. She speaks fluent English and can also tell you about the history of Ikebana and how it relates to the seasons while she demonstrates her gifts. After it is all finished she will serve Japanese tea and sweets.

Ikebana Communications

Meeting every second and fourth Saturday, Ikebana Communications is a flower arranging class that focuses particularly on meeting and making friends.

  • Contact: Mimi 090-4867-4264, Ms. Wakita 052-581-6071 or Miki 090-7954-2892
  • Price: 1,400 JPY per class
  • Address: Near Nagoya International Center

Hana-no-ki-kai

Judging by the fact that Ms. Suzuki charges only for the cost of materials used, the lessons at Hana-no-ki-kai (literally an an opportunity with flowers) are genuinely about sharing the information about this elegant art form, as well as meeting those who share an interest. They meet on the fith Sunday of every month.

  • Contact: Reservations to Ms. Suzuki at 0562-93-0310 or Fax to 0562-93-5214.
  • Price: Cost of Materials
  • Address: Near Kanayama Station

Kimono

Let’s Enjoy Japanese Kimono

Have you ever wanted to try on the elegant Japanese traditional clothing of Kimono? Perhaps you have one of your own but haven’t a clue how to put it on. Akemi Yoshida invites non-Japanese women to join her in enjoy trying on a variety of different kimonos while learning about Japanese culture every second saturday from 13:00 to 15:00.

  • Contact: 052-681-9414
  • Price: 500 JPY
  • Address: Atsuta Shogai Gakushu Center

Organisations

Noriko’s Events

Noriko’s Events are exclusively for the non-Japanese to enjoy and learn about the Japanese culture and traditional crafts such as hand sewing Yukatas, Kimekomi, Calligraphy, Ikebana and Tea Ceremony. Noriko also guides participants on fun and educational trips on occasion.

Cross-Cultural Exchange Association (CCEA)

The Cross-Cultural Exchange Association, or the “CCEA,”is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting cultural exchange, international understanding and friendships among women of all nationalities living in the Nagoya Area. Social activities, general meetings and special interest groups are some ways in which members develop friendships, discover the local community, and learn about the rich cultural heritage of Japan and other countries.

 

Mark Guthrie and Ray Proper

Photo: flickr.com "DSC02208 European Floristry Class" by dutchbaby (CC BY-SA 2.0) -Modified
ByJustin Hanus
Aug 21, 2016

Big Traffic Brother Is Watching You

Japanese Police

In many places the eternal battle between motorist and traffic cop is carried on like a game of cat and mouse with law enforcement lying in wait for its prey undetected behind a billboard or at the bottom of a hill. Not so in Japan where the task is turned over to an array of speed cameras.

But for motorists this is at least a fair fight. Local authorities are required by law to provide signage (usually blue signs with white letters although the warnings are not uniform) that announce the presence of surveillance. When a driver spots one of these signs hanging over the roadway the speed sensors will be in force in the upcoming stretch of of road.

What are Speed Cameras?

Speed cameras are a shorthand description for the different monitoring systems used by traffic authorities. They are known as jido sokudo ihan torishimari sochi which translates to “automated speed violation control devices.” The are several different types employed…

Radar. You will still see these antiquated speed detection systems beside the road looking like a phone booth from yesteryear or, for more elaborate installations, a guard tower in a prison yard. Some even utilize traditional film in the high-speed cameras that are triggered by the radar dish.

Loop coils. Much harder to spot are electro-magnetic coils engineered directly into the road surface. Most drivers will not notice them as they roll over the sensors but the cameras used to record vehicles will likely be visible.

H System. This is the nascent radar system all grown up. Not only are the speed detection and camera technology fully digital but the information recorded is relayed instantly to police. If you run afoul of an H System it does not even require a high intensity flash to snap your picture. L-H Systems use the loop coils for detection rather than radar readings.

Mobile Units. Sometimes police like to stretch their legs and get back in the field for some good old-fashioned speed trapping. They can install randomly placed speed sensors that will alert an officer down the road who may wave a red flag to pull you to the side and render a ticket. A more common option is to trigger a camera in a van to photograph your vehicle.

How Rigid Is Speed Camera Enforcement?

Speed detection devices are seldom set up to the the strict letter of the law. You will hear personal anecdotes that you can safely go 20 kph over or 30 kph over the posted limit without triggering a fine. Divers on expressways are believed to be given more leeway than on city streets and rural roads. Of course, even if that is so the devices can be changed from one day to the next to trip you up.

For non-mobile devices, drivers will not know they have been targeted for speeding until a violation notification arrives at the address of the registered vehicle. If it is a rental car, the agency will supply all pertinent information to police. If recorded on an early model radar detecting system the notification may not arrive for months after the violation – all that film needs time to be developed after all. Modern systems streamline the process down to a few days.

With violation notification in hand you must report to the local police station with your license, valid vehicle inspection certificate and personal seal. And a payment if you are not ready to fight the citation.

Heavy-footed motorists looking to avoid speeding tickets can also employ radar detectors, which are legal, and GPS devices that detail the location of speed cameras. This being Japan, however, the actual purpose of these products is so motorists know which roads are NOT being monitored and are therefore less safe.

By Ocdp (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Aug 20, 2016

Pay a Visit to Kobe’s Anpanman Children’s Museum and Mall

Kobe Anpanman Museum

Looking for some entertainment the whole family can enjoy? Well, your kids will likely enjoy it more, but who doesn’t love a day spent with the little ones entertaining themselves with some of their favorite Japanese characters? If you’re near Kobe, making a trip to the Anpanman Kids Museum and Mall promises to be a real treat.

The building is divided into two floors, the first being more of a mall with shops and restaurants, and the second is dedicated to the museum. If you want to spend a few hours exploring the character-related shops downstairs for toys and memorabilia, you could easily do so. There are around 20 shops to check out, including some favorites like “Uncle Jam’s Bakery” and “Anpanman Salon” so be prepared to come home with some tasty treats and sweet souvenirs. If you head to the bakery, make sure to try out one of the adorable and delicious Anpanman baked goods, which the merchants do an entertaining job marketing! A custard bun costs around 300 yen.

One great thing about the first floor mall area is that the characters often make surprise or timed guest appearances, so you might just get a photo opportunity with one of the members of the Anpanman crew! Even if you don’t see a character wandering around, there are many cute and fun permanent characters conveniently displayed for striking a pose on the first floor!

Heading up to the second floor will bring you to the unique exhibits and attractions available in the museum. Though the cost of admission is a bit pricey (1,500 yen per person over 1 year old), if you or your children have any interest in Anpanman, it can be a fun and interesting way to spend some time. Exploring the different attractions will bring you information concerning the history of this widely known cartoon character, as well as random fun facts regarding the creation and legacy of the brand. The museum experience also offers many opportunities to take photos both with the exhibits and the characters themselves.

Anpanman is one of Japan’s most popular anime series running from 1973-2013, which gives it cross-generational and international notoriety. Due to this, regardless of day of the week, the Anpanman Kids Museum and Mall can get quite crowded. Luckily, due to the location’s proximity to the harbor, if the crowds become unbearable for you and your family, you can always opt instead for a stroll along the marina or get a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants surrounding.

Kobe Anpanman Kids Museum and Mall

Where: From Harborland Station, walk 8 minutes or walk 10 minutes from Hankyu/Hanshin/Kosoku Kobe Station, Higashi Kawasaki-cho 1-6-2, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture
Admission: Under 1 years old: 600 yen, Over 1 years old: 1,500 yen
Hours: 7 days a week (closed on January 1st)
Museum: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (last admission is 5:00 p.m.)
Shopping mall: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Tel: 078-341-8855
Reference Website (Japanese): http://www.kobe-anpanman.jp/
English Informational Brochure: http://www.kobe-anpanman.jp/pdf/foreign_brochure.pdf

By 663highland (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Aug 20, 2016

It’s All Happening at the Tennoji Zoo – At Night

Red Panda

We have all gone to a zoo on a summer day and seen the animals snoozing or lying around doing nothing – just what you would expect animals to be doing on a sweltering hot day. As you shuffled past the enclosures disappointed did it ever occur to you that maybe it would be better to view zoo animals at night when they may be more active?

That thought occurred to the administrators of the Tennoji Zoo in 2015 and so they tried an experiment. The zoo was open at nighttime for one week last August as part of the zoo’s 100th birthday celebration. The program proved such a success that more nocturnal dates were added for an Autumn Night Zoo. This year more after-dark admission dates have been added and night visitors will likely be a part of the zoo going forward.

What to know about Osaka’s zoo

The concept of displaying wild animals to the public was slow to take hold in Japan. The National Museum of Natural History in Tokyo kept a small menagerie of animals in the 1800s and this became the Ueno Zoo in 1882. Today it is Japan’s largest zoo. The next city to get a zoo was Kyoto in 1903 and Osaka opened its zoo in Tennoji Park in 1915 as just the third zoo in Japan. The park had only recently opened in 1909 and its main attraction was a botanical garden. Today the gardens are decorated with many animal-like creations of wire and flowers.

Japan experienced a boom in zoo building after World War II and there are now more than 100 zoos in the country. As these modern animal parks and safaris opened, the aging Tennoji Zoo suffered in comparison. Conditions at the park began to improve in the 1990s with the introduction of many natural environments. A reptile house was added in 1995 and a hippopotamus house came online in 1997 that enabled visitors to observe the underwater behavior of the fascinating “river horse” that is the planet’s third largest land mammal.

These structures were followed by a rhinoceros paddock in 1998, a herbivorous zone in 2000, a Forest of Asia zone in 2004 and a carnivorous zone in 2006. The revitalized zoo is said to attract 1.5 million visitors a year to learn about the animals.

What you will see at Tennoji Zoo at night

Tennoji Zoo is about two-thirds the size of Ueno Zoo and is home to 1,500 animals representing 300 of the earth’s species. During the night zoo, the enclosures are discreetly illuminated to give off the effect of a darkness pierced by a bright moon. Animals that typically become active at night go about their usual business and others who have spent a day resting begin to stir and survey the surroundings.

Of particular interest at night is the zoo’s kiwi bird, the only representative of the New Zealand genus of flightless birds living in Japan. These shy birds, which lay nature’s largest eggs in proportion to their body size, are night birds and members of Tennoji’s nocturnal animal house.

Zoo officials stage special events for night visitors and since this new program is evolving, expect bigger and betters shows to come. At any time of day, Tennoji Zoo, just a ten-minute walk from Tennoji Station on the JR Osaka Loop Line, is a bargain at only 500 yen for adults.

By Kuribo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJade Brischke
Aug 19, 2016

My favorite day trip from Hiroshima: Onomichi

OnomichilocalMy very first day trip outside of Hiroshima was to the port city of Onomichi, located approximately an hour and a half east by local train from Hiroshima Station. I’d heard it was a beautiful spot to relax and take in the sights and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve now lost count of how many times I’ve been to Onomichi and when people ask me why I like it so much, I simply say that it has a nice feel to the place. It’s great for getting away from the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Hiroshima without having to go too far or breaking the bank. With direct access to the Seto or Inland Sea of Japan, it has an, ‘old-town,’ feel to it, you can try delicious local specialties, the view is spectacular and best of all, it has many, many cats. Yes, cats. In fact, it’s famous for them.

As the gateway to the Seto Sea, Onomichi is famous for being the starting point of cyclist enthusiasts wanting to cross the Shimanami Bridge all the way to the island of Shikoku. If you’re not into cycling (or you think it’s just too hot right now to even consider the idea), don’t worry. The bridge itself is a feat of engineering and impressive enough to simply look at and take photos of, especially if you go to the top of the hill behind the station.

When you arrive at Onomichi, cross the road straight in front of the station and head to your left where you’ll find the 1.6km undercover shopping arcade. Despite its, ‘shita-machi,’ or ‘low town,’ feel about it, the street has recently become home to a number of modern cafes and coffee has become a thriving business, especially when paired with traditional sweets. You can also check out quaint family-owned shops full of trinkets or stop in at one of the many new art galleries that have sprung up. I won’t recommend any particular place here because it’s constantly evolving and you’re best to just duck in-and-out and dip into whatever it is that pleases your senses. If you’re lucky you may even see a few of the, ‘locals,’ and by that, I mean cats, who like to stroll leisurely through the area.

Perhaps the most famous local specialty is Onomichi Ramen. This soybean-based soup includes pork with flat noodles and let me just say it is very, very popular. So popular in fact, that there is always a long line at the various restaurants and people are quite prepared to wait an hour or more to taste it. My advice: get there really, really early. And take a book.

The most famous sight in Onomichi, however, is Senkoji Temple and the Park surrounding it. Although there is a ropeway to access the area, I would recommend walking up and stopping to take photos along the way. Last time I walked up it was summer and yes, I did sweat, but I was kept cool by a lovely breeze and rewarded with a spectacular view from the top. On the way you’ll also find, ‘The Path of Literature,’ which has monuments to famous artists and at the very top you can visit the Onomichi City Museum of Art. Inside the museum you can see a view of the harbor, but the best vantage point is at the observatory where you have a 360-degree view of the islands. I’ve always been during the day, but the night view is considered to be one of the ‘Top 100,’ in Japan, so it’s definitely worth your time and effort.

Now, the cats. You’ve been wondering about the cats, I can tell. Onomichi is famous for them like I said. They can be found strolling, sleeping or simply draped over various pieces of ‘furniture,’ looking as though they do in fact own the place. The cats have become so famous that there’s even a street view camera that allows you to navigate your way around the city as though you were looking through the eyes of one of the cats. For more information on this, check out the website at the bottom of the page.

Onomichi is an easy day trip from Hiroshima and whether you’re a foodie, a temple enthusiast, an active person or just like shopping and cats, there is something for everyone. It’s also a place that has something for every season, particularly spring and summer. Onomichi has become famous for its many cherry blossom trees and in summer the Saturday night markets and annual fireworks display attract tens of thousands of people. Go on, get out there and enjoy Onomichi life!

http://www.ononavi.com Onomichi Tourist Association website

http://www.hiroshima-welcome.jp Hiroshima (Onomichi) Cat Street View

ByJustin Hanus
Aug 19, 2016

Prepare to Launch – Kansai’s Capsule Hotels

Capsule Hotel

Celebrated Japan architect Kisho Kurokawa gave the world its first taste of mass pod living in 1972 with the creation of the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo. The idea was to give hard-working traveling businessmen a convenient place to bed down for a few hours before getting back to the meeting room.

Seven years later the first capsule hotel opened in the Umeda district of Osaka. Instead of hard-charging business people, the clientele was often hard-partying revelers who could sleep off the night’s activity cheaply and safely without trying to drive home drunk. Others would check in to the capsule hotel for the affordable rates or just for the experience.

Nearly four decades later the Capsule-Inn Osaka is still going strong and the capsule hotel model has spread throughout Japan. It is still relatively rare to encounter a capsule hotel outside of Japan, however. China opened a capsule hotel in 2012 and Belgium welcomed the first European guests to a capsule hotel in 2014.

Compared to the interchangeable pods of the Nakagin Tower however, the accommodations of a capsule hotel are claustrophobia-inducing. The capsules are manufactured of fiberglass and stacked one row upon another and lined up like adjacent filing cabinet drawers. Each sleeping capsule is roughly two meters long by one meter wide. There is no room to stand up but the guest can sit up and roll about comfortably. Some hotels have larger capsules and even small rooms available.

How Does A Capsule Hotel Work?

Guests check in at the reception room and are assigned a capsule and given a wristband with the capsule number on it. The wristband is to be worn at all times since everything ordered in the hotel will be charged to that number before checkout. The next stop is the changing room where a locker corresponding to the capsule number awaits. All clothes and belongings are left here and guests change into a robe and pick up towels and various sundries.

Most capsule hotels are outfitted with a restaurant area and many have spa facilities with accompanying massage service. There is no smoking, drinking or eating in the capsules so everything bought in these areas must be consumed there as well. Before turning in for the night you may also wash your clothes or take advantage of dry cleaning services in some capsule hotels.

Quiet is mandatory once you arrive in the capsule room. Short steps are used for accessing the capsules on the second level. A screen is pulled down across the entrance to provide privacy once inside the capsule.

How About the Amenities?

You can expect a double mattress, an assortment of pillows and a covering for comfort. Almost all pods these days come equipped with a television, free WiFi, an electric socket and AV controller. Alarm clocks are usually standard. For safety there will be a sprinkler and ventilation fan. Everything you need for a good night’s sleep.

Capsule hotels fill a niche for the thrifty traveler and there are enough around Kansai to offer consumers a choice. The First Cabin Midosuji Namba is a newer generation of capsule hotel with roomier “cabins.” The B&S Eco Cube Shinsaibashi offers a women-only floor.

By Peter Woodman from Seattle, WA, USA (capsule hotel asahi plaza) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons