Saturday, June 1, 2013

9 hours Designer Capsule Hotel

I’ve been lucky enough to stay at some very nice hotels over the past couple of years but in Japan I was on a tight budget and determined to try something a little different. Originally created for businessmen who worked too late to catch the last train home, capsule hotels (カプセルホテル) have developed as an economical alternative to normal hotels in a country where space comes at a premium.
Opposite 9hours Capsule Hotel
Consisting of a large number of extremely small coffin-like “rooms” big enough for  a single person to sleep in, Japan’s first capsule hotel made its appearance in Osaka in 1979. They have a bit of a grim reputation for their chicken-coop approach to habitation but in 2009 Tokyo-based Cubic Corp decided to take a fresh approach to this uniquely Japanese mode of accommodation.
9hours Entrance
Their collaboration with Fumie Shibata of design studio S resulted in the development of nine hours (9h) in Kyoto, located on Teramachi street, two minutes walk from Kawaramachi station. Having already won multiple design awards I decided to check out what all the fuss was about…
9hours Shoe Locker
Upon arrival the first thing you do is place your shoes in a numbered locker and give the key to reception while checking-in; I doubt they get many people running off without paying the bill!
9hours Reception
A night at 9h costs ¥4900 (£38) and the hotel’s philosophy is indicated in its name: 1 hour to shower + 7 hours to sleep + 1 hour to rest = nine hours (although guests can stay up to 17 hours if they wish). Everything is literally black and white.
9hours Entrance
The lobby also provides a functional lounge area for guests to use the free wi-fi and relax before sleeping. The no-clutter effect verges on being clinical but overall quite soothing (although I think I’d go manic trying to keep the place clean).
9hours Lifts
Female and male capsules are provided on separate floors with segregated lifts servicing each.
9hours Instructions
Clear bilingual signage is provided throughout the hotel with your navigation through the complex clearly defined as a step-by-step process designed to be as effortless as possible.
9hours Clothes
Your next stop is the locker and washroom where you can get changed and shower. All-black sleep wear is provided.
9hours Lockers
I was a bit disconcerted to see rows of security cameras in the locker room, presumably for the security of your possessions, but slightly creepy.
9hours Sinks
Everything is extremely minimal and a perfect balance has been struck between function and style; only the necessities are provided. No more, no less.
9hours Shower Gell
Individual body soap, conditioner, and shampoo sachets uniformly arranged.
9hours Showers
High-quality white towels left, showers right.
9hours Sink
Have you ever seen a more beautifully sculpted sink?
9hours Stairs
After washing you head down the stairs to your allotted sleeping floor. By this point I was convinced I’d entered a certain Stanley Kubrick movie.
9hours Capsules
In stark contrast to the bright white everywhere else the only light on the sleeping floors came from the glowing capsules which are stacked two-high along one side of the corridor.
9hours Capsule
Inside the capsule the white moulded plastic shell is interrupted only by the ambient LED light and simple control panel.
9hours Capsule Controls
Created by Panasonic the alarm clock emits no noise and instead controls the light, slowly dimming when your ready to sleep, then gently rising like the sun at the time you determine to wake.
9hours Capsule Closed
At the entrance is a simple blind to enclose yourself in the pod. Far from being cramped like I had imagined there is enough room to stretch out and sit up. In no way did I feel claustrophobic or uncomfortable; in fact quite the contrary.
9hours 621
I’m a light sleeper who is easily disturbed by noise but I managed to sleep right through the night with interruption. I’m not sure if the capsules are soundproofed but they certainly seemed near silent.
9hours Morning
I can honestly say that I got one of the best nights sleep in the capsule that I’d had in a long time. Whether it was the feeling of enclosure or the gentle alarm system I’m not sure (perhaps a psychologist could provide some insights here). I quite fancy the lighting system for my bedroom.
9hours Capsules
Booking a stay at 9 hours is simple through their website and I’d highly recommend it if you’re in the Kyoto area; it’s worth it for the sci-fi (verging on monastic) experience alone. Below are a couple of videos to give you more of a flavour of what’s in store.

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