Japan makes the news a lot for its quirkiness compared to western standards. Some of the rumors are true, though many of them exist in very isolated incidents. Unfortunately, to save face, some of the best quirks about Japan are slowly being run out, in part to "fix" Japan's image for the upcoming Olympics.
One of the things people talk about when describing Japan is the accomodations. Space is at a premium, and in major cities, capsule hotels popped up as a place for stranded businessmen to crash after missing the last train.
*I stayed in what I think was a capsule hotel in Kyushu, although my "capsule" was actually a private room, and I didn't see any actual capsules during my visit.
Capsule hotels will have bathing facilities of some sort. A tall but narrow locker designed to hold a single day's worth of business clothes is provided to guests; I was able to fit an extra change of clothes inside and store my partially-full backpack (underwear, toiletries, small souvenirs) at the bottom of the locker. Usually, the hotels can arrange for storage of larger luggage, but it may not be secure.
Capsule hotels usually (but not always) have spa facilities to go along with the bathing/showering areas. They could just be a hot bath to soak in after cleaning. Spa Safro was a full-service spa; I could use the baths, jacuzzi, and saunas in addition to the cleaning areas. There were massage areas as well but those were additional fee luxuries.
Most capsule hotels are male-only, for obvious safety reasons. But some have women-only floors as well, including Spa Saffro - they have women's spa services too. As for cost, it's been my experience that a night will run 3000-4000 yen, which may seem expensive for a bed. But business hotels (small-room versions of western hotels) tend to cost 5000-8000 yen per night. Cheaper but usually less-comfortable alternatives include karaoke boxes and internet or comic cafes.
|not my image|
|not my image|
Capsule hotels may not be very cheap, but they provide a good night's sleep and bathing facilities (including toothbrushes, shaving tools, and more - most guests come with only the clothes on their back). And, for now, they remain an only-in-Japan option. But if you'd stay in a hostel, how is this any worse?