I recently went travelling across central and (slightly) northern Japan with my new husband. I must confess, as someone who had not been out of the United Kingdom for around six years (not for lack of wanting to, but rather for lack of the funds), I am not a seasoned traveller. All the previous country hopping that I had done had been with parents, so the concept of moving from hotel to hotel was an entirely new experience for me. As you are no doubt aware, there are usually two main bulky costs associated with travelling somewhere – the actual transport (our plane tickets amounted to a little over £1000 for economy class), and accommodation – unless you’re incredibly fortunate and have friends or family to stay with.
We made sure to include a wide variety of hotel experiences into our stay; we visited an onsen (which is Japanese for hot springs or bath house), a Ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) with its smoky rooms and sliding doors, a few western hotels in Tokyo, and a pod hotel in Sendai. In this post I am going to talk about my pod hotel experience with the chain ‘Nine Hours’ – the good, the bad, and the nitty gritty in between.
Pod hotels are very cheap. Check in is early, at 12pm, checkout is at 10am the next morning and it costs just ¥3000 per night (about £22).
The washroom facilities are also modern and up-to-date, and the shower is powerful. I actually couldn’t believe how much better it was than some of the more expensive facilities.
They also provide good, high speed wifi which is handy if you want to cut back on roaming charges while you are abroad.
Whilst it’s true that the pods sort of feel a little like futuristic bunk-beds, you do get some privacy; there are blinds that you can use to cover your sleeping space up. As the pods are also sex segregated, you have no worries about bump-ins with strange men in the night. Phew.
As I was staying in the pod hotel for one night of my honeymoon, I did feel a little bit lonely without my husband (as the pods were sex segregated, and so men slept on a separate floor), but as Nine Hours had good wifi we were able to keep in touch via WhatsApp – a foresight that proved to be a godsend.
The walls separating you from your neighbours are thin, so you can hear just about every cough, sneeze, and morning alarm go off. However, Japan in general tends to be pretty good at fostering a sense of considerateness, and there were plenty of signs around the ‘pod’ area asking people to ‘please be quiet’.
The in between
So, do I think that pod hotels are a good idea? Would I want them to move from the East to the West? Yes and no. First of all, there are already pod hotels in the UK – Japanophile and Yo! Sushi founder, Simon Woodroffe, came up with the idea of ‘Yotel’. This follows the same concept as a pod hotel, but is twice the price (and comes with an ensuite and TV).
For actual pod hotels, they feel quite like a uniquely Japanese idea to me. They require living in quite close capacity to other humans, strangers at that, and there is a more or less ‘straight to bed’ attitude. They’re very down to business in a way that I fear may not fit British culture as well as it does the Japanese.
For more insight into Pod hotels, check out Maddy’s YouTube video.