The flight to Narita airport was uneventful. Our first mission upon arrival was to sort out our JR passes and our train tickets to Tokyo’s Kanda station. It ended up being a case of Mission: Very Easy, and we were soon aboard the beautiful Narita Express.
Though not the fastest train traveling to Tokyo, (we saw one which boasted a 36 minute ETA) the Narita Express was both comfortable and nice to look at. With USB chargers on the armrests (which I unfortunately discovered as we were alighting) it was a nice change from the cramped planes making up the rest of our trip thus far.
Finding our connecting train seemed daunting at first, but using a map it quickly became evident that we had plenty of options, and in no time we were outside Kanda train station, using somewhat confusing instructions to find the Capsule Value Kanda.
The concept of a capsule hotel was quite curious: the room was the size of a small single mattress, a single shelf with a power outlet, and a TV connected to the top of the capsule. At 5’7” I was almost too tall for the capsule when I was stretched out. We were provided with two lockers: one at the hotel’s entrance in which we placed our shoes, and another on our level, where we stored our luggage. When we got to our capsule, there were two towels, one big and one small, a robe and a toothbrush on our mattress. There was no lock (or door for that matter) on our capsule, just a curtain which we could close at our leisure.
After settling in we had a quick dinner at a restaurant nearby. I really wanted to try the gyoza; almost every table had a serving of 6 sitting there looking delicious, but after a long flight I really didn’t want to do anything to upset my stomach so I settled for a tasty soup. Although the title of the menu was “Grand Menu”, there was no sign of English descriptions on the menu itself. Of course I don’t expect menus here to cater to English speakers but I found it funny that many titles are in English. On the walk back to the hotel it almost felt like the pimps and prostitutes were providing us with a guard of honour.
I understood that capsule hotels catered to many business people, so under the assumption that they would be using the showers in the morning before work, and because we wanted to leave for Osaka early the next day, we decided to shower that night, as the showers looked somewhat limited on the website.
Our first attempt at a shower was a failure, as we found out that on Tuesdays between 10pm and 12am the showers are exclusively for women. Up we went, back to our respective capsules to wait out the next 25 minutes. The showers are in the basement, so we caught the lift down to the first floor, then the stairs to the basement and deposited our clothes in the lockers provided. The bathroom was full so we had to wait a while, but it allowed us a bit of time to come to terms with the situation.
The shower section consisted of three stools, each with a handheld shower head and a large bowl. The idea (as I understood it) is that you sit on the stool to wash your bits. The bucket seemed to be used differently by each person, to rest one’s feet, to rinse after shampooing, and so on. I’m not sure how you are supposed to wash your behind if you’re sitting, but I did my best. Behind the three showers was a communal bath area, which could fit 4, possibly 5 people. The water was quite hot. Finally, there was a standing shower to the side which I used to rinse off after the bath I shared with two nude strangers.
Feeling refreshed and rather accomplished after immersing myself in the culture, I entered my capsule and rested, after a long day of traveling and public nudity.