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The Capsule Hotel Redefining the Format: Nine Hours, Tokyo


It’s safe to say I didn’t know a huge amount about capsule hotels until moving to Tokyo in 2019. I was introduced to Nine Hours by Monocle as part of a series for their latest book. Nine Hours plays on the concept of the simplest form of staying in a hotel – 1 hour (shower) + seven hours (sleep) + 1 hour (get dressed).

The first thing that struck me when walking down a quiet side street not far from one of central Tokyo’s busiest transport locations, was the immaculate white shell exterior. With a futuristic, minimal interior to match, the hotel has full height windows that run across the entire eight storeys. The contrast of the inside and outside is something that makes the Imperial Palace location so special. Admittedly the crisp white interiors could be borderline sterile, but outside of the walls of the hotel are high-rise buildings, air conditioning units, bustling city lights and taxis that you come to expect with a central Tokyo location.

Previously, the capsule hotel format had been given a bad rep as simply somewhere to get some kip after missing the last train home. But Nine Hours has been able to flip that on its head and turn a declining format into a desirable destination. Each location offers guests everything they need from a comfy Japanese mattress to cotton pyjamas and botanical toiletries, all paired with minimalist architecture and a crisp visual identity.

Each of the Nine Hours hotels is designed by a different architect, but has the same consistent brand features running through; think refined basics with a futuristic twist. This one is designed by Akihisa Hirata and has nearly 130 capsules.

With the famous 5km loop of the Imperial Palace moat just around the corner, the hotel rents out running gear and welcomes runners to drop by, get changed, shower and nap for less than ¥2,000 (£15). Once the sun sets, the contrasts of life inside and outside of the hotel, and the warm glow of the capsules themselves, create an atmosphere unique to any capsule hotel. This is when the hotel’s charm really comes to the forefront.

Nine Hours is a prime example of sticking to the basics, and doing it well. Expect carefully considered hospitality and a stay in the city like no other, without the associated price tag.

Originally commissioned by Monocle for the Monocle Book of Japan
Find out more via ninehours.co.jp

Photography by Ben Richards

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