Long associated with the Japanese way of life, capsule hotels remain for many Western travelers a fantasy of Japanese culture. Yet the 9h nine hours hotelier has reinvented the genre, associating contemporary design with a certain desirability. Will he be able to convince you?
“The capsule hotel has traditionally been viewed in Japan as a low-end or even suspect place. Far from any aesthetic or sensory standards.
For many months, I spoke with Japanese designers. People with a strong sense of aesthetics, an accurate perception of form and space. I wanted to redefine the capsule hotel like an iPhone: sleek and user-friendly. “
Initially, the metabolist architecture
“We often imagine capsule hotels as old concepts from the Japanese way of life. At best, they date from the end of the 70s. It was the architect Kishō Kurokawa who first conceptualized the idea of the capsule hotel by creating the Capsule Inn Osaka in 1979. Kurokawa is also the famous Nakagin Capsule Tower of Ginza! ”
Few of the feedback that generates so many comments and points of view on Tripadvisors. A quick search on Japanese capsule hotels reveals traveler reviews; Anglo-Saxons are generally the most acerbic: “Noisy, unhealthy, badly attended, dirty,…” obviously “too small and badly designed”. Sometimes, some opinions are more nuanced and find the experience atypical or even pleasant.
This observation, Keisuke Yui, knows it perfectly. The founder of 9h nine hours, the famous chain of capsule hotels present in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka or Sendai, has been working since the early 2000s on the reinvention of this hotel concept.
Appeared at the end of the 1970s, the capsule hotel has for a long time been limited to a role of filler in the Japanese hotel industry. Associated with an unattractive, masculine image, although very affordable, the capsule hotel has remained for many Westerners more a Japanese fantasy than a real base for visiting the archipelago.
Rethinking the concept of the capsule hotel
“The very idea of rethinking an almost forty-year-old concept gave birth to 9h nine hours,” says Keisuke Yui. To create a new generation of ‘capsule’ capable of embracing the services of a hotel while offering an affordable price – in a thoughtful and welcoming environment. This is the heart of the project.
By working with designers and architects like Fumie Shibata, Masaaki Hiromura, Jun Inokuma & Yuri Naruse, the founder was able to reinvent the very image of the capsule hotel. “Invest in intriguing urban architectures, create interior spaces supported by a ‘friendly’ design, democratize the use of check-in / check-out with your smartphone, offer optimal comfort and a perfect location in the city.”
For the past two years, competition has raged around the concept. Keisuke Yui’s work has gone so well that major Japanese hotel chains are now including the capsule in their offers. Smart-pods, room-pods, cabin-pods, etc. the concept is endlessly available to reach an ever-increasing number of foreign travelers.
28.10.2020 – Due to the health context linked to the COVID-19 epidemic, 9h nine hours hotels are closed. Note that tourist visas (less than 3 months) to Japan are at this time, still refused.
“The very reasonable price is necessarily the most important decision factor in choosing a capsule hotel. But over the years we have seen a new clientele of foreign travelers, seduced by our hotels and their location in the city.”