Staying in a Japanese pod hotel has been on my bucket list for FOREVER. And I finally got a chance to stay in one called First Cabin Haneda during a long layover in Tokyo Haneda Airport. It was the perfect place to park myself for 9 hours while I waited for my connection to Seoul the next morning.
I’ve been curious about staying in a Japanese capsule hotel since I saw the movie, Baraka. The images of a multitude of capsules stacked on top of each other like lego, with humans hanging out inside them like caged animals have stuck with me.
I mean, how could they not?!
In this guide
- 1 Why stay in a Japanese Pod Hotel?
- 2 First Cabin Haneda Terminal 1
- 3 Amenities at First Cabin Haneda Terminal 1
- 4 What to Expect at First Cabin Haneda
- 5 Catching the Haneda Shuttle Bus
- 6 What’s the deal with Japanese Pod Hotels anyway?
- 7 Are there Korean Capsule Hotels?
Why stay in a Japanese Pod Hotel?
At my advanced traveling age, I’m long past the point where I’m willing to suffer long stopovers on airport floors or benches to save a few dollars (thank god).
So when I booked a crazy last minute flight from Canada to Korea, that involved not one, but TWO, 9 hour stopovers, I made sure to look into airport hotels – one in Los Angeles and one at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
In LA, I booked a room at a nearby Travelodge that had a swimming pool, Denny’s on the main floor and a free shuttle bus from LAX.
For our Tokyo layover, a night in a Japanese capsule hotel was the obvious solution. Luckily, there was a capsule hotel right inside Haneda Airport, where we were transiting to Seoul, called First Cabin Haneda Terminal 1.
Japanese capsules vary in their amenities and services, but you can count on them to be clean, much more affordable than a traditional hotel, and super convenient. Capsule hotels are absolutely perfect for travelers on a budget. And for long layovers where you don’t want to leave the airport, there’s really no better option.
* First Cabin also has capsule hotels at Kansai Airport near Osaka, and in Tokyo at Sinjuku and Akasaka, so you can still check them out, even if you’re not arriving at Haneda Airport.
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First Cabin Haneda Terminal 1
First Cabin Haneda is a capsule hotel chain in Japan that’s decorated around an aviation/traveling theme. The design is sleek and minimalist, it’s spotlessly clean, and the capsule hotel has all the amenities you require for a short and comfortable stay.
The First Cabin pod hotels are ideal for travelers on a budget, solo travelers, and those who plan to spend most of their time exploring outside. I wouldn’t recommend capsule hotels for those that like to lounge around at their hotel, for light sleepers, or those who need a lot of privacy.
At First Cabin Haneda Terminal 1, there are 2 types of capsules to choose from: the First Class Cabin and the Business Class Cabin.
The Business Capsules at First Cabin Haneda are similar to what I’d seen in Baraka so many years ago – only they aren’t stacked one on top of the other., They’re lined up in rows, and there’s just enough room for a single bed. There’s a bit of storage space for small items, and a tv in the room.
Business Class Cabins cost ¥ 6,000 per night.
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First Class Capsules
The First Class Capsules at First Cabin Haneda were more like a mini-hotel room than a sleeping pod, with a slightly larger bed, a small table, tv, and extra storage space.
I ended up in a First Class Capsule, because all of the Business Capsules were fully booked. If you want to save a few bucks, book well in advance. First class cabins cost ¥ 7,000.
First Cabin Haneda Terminal 1 does get fully booked out long in advance, so try to reserve early, or you could try walking in. You might get lucky.
Otherwise, if you’d like to be checked in by robots and dinosaurs, I recommend Henn na Hotel Tokyo Haneda. It’s nearby and has a free shuttle bus.
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Amenities at First Cabin Haneda Terminal 1
First Cabin Haneda has all the amenities you require for a short stay. In fact, you’ll find that you don’t even really have to open your suitcase, since they provide you with towels, dental kit, slippers, and even pyjamas!
In the lobby, there are computers for your use, and vending machines with hot snacks like edamame and ramen.
All First Cabin capsule hotels are gender segregated, and include a small spa area that’s enjoyed completely in the buff. The First Cabin Haneda location is no different, and included a clean bathing area, with hot tub, and luxurious feeling (at least to us North Americans) Shisheido products.
After 13 hours on a plane, soaking my weary body in that bath of soothing water was completely rejuvenating. Refreshed and resting under a set of crisp, clean sheets, in the pyjamas provided, after 37 hours of traveling, there was nothing left to do, but bless Japanese efficiency. 🙂
What to Expect at First Cabin Haneda
The First Haneda Cabin Terminal 1 capsules do not lock, but have sliding curtains to give you privacy. I wouldn’t call them loud, but they’re definitely not completely silent, with travellers arriving and departing at all different times of the day and night.
Bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper.
There’s a lockable drawer for valuables under the bed, and suitcases can simply be left outside your individual capsule if you’re staying in a Business Capsule, instead of a First Class Capsule.
In my personal experience, there’s very little risk of theft in East Asia. People generally leave bags, purses, phones wallets etc… just sitting on tables in cafes. Don’t be careless about it, but in general, there’s not much cause for worry.
First Cabin Haneda Terminal 1 provides you with everything you need for an overnight stay, including pyjamas, towels, and disposable toothbrush and toothpaste.
Most (but not all) Japanese pod hotels include a separate sauna and shower area for men and women. They’re usually fully stocked with shampoo, body wash, and cream for the face.
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Catching the Haneda Shuttle Bus
First Cabin Haneda is located in Terminal 1 on the Haneda Airport Arrivals Floor (1st floor). There’s a free shuttle bus between terminals, if you should land somewhere other than Terminal 1, like I did.
Haneda shuttle buses run every 4 minutes, and operate from 4:48AM to midnight. They travel from the Haneda Airport International Terminal to Domestic Terminal 2, to Domestic Terminal 1 (where First Cabin Haneda is located), and back to the International Terminal.
You’ll find the Haneda shuttle bus to the domestic terminals on the 1st floor of the International Terminal. Look for bus stop number 0. If you’re arriving at Domestic Terminal 1, go to Bus Stop number 8 on the first floor Haneda Airport Arrivals level. It’ll take approximately 7-10 minutes to arrive at Terminal 1.
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What’s the deal with Japanese Pod Hotels anyway?
Growing up in Canada, there was nothing but space, space and more space. I just couldn’t understand why the heck you’d need to stay inside a tiny little sleeping tube, like a dog ready for international transport on a plane. Why not sleep in a comfortable and normal sized room instead?
After some years in Asia though, I began to see how spoiled we were for space in Canada. Space is at a serious premium in most Asian cities. There are literally people everywhere, especially in the dense urban spaces. Capsule hotels are a very practical, space and cost-efficient solution.
Culturally though, there are other reasons for these cube hotels. Their main purpose is not as a source of accommodation for backpackers and tourists traveling around the world on a budget.
Rather, these little Japanese pods are mostly used by drunk “salarymen”, who land there after a night of heavy alcohol consumption, which is, for better or worse, a huge part of business culture in East Asia.
That’s why, until recently, it was a bit difficult to find capsule hotels with sections for women. Their original use had nothing to do with most women’s lives.
Are there Korean Capsule Hotels?
Korea has a similar type of accommodation that is used by drunk businessmen, called the jjimjilbang, that includes saunas, showers and sleeping areas.
Jjimjilbangs in Korea are different than Japanese capsules, in that they’re much more multi-use. Most jjimjilbangs have an entertainment area for families, couples and friends to socialize in, with massage chairs, restaurants, movie theatres, screen golf/video game zones, and even nail salons. It’s only late in the evening that jjimjilbangs seems to transform into sleeping quarters for inebriated individuals.
I find it hugely interesting that in Korea, the sleeping area is completely communal, whereas in Japan, everyone is neatly sectioned off into their own little personal pod. It says a lot about the cultural differences between the 2 countries… and though I’m ethnically Korean, the introvert in me definitely prefers the capsule.
Fortunately, there’s now a capsule style hotel in Incheon Airport called DarakHyu too! So if you should find yourself passing through Korea, make sure to check it out!
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First Cabin Haneda: Essential Info and FAQs
Have you ever stayed in a Japanese capsule, or other unique type of accommodation? Where was it? Would you recommend it to other travelers?
The Haneda Cabin looks so nice and spacious! I haven’t gotten the opportunity to stay at such a hotel but would love to.
It was a great experience and has been on my bucket list for quite some time… so was glad to do it!
Hi Shelly, I’ve always wondered about the pod hotels in Japan (I had not expected them in Korea). They look rather comfortable, safe and well kept, like one would expect in Japan. I wonder what it feels like for people like me who are clostrofobic.
Illustrating the point about Tokyo being super crowded with a picture of the intersection is brilliant. I saw my first all way simultaneous crossing intersection in Tokyo. It was such a novelty!
great piece! I still have ‘a night in a capsule’ on my travel ‘to-do’ list!
It was definitely on mine. An interesting experience for sure, and more affordable than a hotel! 🙂
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Will be much easier to fulfill that dream, now that you’ll be on this side of the world. 🙂
Girl Gone Expat
So interesting reading about the capsule hotel. I’ve only seen it in movies so far and it looks like a curious thing:) Nothing like it back home, or here in Canada. Would love to try one one time!
I’ve been forever curious about the capsules, so it was great fun to finally satisfy my wonderings. 🙂 Definitely no need for them in Canada though…where we are spoiled for space!!
I stayed in a female-only capsule hotel while travelling in Japan (annoyingly it was about ten years ago and I can’t remember where it was!) but I loved the experience. It was part of a spa so I had a lovely relaxing evening and although the capsule was very small I felt very cosy and secure in it. Hoping to visit Japan again next year so will definitely be trying it out again!
So Japan is a finalist for your honeymoon destination? 🙂 I wish you remembered where that capsule was too. Sounds like a good one to visit…the spa part sounds absolutely perfect!
I know, my memory is terrible! I will have to have a look back through my travel guides. Yes, Japan is looking like the front-runner at the moment 🙂
I’ve always been curious about the capsule hotels, but I’m afraid that it would feel claustrophobic. Did the sleeping space feel really small?
I was in the bigger capsule and it actually felt very spacious… literally like a mini-hotel room, with all the necessities, but nothing extra. The smaller capsules were definitely small though… basically a bed with walls built around it! Maybe not the best if you feel claustrophobic. 😮
i’ve been stay in Capsule Hotel in Vietnam, its so perfect :).
They have them in Vietnam?! Fantastic!! Better than a hostel dorm bed, if you ask me… 🙂
I say it’s perfect. I’d actually prefer that over regular sized hotels. When it comes to hotels, all what it really practically provides is a bed and a shower. Everything else is comfort and luxury. All countries should have it.
They told us about it when I was in Okinawa. But with my work, we weren’t allowed to stay overnight so we didn’t have the need for it. 🙂
Honestly, I really don’t understand why they don’t have these in every single airport around the world. It seems like the ideal solution for tired travellers and a great revenue generator. I would never pay the crazy expensive airport hotel rates for an overnight layover, but the price of a capsule is totally doable.
I LOVE jjimjilbangs, and I’m sure at some point I’ll see what capsule hotels are all about. Nice post!
Jjimjilbangs are a lot of fun, aren’t they? You totally rock the yang meori while there, don’t you? 😉
Haha, I do, although the first time a giggling ajumma had to help me figure out how to get the towel to stay on my head! 🙂
Lol…I think most expats have been schooled by the ajumma when it comes to yang meori. I know we were… 😀
I’ve been curious about these, too. I think I might feel too claustrophobic in the smaller one, although the curtain (rather than a locking door) might actually help dispel that. Very interesting post! (Side note: my husband used to do business in Korea and could not keep up with all that business drinking! And smoking!)
The small one was really small… literally just a bed with some walls built around it, but the one I stayed in was very comfortable. 🙂
The business drinking in Korea and Japan is completely insane. It’s quite a scene around here some nights. They’ve been making efforts to scale it back in recent years, but it’s so culturally ingrained, that it’s not really working too well. 🙁 They just doubled the price of cigarettes here and restaurants are now all non-smoking, as long as many areas of the streets. Change is definitely afoot…
Super informative! I have always been curious about these things!!!
Me too!! I was so excited when I found this one in Haneda. It almost made the long stopover worthwhile. 😉
I would love to try one of these out! They are more expensive than I thought, but definitely cheaper than most hotels in Tokyo. 🙂
It was a bit more expensive than I thought it would be…I mean, it’s a capsule, after all, but I think these particular ones might’ve been pricier than normal because it was in the airport. I’m guessing they’d be cheaper in a city somewhere. But you’re right…DEFINITELY much cheaper than any hotel!!!
Great topic! I would love to try the capsule hotel as well. I have the reverse of claustrophobia, I actually love being in snug little spaces. I will add the capsule hotel into the list to my ‘why we need to go to Japan’.
Then you would completely love the capsule hotel. 🙂 It’s definitely a “Made in Japan” experience, along with amazing sushi and drunk salarymen passed out all over the streets and subways. 😉
I’ve always wondered about the capsule hotels. Not sure how I’d feel about a curtain instead of a door, but for a long layover it seems like the perfect solution.
It was the ideal solution for my long layover, that’s for sure! I arrived back in Seoul completely refreshed, even though I’d basically been traveling for 2 full days. But yeah, a door would definitely have made it more soundproof, and I think some capsules might have real doors. It was a pretty thick curtain though, and the place was very secure, with key cards to enter either the mens or ladies areas.
Justine of The Travel Lush
I’ve always been curious about staying in a pod! I think its kind of a cool idea for budget travelers who need a place just to crash. I’d never heard of jjimjilbangs before. I love about these quirky cultural customs! Very cool 🙂
I was so happy I finally got to try it out! I’ve been wanting to sleep in one FOREVER. 😀 Seriously, I don’t know why they don’t have capsules in every airport around the world. It seems like a perfect solution for people transiting or on long layovers. :/ Jjimjilbangs are definitely unique! Have you seen the video where Conan and Steven Yeun visit a jjimjilbang? I think it was floating around the internet recently…
Very cool!! I’ve always wanted to stay in one and this one looks really good..guess which one caught my eye?? The hot tub! Yay! I love that…?
This one was really nice… I feel like maybe it was a bit nicer because it was in an airport? That hot tub was seriously amazing after that long flight. Have you been to jjimjilbang in Korea yet? or does all the mandatory nakedness freak you out? 😉
Yeah, that’s what I thought too because it was really very stylish looking and had a lot of good amenities, like the hot tub!! Haha, I’m just obsessed with tubs or water. I’ve been to jimjilbang once, been wanting to go back again but I either had no time to go again or I lost my courage now that I know what it really is like..haha…and I went solo for my first experience there so..hmm…haha…but I really would like to go again…really…it’s only for the hot tub, not so much for the other stuff there though…:)
It’s such a relaxing experience, and it’s amazing how fast you forget about the naked part. 😉 Next, you have to try the body scrub. Nothing like getting all your skin peeled off by a powerful scrubbing ajumma! Which one did you visit? Dragon Hill? I like the hot tubs, but I also love the saunas in the jjimjil area, especially the ones that feel like giant pizza ovens! 🙂
Yup, I went to dragon hill since they seemed more foreigner friendly..haha…but I don’t dare try the scrub though, I’ve heard lots of stories about it..haha! ?
I would actually love to try out one of these capsule hotels 🙂
These Jjimjilbangs appear to be a huge hangover gathering during morning hours! I wouldn’t like to wake up in such environment but then again it is better and safer than sleeping outside for these guys
Yeah, jjimjilbangs are definitely not my favourite place to sleep, but they’re a lot of fun to visit otherwise and great value. For $10-12, you get access to multiple saunas, hot tubs, steam rooms etc… certainly not as comfortable as a capsule hotel for sleeping, but significantly cheaper. 🙂
It really gives a cultural perspective of these two asian nations too.
Thank you so much for sharing 🙂
Thanks Sreejith. I think Japan and Korea get lumped together a lot culturally, and while there are some similarities, the feeling in the 2 countries is very very different. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂