by Justin Hall
My friends and I had wanted to stay in the Shibuya Mark Excel Tokyu Hotel, just above the Shibuya station. It's a business hotel super - nice rooms, some small bit of modern style, and broadband internet. But instead we chose that hotel's more expensive cousin, the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel, an odd walk over pedestrian bridges. We had a 34th floor room, a corner twin. Softest sheets, broadband internet, windows on two sides of the room facing Ebisu and Shibuya. Tokyo Tower shone in the distance on clear days and nights. The bathroom was covered in granite. I bought 3000 yen worth of flavored bubble baths ("latte bath" was a hit) at Don Kihote; each of us save one took our nightly turn overlooking the glimmering lights of Tokyo, bubble bathing in a beautiful view.
So it was not without some regret that I shouldered my bag and took off for the nearest capsule hotel, the Capsule Land Shibuya. This was September, the air was pleasant. Was it already eighhteen months ago that I was living in these tiny plastic slot hotels night after night?
When I was a young writer travelling through Tokyo, I found the cheapest resting places to be Capsule Hotels - commuter crash pads. Modern for the 1970s, the plastic tubes of Tokyo offer a chance to spend a night in the hippest neighborhoods for under US$40, and still shower in the morning. I had forgotten what a magical sense of privacy there is in your tiny curtained pod, playing your GameBoy maybe, or watching TV, while a dozen other men slept above, below and around you in a small room subdivided by coffins. This time I forgot to turn on my air conditioning - the loud fan is a welcome buffer for coughing, cell phones and stumbling bunkmates.
I also forgot how thin these capsule mattresses are - I alternated bruising one hip or the other. Awake earlier than expected in the morning, I fantastized about building a post-modern capsule system. It would start with internet connections, and perhaps a way to lock your little room with your media toys in it. A thicker mattress, capsules slightly longer than six feet, ample luggage storage and no smoking floors. Signs in Japanese, signs in English. Berths for men, berths for women. I wouldn't mind paying a wee bit more for those amenities.
Japan is currently spending millions of dollars to promote internal tourism. Part of their media campaign will work to counter the perception that Japan is an expensive country to visit. Meanwhile an impressive crop of new luxury hotels like the Cerulean are opening all over Tokyo. That's fine for established business people with expense accounts. But if you want to attract a young writers, artists and thinkers who will describe Japan to their friends and families and small web sites back at home, how about encouraging the development of hip, cheap, luxury capsule hotels?
Posted by Justin Hall at 2003年09月29日 04:21