Capsule Hotels

“I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6b

Capsule hotel

In observing a capsule hotel in Japan, one’s initial impressions may be that the capsules resemble drawers designed to store corpses in a morgue or appear to be a collection of human cryogenic vaults depicted in a science fiction movie. Called “kapuseru hoteru” (カプセルホテル) in Japanese, the capsule hotel concept started in Osaka in 1979 before spreading to major cities in Japan and eventually to other parts of the world. Around 300 such hotels now exist in Japan, servicing weary customers who are looking for simple, inexpensive lodging for the night.

Kapuseru hoteru come in various sizes with some hosting up to 700 sleeping units. Each compartment is approximately the size of a single bed with a height of about one meter, allowing sufficient space for the guest to crawl into the chamber and sit up. They are usually made out of plastic, but other materials are also utilized. Amenities in the capsule ordinarily include air conditioning, adjustable lighting, a small TV, WIFI and an electric socket. Upgraded versions are a bit larger, with added perks, and many incorporate a miniature workspace. Toilets, bathing facilities, dining and lounge areas are communally shared like a hostel. Other services, like restaurants, bars and a pool, are provided in the more upscale capsule hotel complexes.

When guests check into a kapuseru hoteru, they usually store their belongings, including their clothing, in lockers and are provided with a yukata (Japanese robe) and slippers. Such hotels routinely cater to Japanese businessmen, who may have missed the last available commuter train from work or were too intoxicated to return home safely. The prices average around ¥2000–4000 ($20-40) a night and they are not recommended for individuals who struggle with claustrophobia. A frequent complaint regarding the older models is that the walls tend to be so thin that noise from neighboring capsules, like snoring, carries easily and may disrupt sleep. One writer, following his first stay in a kapuseru hoteru, wrote in his review: “I’d give this Pillbox Hilton four stars for cleanliness, three stars for efficiency and one meteorite for comfort.” (Mark Schreiber The Japan Times January 16, 2001).

Capsule hotels are obviously, just a temporary and minimal provision for those needing some kind of housing on short notice and working with a limited budget. Comfort, space and other elements that are typically part of a normal residence are either non-existent or are a far cry from one’s usual expectations. But even the most opulent and grandeur lodging available here on earth cannot compare to what awaits us in our eternal home in heaven. The Bible provides some vivid descriptions of what our heavenly “house of the Lord” might look like, but far more important than appearances and creature comforts is what we stand to gain from being in the presence of the Lord. The author of Revelation, in his review of heaven, described such housing in the following manner: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:3-4) That sounds like a great place to get a good night’s sleep and much, much more.

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