Flying into Japan’s Narita International Airport can be an exhausting experience, even for the most seasoned of travelers. This sentiment is especially true for first-time flyers venturing far from their comfort zone and into a surreal neon jet-lagged dream. While there are other airports around the country, Narita will most likely be your main point of entry to the Land of the Rising Sun—and for good reason.
The airport’s acclaim matches some of the globe’s biggest transport hubs. Numbers of domestic and international travelers in 2018 were 42 million and 44 million in 2019, but when the COVID-19 pandemic threw a proverbial kink into Japan’s tourism industry, the amount of passengers dropped to a mind-bogglingly low 10 million travelers in 2020. But no more. Since October of 2022, Narita has kicked back open its doors to the world. Awesome. So how does this help your fatigue?
Narita Airport is located in the eponymous city of Narita, nested inside of Chiba Prefecture. While beautiful in its own right, Narita is probably not the city you came to visit. Tokyo lies 64 kilometers away, at least an hour by the NARITA Express, and longer by other options. Instead of limping to Japan’s mega-metropolis capital disoriented and tired, how about catching your breath at an extremely affordable and authentically Japanese capsule hotel, conveniently found at Narita Airport?
Located on the first floor of Terminal 2’s basement, (B1F), the hotel is well advertised and easy to find. While there isn’t a plethora of restaurants or attractions nearby, (a 7/11 and row of GACHA Machines), that’s not really the point of the capsule hotel. It’s a “no-nonsense” 24-hour spot to catch a few winks, while placing you at an advantageous proximity to rail facilities like JR East and Narita EXPRESS also spread out on B1F.
It is a sleek, minimalistic establishment. The quaint spotless hotel lobby is packed with travelers from all walks of life. Interestingly—yet understandably—a few of the house rules entail “no talking”, “no loud noises” and “no children”, as all three seem inseparable. Upon paying, you receive a black mesh cloth bag filled with necessary items for your stay: locker key, slippers, pajamas, towels, tooth-brush and miniature toothpaste, all printed with the hotel’s logo. The left wing is for males and the right are for females: no mixer events at this particular spot.
Lockers greet you on the left and right with corresponding key numbers. While not large enough to accommodate massive pieces of luggage, the space is ample for salarymen, day-trippers or those with domestic-sized baggage. It’s not the proper environment for full-blown conversation, so it’s understood that guests keep to themselves, save for a smile or a nod.
Once you’ve stored your belongings, an ideal next step would be a shower in one of the multiple stalls. As opposed to other hotels with a meager offering of shampoos and soaps, Nine Hours provides its guests with ample fragrant options to wash down. The showers are also available as an a-la-carte option for those wishing simply to spray off that airplane grime without staying for the night. On a personal note, the high water pressure was a luxurious touch that warranted an extended stay under the strong liquid beams.
Once you’re squeaky clean, it’s time to examine your beddings. Capsule hotels are known throughout Japan as a ubiquitous and economical choice for guests with no desire for all the bells and whistles associated with a standard hotel. Nine Hours is no different. Rows of elevated and floor-level sleep pods line the elongated hall with a warm glow. With dimensions of 1.2m x 2m x 1m, the capsules themselves are spacious enough to fit a normal sized human, but for those with full-blown claustrophobia, it may not be the best fit. However, as may be the common belief, there are no proper enclosures to the capsules except for a drawn curtain. Whether for safety reasons, or visitors with a fear of being closed in, it provides a basic sleeping situation not unlike a futuristic camping trip.
To sum it up, Nine Hours Capsule Hotel is an excellent option to the inevitable sojourn in Narita, even more so if your arrival to Japan is significantly after-hours. Instead of burning the candle at both ends with non-stop commuting, why not experience the comfort and novelty that comes with a good night’s sleep in a snug shell?
To find it, head to Narita Airport’s Terminal 2, then take the escalator downstairs to BF1 and follow the signs down the hall and finally back up another escalator to your encased slumber.
Joshua first came to Japan with his family over 10 years ago and it completely ruined his life (in the best of ways). When he’s not trying to pass the JLPT, he’s researching Japanese history, enjoying 80s J-Pop and dreaming of 牛丼. He’s currently writing, writing, writing…mostly about Japan and video games.