Snoring in a Japanese capsule hotel

If you ever get a chance to be in Tokyo, don’t stay shut up in your hotel room. Sushi, Harajuku teenagers, cherry blossom: there’s enough to photograph. However, you make it very hard for yourself if you decide to go to Tsukiji fish market, especially if you have a jet lag, because it starts very early in the morning.

Capsule 614 is mine

To make sure I get to the fish market as early as possible, I have booked a capsule hotel in the city. Lack of sleep causes me to forget to take my shoes off when I walk in. I mutter a ‘sumimasin’ (sorry) to the receptionist, who hands me a key to a shoe locker. I also receive an A4 sheet with instructions in bad English and explanatory photos.

The cellar is for men. It contains around 14 beds in two layers, one on top of the other. I was allocated bunk 614. I undress and get into my ‘jukata’ (a simple kimono) and put my luggage in a locker. The lock is more for form than of any practical use – there is no stealing here. Tokyo is one of the cities where low crime rates are falling.

Before I dive into my bunk, I take a shower Japanese style, which is just a bit different. You sit on a plastic stool and wash with water you pour over yourself using the container provided. After washing you take a hot bath. I hope I will be able to sleep well as a result.

At 1.85 metres tall, I fit the capsule perfectly. There is a TV and an inbuilt alarm clock and a small ledge where I can put my valuables. I am early but someone is already asleep and snoring in bunk 601. Almost all the cabins are occupied and I can hear Japanese game shows in the background and even more snoring. In some aircraft we have similar “capsules” where crew can get their legal requirement of rest on long flights, so I felt a little at home here. But I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with claustrophobia! Amazingly I fell asleep until the alarm went off at 3 a.m. Up and off to Tsukiji! The early rise was absolutely worth it. Just see for yourself!

All available modes of transport are employed, like this old-fashioned handcart

These twinkling eyes belong to a highly skilled fish filleter.

Outside Tsukiji fish market