Posted by: Idioma Extra | March 1, 2011

The Weird and the Wonderful

Size Matters: Why Americans Would Never Go for Japan’s Capsule Hotels


Sorry, Japan. Size matters.

With the first Japanese capsule hotel opening in Shanghai last month, micro-hotels could be the next big trend in low-budget accommodations in China.

But even in a recession, don’t look for capsules to start popping up around the U.S., because when it comes to accommodations, Americans are all a bunch of size queens.

“The brands really have spoiled the American traveler,” Jay Schultz, senior vice president of Hotel Business, publisher of Hotel Business Magazine, told AOL News. “The American guest wants, at minimal, what they have at home, if not better.”

Schultz doesn’t believe capsule hotels are viable in the U.S. market, explaining that American travelers have become accustomed to getting a flat-screen TV and Internet access with even the cheapest accommodations.

“Maybe there’s an opportunity in gateway cities,” he suggested, “marketing directly to Asian travelers.”

Capsule hotels, which offer coffin-sized, single occupancy “rooms,” have been around since 1979, when the Capsule Hotel Inn first opened its wee doors in central Osaka. Since then, weary Japanese businessmen — even a wayward foreigner or two — have turned to them as cheap accommodations in cities throughout Japan.      

With nightly rates starting at about $50, the economics makes sense. And for the Japanese, there isn’t much of a menu: The alternative is to stay at a “love hotel,” which costs about $100 and rents by the hour, or a proper budget hotel, which runs at least twice as much.

Matt Nordstrom, a Web designer from New Jersey, stayed in a capsule hotel several years ago while visiting his girlfriend in Osaka. He remembers the overnight stay, which cost $40, as something he would only want to do once.

“I’m not claustrophobic, but it was a really tight space,” Nordstrom recalled in an interview with AOL News. “There was just enough room to fit inside. There wasn’t even a door. You had this little screen that you pulled down for privacy.”

With space at a premium, he said, some people slept with their feet hanging out of their rooms. And to the space restriction, add a time one, as well. At 7 a.m., there was an announcement reminding guests to leave their pods by 9 a.m.

Nordstrom expressed a healthy skepticism about the chances of capsule hotels taking off in the United States.

“I don’t know if, as a society, we can handle capsule hotels,” he stated. “They’re a little too public.”

Word of the Day

Capsule: \ˈkap-səl, -(ˌ)sül also -ˌsyül\
Origin: French, from Latin capsula, diminutive of capsa box — more at case
First Known Use: circa 1693
1: extremely brief
2: small and very compact

More Vocabulary

Gateway city: n. a city that serves as a departure or arrival point for international flights.
Pod: n.
a usually protective container or housing
Viable: adj.
financially sustainable
Wayward: adj.
capricious, erratic, or unpredictable
Wee: adj.
very small: diminutive

Love those Phrasal Verbs

Hang out: to lean or be suspended through an opening

  • Rose was dressed a bit too scandalous for the office, parts of her were hanging out of her clothes. She received a written warning.

Pull down: to draw downward

  • Because of my flying phobia, I must pull the shade down when I am sitting in the window seat.

Take off: to achieve sudden, marked growth, success, etc.

  • Sales took off just before Christmas.


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