An evening in After Life in Japan

Many of us have speculated what heaven would be like. If one were to ask me, I would say the capsule hotels in Tokyo are the closest to my concept of heaven. That one evening I spent at the capsule hotel has been etched indelibly in my mind.

The trees have shed all
The leaves of the year gone
New year beckons

Man comes into the world empty handed and empty handed he leaves. He has to leave behind all the possessions of the previous world as he moves on to the next world. As you enter the capsule hotel, you leave behind all you possessions at the entrance as you leave the outside world and enter the capsule world. You even enter a changing room and leave all your clothes behind and put on the robes of the capsule world. That done you are now a denizen of the capsule world.

All trees look alike
Not a color nor fragrance
To discriminate
It is a different world inside the hotel. It does not matter who you were in the outside world. Inside all are the same. Everyone wears the same type of robes. Everyone is by himself. Everyone eventually dies alone. Everyone come to the capsule hotel alone. People tend to go about their business ignoring all the others at the hotel as if the others do not exist. No one talks to anyone else.

The only distinguishing mark is a rubber strap with a number around the wrist. The hot water spring, the cold water pool, the baths and the sauna are free for unlimited use by all. Also free are the showers, the soaps, the towels, the shaving sets and tooth brushes and paste. You ask and it shall be given to you. But then there are things you need to pay for as well. The foot, head and neck massages, the aromatic oil body massage, the Thai full body massage and the Swedish massage. But then you have come in leaving behind all your worldly possessions. For all that you enjoy in this world, you need to pay for in the next world. They note down the wrist strap number and charge against that number. When you are ready to return to the outside world, you will have to cough up the dough.

One gentleman called Douglas Adams has written a book called Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In that he says “Man has always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much...the wheel, New York, wars and so on...while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man...for precisely the same reason.

You need to spend time in the hot water springs in Japan to get a first hand understanding of the pleasures of mucking about in the water. This capsule hotel has both open and closed hot water springs and cold water pools. Both have their charms. The closed ones of course are cozier. But there is a certain excitement being inside water with a view of the sky. And I think I neglected to mention these springs and pools are located on the terrace on the fourth floor of the buildings.

The mind is already free leaving behind all of one’s burdens at the door itself. But the bare body itself may have become a burden for few. That’s where the massages come in. There is a massage for the foot, for the neck, for the hands, for the face, for the head, for the body. Whatever massage you want, you ask for it and you have it. Under the dexterous fingers of the professional, one almost experiences an out of the world experience.

Food and drink are available in abundance and one is spoilt for choice. The choicest delicacies are on offer at the food court. But then here too as in the outside world, there ain’t no such thing as free lunches. Your wrist strap number will be duly noted and for whatever you enjoy in this world, you need to pay the price for when you move to the next world.

The strap is the key to everything in this world and it holds the key to your final resting place as well: the capsule. The capsules are like tubes piled one on top of another in stacks very close to each other. Each room will have close to a 100 capsules. No one can beat the Japanese in economy of space. In some ways a capsule feels like a coffin. There is space only to lie down. No place even to sit. The capsules have numbers. Any guesses what the capsule number is? Yes. The number on the strap! You have ladders to climb up to the higher capsules. The capsules are locked and the keys are attached to the respective leather straps. You open the lock, enter and go to sleep. Interestingly it is very comfortable inside. You have lights, pillows, sheets, blankets, temperature control and even a television with a remote control. All that inside a coffin sized capsule. I am sure the robots would have kept humans inside something like this only in the Matrix movies. But one gets real sound sleep inside these capsules. Maybe because it feels secure like inside the mother’s womb. Don’t know if it feels the same inside coffins as well.

Trees come back to life
As the last snow melts away
Green leaves spring anew



After an evening of hot springs and the relaxing massages, one feels invigorated in body and spirit as one leaves the next morning. Back in the outside world, the entire previous evening’s existence feels like a dream. But one feels full of life, fresh for life’s challenges.

Writer's note : My attempt to narrate an experience in an impersonal tone. Been seeing lot of folks adding poetry in their stories/narrative. My first attempt at incorporating three Haikus inside a post. 

This post is an entry for Incredible Stories contest sponsored by Mahindra

Picture Credits (In the order of appearance on the post)

1. Winter Tree
2. Dolphin
3. Capsule Hotel
4. Green Tree 

35 comments:

umashankar said...

You have told in lyrical tones about a world that shreds one of all individuality right at its doorsteps, probably to be restored later. There are places where narration transcends from ecstasy to surrealism. For all your coaxing, I wouldn't want to sleep in a coffin for sure!

Then, as you say, maybe its a great idea, after all! Who knows whose is the wiser perspective: the man's or the dolphin's?

Moonbeam said...

enjoyed reading this...loved your philosophical musings :) personally speaking i would'nt go anywhere near such a 'capsule'...too claustrophobic!

Stan Szczesny said...

This post is awesome. I had never heard of capsule hotels. Fascinating concept, and you wrote about them in an intriguing and insightful way. The haikus were fun. The idea of fragrance in the second haiku really hit me. We often think of facial features and color when talking about racial discrimination, but we don't always remember the role smell plays in it.

Arvind Passey said...

Yes, Japan is indeed full of incredible stories... and you've certainly mentioned a few.

C. Suresh said...

Reads like poetry all the way! The Haikus were but the icing! Lovely post. As for a coffin, you are in eternal sleep anyway before you enter it (hopefully!) :):)

The Fool said...

Thanks, Umashankar.You summarized the essence of my thoughts nicely.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Sumana. Yeah, not everyone can enjoy the capsule hotel experience the same way.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Stan. Glad you liked the Haikus. I got this idea of embedding Haikus within my posts from your writings only. Actually even I did not think about smells of humans. I was thinking more about trees. But, yes, humans also can get characterized by how they smell. No wonder perfume company run a thriving business.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Mr. Passey.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Suresh. Glad you liked the overall language. Yeah I was trying to be different instead of the usual descriptive narration. About eternal sleep, possibly true.

pramod said...

I hadn't known any such thing existed. Eager to experience it. beautiful pen down. hope someone puts me in it for a month.

The Fool said...

Thanks, PL. Maybe there is scope for starting these kind of capsule hotels in India also. But again, may not work in India. Indians are by nature too nosy and talkative. The place will be filled with gossip and chit chat, destroying the calmness.

Shanky said...

Very well narrated and loved the use of poetry interlude in the narration. Loved it!

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Shanky. First time I am trying poetic interludes. There are other bloggers who are experts at this.

DS said...

Beautifully described!
Though I am not sure if I would be interested to stay in such constricted space!!
But apart from the coffin, everything about the place seems A grade!!
Best Luck TF.

The Fool said...

Thanks DS. No one seems to be liking the coffin?

DS said...

Who would? And on a side note, were these capsule hotels cheap? I dont think so with all the facilities that were provided inside!

The Fool said...

If you just go there, muck around in the water and sleep around in the coffin, you may not spend much. It is when you start having the massages and food, it starts eating into your pocket. I did all that and ended up shelling out 10 grand

Vikram Pyati said...

A very good read.. the philosophical touch to the post makes it even more endearing... I really really liked the first Haiku

The trees have shed all
The leaves of the year gone
New year beckons

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Vikram. Feels good coming from an accomplished poet like you.

Arti said...

Sounds like a prison to me. Still, here I am.. Yearning to spend a night or two in that capsule. That is the beauty of this post. Thanks for this TF, the idea is very innovative and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Got to learn something new as well. I loved the way you juxtaposed poetry with philosophy and facts, only a wonderful writer like you could have done it with so much ease. All the Best , TF :)

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Arti. That is a real lovely compliment. Such comments only keep me going at my writing.

Does that mean you will spend a night at a capsule hotel in Tokyo?

Ankit Patel said...

My dad always talks about JAPAN ... he says it is the most sincere nation and that it has the power to recover in every circumstance... today I saw the other perspective of it ! :D :D good post.. loved reading it... :D

Your newest follower - Ankit! :D

The Fool said...

Thanks, Ankit and welcome to my blog. Japan is really an amazing place.

Kajal said...

Have been to JApan a couple of times.. but not recently.. and I find that the host the best. I agree with you.. the way they manage their space is something we should all learn from. Those capsules look like coffins alright!! :)

Ramakant Pradhan said...

Fascinating read. Never knew about capsule hotels. Still wondering if people just have too much dough to dole out for staying in a coffin!

Loved your style of narration. The embedded poetry mingled nicely and added charm to the post.

The Fool said...

@Kajal - Nice to see someone else who has been through the capsule experience.

The Fool said...

@Ramkant - Thanks for your words of appreciation. Capsule hotels can actually be cheaper than a regular hotel if you give a miss to the food and massages.

Elvira Lobo(Elli) said...

exiciting as just like am on visit to Tokyo with reading ur post... have seen Capsule hotels trip documentary on a Japenese Channel once...and not to forget superliked the haikus supporting the post:)

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Elli. I hope my description matches with what you saw in the documentary.

Elvira Lobo(Elli) said...

Yeah very much

Rahul said...

Interesting.The experience as such didn't impress me much.But the styles you adopted to make this post work for you,those are commendable.Simple narrative style.3 haikus in one.After all,it's a post on Japan.Couldn't have a more appropriate usage.:-) You have managed to instill a sense of ease through your slow,peaceful,unhurried pace.Not bad.Not bad at all.:-)Well done.

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Rahul. By itself it does not seem incredible. But incredible is a state of mind. I found the stay at that place really incredible and it found expression this way.

Punit Dubey said...

Liked the way you made the mood and then went on describing it :)
Vaise, have you ever been to Capsule Hotel? Ain't they more or less like dormitories....except that have got more comfort, cleaner environ and facilities like pool.. O_o

The Fool said...

Thanks, Punit. Well, the sleeping facilities can be compared to dormitory except the novelty of the capsule. But the other facilities are amazing - the onsens, saunas, massages etc. And it is very strange how there are so many folks, yet folks go around ignoring each other and the utter silence.

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