Popular Japanese Capsule Accommodation Spreading Abroad

By P Chong                                              16 April 2010

Asakusa Capsule Hotel
One of the Original Capsule Hotel

More like Cubicles/Pigeon Holes

It’s possible to travel on a shoe-string in Japan because you can save heaps by staying in those “capsule hotels” – where there won’t be any room service but self-capsule service. The capsule, neat & clean,  usually in dimension of 3x3x6ft is all that is needed for you staying overnight in the middle of Tokyo.

Apart from the air-ticket fare, the bulk of the travelling expenses goes towards accommodation.

Capsule Hotel Guest

Such accommodation is modestly clean & safe. For 3200 Yen (about $30) you get a bed in a capsule cell, a capsule box incorporating TV/Radio & controls for volume, light switches. The facilities as provided by the hotel include inexpensive restaurant, massage rooms & baths. Washing/bathing & toiletries being all external & separate may be somewhat inconvenient.

Ticket Vending Machine

At the entrance, you will told that you are expected to stay in until check-out time. They give you a suit of inner wear & a locker key. Most of these hotels accommodate male only, with the exception of some which have women-only floor. $29 is so cheap compared to what is usually charged $120 – $200 for a 3-star hotel in Japan.

Capsule Box Controls

Asakusa Capsule Hotel in Tokyo charges $30 for a capsule with a small TV incorporated with the alarm clock, Radio in a capsule box.


Beijing Introductory Capsule Apartment

In Beijing, China the idea of the capsule-type of accommodation, known appropriately as “Capsule Apartments” has been introduced at the 2010 Spring Real Estate Fair recently. The new living spaces have attracted many people’s attention. Some say that they meet the demands of graduates who are not rich enough to rent a bigger suite. Hopefully, they would alleviate the problem of accommodating those millions of migrant workers who can ill-afford more expensive housing.

Each unit is less than 2 square meters and can only fit a single bed.

Huang Rixin –  designer and owner of the “Capsule Apartments” in Beijing.

“Those who earn one thousand to one and a half thousand a month can’t afford the rent for a single room, which may be 600. So I took out the money I saved over more than two years to build the capsule apartments. I hope it will be accepted by the public, and that the government will consider this issue and take it as a method to solve the housing problem of the floating population in the city.” said Huang. The 72-year-old retired engineer built 8 units of capsule apartments in Beijing. The monthly rent for each unit is between 200-250 yuan.

Huang had an open display of his capsule units and attracted its first tenant, 25-year-old Zhang Qi. The young lady has worked in Beijing for five years with a monthly salary of over three thousand yuan. She wants to save more money to help her family. Zhang says that the only inconvenience is the toilet and shower, because the bathroom is not on the same floor. But she felt she can overcome this if others can.

In places like Hong Kong & Singapore, where space is a premium, such neat capsules could be considered adequate at least temporary. To think of it, in the early days of Hong Kong, migrant workers used to share the same bed with sleeping arrangement alternating according to their work schedule.

Even the early days of Singapore HDB flats used to be nothing but cubicles, like pigeon holes! The same goes for Hong Kong where two in the kitchen is a crowd!

In Perth, we are indeed a fortunate lot with the luxury of space. But as with the enlargement & spread of urban sprawl & land becoming more scarce, the traditional quarter-size building lots are increasingly being squeezed to less than 400 sqm. However, single dwelling is much preferred to apartment type of dwelling.

The ‘Binlan’ Girls of Taiwan

The ‘Binlan’ Girls of Taiwan

(Betel Nut Beauties)

382771568_c1773f65da_o.jpg_2Scantily-clad Sexy Girls in Glass Cubicle

Like a page taken from the Red Light Districts of Hamburg, Amsterdam or Rotterdam, a recent cultural phenomenon is making its presence felt along the streets of Taiwan. From the neon-lit cubicles scantily-clad beauties solicit their trade. You would immediately be mistaken they are prostitutes or sex workers plying sex. Surprisingly, they are only selling betel nuts.

It’s often said that it’s not it’s not what you sell that counts but how you sell. The whole crux of the matter lies in the strategy of marketing. Basically, everyone of us is a salesperson, whether it’s an idea or a thing, an emotion such as love or an appeal. Everything is translated in your ability to putting it across effectively to be accepted by the public at large.

In Taiwan, betel nut also known as areca nut, is the second largest agricultural product, consumed as in most Asian countries as a stimulant. When laced with lime and chewed with betel leaf it is a popular drug stimulant. Long distance truck drivers, looking for a quick pick-me-up and other motorists were the target market and selling booths conveniently lined all feeder roads leading to major highways.

That scenario has given way to a glamorous strategy of marketing. Now selling booths or cubicles (once only served by old women) are manned by young pretty and sexy “Binlan” girls clad scantily only in bikinis, even in the cold winter environment. Old women who used to ply the trade are no longer on the scene. “Binlan” is a Mandarin word for betel. Glass booths make their presence everywhere, recognizable at night by strips of green florescence light. Evidently, sex sells. Motorists are attracted to buy not only betel nuts, but also cigarettes and soft drinks as plied by such “Binlan” girls in provocative outfits.


Their popularity has given rise to much controversy and public outcry has from time to time forced upon political pressure over its control and management. It’s believed that many a “Binlang” girl is a runaway kid of poverty or sex-abused background or may even be drug addicted and the operation controlled by Chinese mafia. There are an estimated 60,000 kiosks employing thousands of girls who are reputed to earn more than $1,000 per month.

Whatever the position, as in sex prostitution, for which Taiwan is nonetheless as well-known as Thailand, “Binlan” girls will continue to play their serving role. To them this is just a normal job & in no way feel themselves to be exploited.


In retrospect, on my first visit to Taipei in 1972, I was awed by the visual publicity of large signboards displaying VD Clinics or Hospitals. The signboards may visibly have disappeared, but the urban seedy side of life is as vibrant as ever.

Now how about this, figurines of “Binlan” girls as replacements to do the trade? Unbelievable that man has all the ingenuity to come out with such a contraption! But will customers be satisfied? Nothing like the real thing?


Paul Chong

A Chinese by Descent

An Australian by Consenty

Thursday, December 8, 2005 @ 4.35 am