pod living at tokyo’s haneda airport

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I’ve stayed in a few so-called “Pod Hotels” in various cities including New York, and was always somewhat disappointed that I did not get the full authentic pod experience one might get in Japan. A trip to Seoul via Tokyo changed all that.

After arriving at Tokyo’s Haneda airport [HND] after a smooth thirteen hour non-stop ride from New York JFK, I was full of pod anticipation. Months earlier I had discovered that there was an authentic pod hotel in the HND airport called “First Cabin” and this was finally going to be my pod moment.

First Cabin is located in HND domestic terminal one, so I first had to make my way via free shuttle bus from the international terminal to terminal one. Once there, I made my way to First Cabin. The place is correctly named – the pods feel like a combination of sauna and first class airplane berth. Men and women are segregated, and upon check in you are given the reference number to your pod. I was booked into Z08.

The check-in process was quick and efficient, and the cost for one night was approx ¥4900 or somewhere around US$50. for the night. All hallways leading to the pods themselves are painted black – walls, ceilings and floors – and it is impeccably clean. Not a speck of dirt anywhere. The bathrooms, showers and sauna would also have made Mr. Clean proud.

Even though I knew this would be an authentic pod experience, upon first glance I was still slightly shocked at the size of the pod itself. It was just big enough to fit a twin bed and that is it. Japanese law prohibits the individual pods from being locked, so there is a lockable cabinet to keep your valuables, and the pod closes by drawing down a thick brown shade which, when fully closed, still leaves a gap of approximately six inches from the ground.

I was given slippers, First Cabin knee-high track pants and a shirt, a toothbrush and mini-toothpaste, and towels. The cabin itself has wifi and two outlets to plug in electronic devices. There is also a TV, but with programming only in Japanese I decided to pass on that [my Japanese is only a little better than my Swahili].

What is incredible is that everyone in the pod was as quiet as a church mouse, as the rules of First Cabin state. No mobile phone usage, and a general respect for being seen but not heard added to the quasi-surreal pod atmosphere. Of course, one cannot stop someone from snoring, and there was one fellow nearby who was marking his snoring territory all night.

All in all, First Cabin was not a bad way to spend a night in the airport. The convenience, price, comfy bed and shower sure beat sleeping on the terminal floor.

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