Capsule hotels (カプセルホテル) offer rooms that are similar to torpedo tubes. They're for travelers who just need a place to sleep. Capsule hotels are conveniently located and cheap (2000 ~ 4000 yen).
Capsule rooms are surprisingly comfortable. They're usually about 2 meters long (6 feet 7 inches). Most people can stretch out in one.
The rooms have a television and a central remote control that controls everything you can imagine.
The hotels provide lockers for luggage. They either have communal baths or shower rooms. Some have swimming pools and saunas.
Many capsule hotels are men-only or women-only. Men are far more likely to stay in a capsule hotel. Salary men who miss their last train sleep at a capsule hotel and then go directly back to work in the morning. Staying at a capsule hotel is often far cheaper than a taxi home (after the trains stop running).
Some capsule hotels have different floors for men and women.
Customers with tattoos are (often) not accepted. Tattoos are widely associated with organized crime in Japan. It's also not possible to bring outside food to your room.
Common areas usually include food and drink vending machines and PCs.
Capsule hotels often provide pajamas to wear. Most Japanese guests wear the pajamas. Tourists are less likely to try them.
Some old capsule hotels have vending machines that are used to pay for your stay.
For more than 10 years, capsule hotels have faced increased competition from manga cafes. Manga cafes are cheaper, more flexible and (generally) have more services than a capsule hotel. Manga cafes are only mildly less private than a capsule hotel.
In the 1990s, unemployed (or casually employed) Japanese urbanites were living in capsule hotels.
This social problem has generally shifted to manga cafes. There are Japanese youth living in manga cafes.
Modern capsule hotels are designed to compete with manga cafes. For example, rooms have free wifi and the ability to charge a wide range of mobile devices. They may also include entertainment such as games and video on demand.
Capsule hotels are a recommended Japan travel experience. However, it's not recommended to stay in a capsule for more than a night or two. It's difficult to live out of a locker for too long. Other types of Japanese budget accommodations are far more comfortable for longer stays.