Nakagin Capsule Tower was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. Photo: SoraNews24

The pros and cons of living in Nakagin Capsule Tower

By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

Tokyo is just as well-known for its ancient shrines and temples as it is for its bright, modern neon screens, but there are a lot of buildings in the city that sit in between these disparate time frames.

Nakagin Capsule Tower is one such building, glistening as a futuristic marvel of modern architecture and catching everyone’s eye with its unusual cubic design when it was first erected in 1972. Now, 49 years after it first sprang to life, the aging building, which houses 140 self-contained prefabricated capsules, faces the threat of being demolished, after the majority of capsule owners voted to tear the complex down in 2007 and replace it with a more modern tower.

After Kurokawa opposed the demolition, and suggested instead that the prefabricated capsules inside the complex be replaced with more modern ones, plans were stalled and Masato Abe, a capsule owner who once lived in the building, founded the “Save Nakagin Tower” project.

As part of its preservation plans, the “Save Nakagin Tower” project has been leasing around 30 capsule apartments to the public on a monthly basis since 2018. However, these monthly stays were temporarily closed recently, which came as sad news to our reporter Chie Nomura, who had been waiting to rent one of these apartments. She managed to get in contact with Tatsuyuki Maeda, a representative from the organization, to let him know her desire to live in the tower, and after a few days passed, she was thrilled when he called her back to let her know an apartment had become available.

So Nomura gathered a month’s worth of essentials together and made her way to the twin towers, located conveniently close to Shimbashi Station and within walking distance of the fashionable Ginza district.

▼ The entrance to the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building looks a little run-down, but that’s part of its charm.


It didn’t take long for Nomura to be shown to her room, and as soon as she stepped into the prefabricated capsule, she was pleased to find it was everything she’d hoped it would be.

▼ The room looked like a spaceship, and the star of the show was the unique circular window.


It certainly wasn’t big, but that was to be expected from a capsule apartment, and Nomura wasted no time in unpacking the box of goods she’d brought with her to help her settle in for a month in the room.

The retro vibe here was strong, extending to the original introductory booklet which Nomura found on a side table inside the room. According to the information in the booklet, the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building actually consists of two interconnected cement towers, one 11 stories high and the other 13, with prefabricated capsule “plugs” that can be used as residences or offices.

After spending a few days in her apartment, Nomura discovered it came with a variety of pros and cons, so let’s take a look first at the upsides of living in the iconic tower. Of course, the top reason for staying here is the convenient location and the chance to step back in time and enjoy the retro atmosphere inside an architecturally respected landmark in Tokyo.

▼ This image, of another apartment inside the tower, shows a room that most closely resembles the original when it was completed in the ’70s.


One of the most iconic aspects of the building is the round windows that adorn each cube. Nomura loved the design aesthetic, and spent a lot of time gazing out of that round window from the cosy comfort of her bed.


▼ The wall storage system is incredibly retro, with a desk that conveniently pulls down when you need to use it.


▼And the door on the right conceals a closet with a good-sized mirror.


And what about this Sony reel-to-reel tape recorder? These were a high-end way to play and record music in the ’60s and ’70s, and although this one didn’t seem to work when Nomura fiddled with it, she was fascinated to see it was still included in all the rooms.

▼ It’s not every day you get to stay in a room with a built-in open-reel recorder from the ’70s.


▼ The rounded door to the bathroom was also a retro lover’s dream.


While the upsides to her stay were the prestige of staying inside the complex, the convenience of its location, and its gorgeous retro design, the room isn’t without its pitfalls. The most obvious downside is the fact that there’s no kitchen inside the room (portable gas stoves aren’t allowed either as open fires are prohibited) and the bar fridge (seen in the photo above) doesn’t work, which means you’ll be eating out or dining in on ready-made store-bought meals during your month-long stay.

Perhaps the biggest inconvenience, however, is the fact that hot water to the rooms was shut off in 2010 after one of the water pipes burst in the building. That means there’s no hot water in the bathroom, but there is a shared shower room on-site so you won’t have to stink the place out for a month.

▼ No running hot water might be a pain in winter, but it isn’t so bad in summer.


There are also no washing machines in the building, so Nomura would have to use a laundromat outside the complex to wash her clothes during her stay. According to Google Maps, the nearest laundromat was a 16-minute walk away, but she was up for the adventure.

Stays in the 10-square-meter rooms are priced at 120,000 yen, which works out to roughly 4,000 yen a night, making the capsule apartments much more affordable than standard hotel rooms in the city.

While the rooms aren’t available to rent at the moment, there’s a high likelihood they’ll become available in the near future, so you too can live the high life like Nomura. Watch this space for her next update, which will include tips for those considering a stay there, and more information on the fate of the building, which is currently on tenterhooks.


Nakagin Capsule Tower Building / 中銀カプセルタワー

Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-16-10



Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Manga Art Hotel Tokyo: What it’s like to spend a night surrounded by 5,000 Japanese manga

-- We stay at a downtown Shibuya capsule hotel and indulge in unlimited baths and sauna sessions

-- Sorry, ladies: Yokohama’s got all-new “Japan”-themed capsule hotel rooms just for men

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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 hot water to the rooms was shut off in 2010 after one of the water pipes burst in the building

No one thought to fix/replace the pipe? Gotta love the Japanese attitude toward building maintenance.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Would feel like living in the cabin of a ship. Lockdown would be unbearable as cabin fever set in

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Interesting lessons valid for any times. The lack of flexibility, conviction that a pinnacle was reached and the future has nothing to offer, accelerates obsolescence. There are many constructions from the same time and older that do perfectly fine now and will do so for decades to come.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The architect doesn't think verandas look cool.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Live in your own small world, if you feel free and relaxed, that's pros for u, otherwise it's cons when you feel like you're out of breath.

These capsules should have been popular in HK, Taiwan, every smaller countries than Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Seen it many times, always thought it looks like a stack of clapped out old washing machines, surprised it's still there.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

An idea that could be adapted for the millions of homeless Americans camping under blue tarps in every city park, underpass, and roadside green space in every city in the country.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

No one thought to fix/replace the pipe? Gotta love the Japanese attitude toward building maintenance.

It is not an uncommon problem for hot water pipes to start leaking. In high rise like this however where every space has pipes, replacing them means tearing the whole building apart. The cost is prohibitive. But an on-demand water heater at each sink and in the shower could solve the problem, albeit expensively. I have lived through replacing hot water pipes in a condo complex and it wasn't fun.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

An idea that could be adapted for the millions of homeless Americans camping under blue tarps in every city park, underpass, and roadside green space in every city in the country.

I think the problems with the hot water plumbing should cue you in to the problems of building high rise housing for the homeless. Maintenance costs will be very high. You will have constant plumbing problems, elevators, HVAC, all of that ends up being harder to maintain when you are a couple of stories off the ground. In the US there are efforts to house the homeless in what are called Tiny Homes but that runs into buzz saws of opposition by neighborhood groups. In fact the US could have probably housed much of its homeless population many years ago had it not been for constant opposition to such housing by local groups. Every effort is met with a flurry of lawsuits and nothing can be done until all of the suits are settled. Often cities lose these suits and have to develop another plan, which is again met by lawsuits. Nobody wants the poor in their neighborhood. Not a good thing, it borders on immoral, but just how it is.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

An idea that could be adapted for the millions of homeless Americans camping under blue tarps in every city park, underpass, and roadside green space in every city in the country.

Or the homeless of Tokyo, camping under blue tarps in Ueno and other parks or along riverbanks and under bridges here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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