Life in a cabin

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I WAS standing next to the counter at a cabin hotel located atop an exit of Namba station in Osaka, Japan. The receptionist showed me the rules written in English before giving me a touch card to access the floor where my cabin room was located.

This was what the rules said:

1.    Check-in time: 3pm, check-out time: 10am;

2.    Do not use mobile phone in your room;

3.    Please keep quiet in the premises;

4.    Use the provided earphones to listen to your TV;

5.    Our staff reserves the right to wake you up if you snore too loudly.”

I wondered what kind of deal I had gotten myself into. I had glanced through its website before departing for Japan for my two-month sabbatical, and loved the concept of a cabin hotel, thinking it would be fantastic to experience local culture by living with a bunch of Japanese under the same roof.

Imagine a gigantic dormitory with many cabins located next to each other.

It runs on an open concept in that the cabins do not have a door (curtains are used in this case to offer privacy), and even if you put on the curtains, it is not completely sealed due to the ventilation space on top of the cabin.

In addition to a touch card for access, another key is provided to unlock the drawer underneath the bed.

The drawer is large enough to store some personal belongings such as a small backpack, a laptop and a wallet.

The best is yet to come — there is a LCD TV hung at the end of the bed, an aisle big enough for you to stretch your body, hang your clothes, and work on a small table.

So here I was, getting ready to see for myself what the lodging in a cabin would be like, and after spending a total of six nights in a cabin — four nights in Osaka and two in Kyoto — I understood why such seemingly harsh rules were set in the first place.

Firstly, we had to tone down the volume so that we would not cause disturbance to other guests next to our cabin, or across from ours.

That’s why we couldn’t talk over the phone, or watch television without a headset. Imagine how the hall would be like with, say 50 guests, turning on their TVs and chatting over their phones in the middle of the night.

Well, if you think rules are just for breaking, then you would be wrong, especially in this case. My fellow Japanese guests followed through the instructions and despite occasional snoring, I had a quiet and enjoyable lodging experience.

When I felt I was space-deprived and needed more air, I went to its business lounge to power up my laptop and do some work while enjoying the hustle and bustle across the street.

I particularly enjoyed its Japanese-style hot tub “ofuro”. After a long day in the city, you come back to take a shower by sitting on a stool, then soak yourself in the bubbly hot bathtub for 10 minutes. It even has a sauna facility if you couldn’t get enough of hot tub!

Last but not least, the price was affordable for solo travellers. Price range fluctuates depending on seasons and whether it falls on a weekend or a weekday. I paid between 3,000 (RM86) and 5,900 per day, with the cheapest being a 30-day early-bird promotion deal. The cost works out to an average of 4,400 per night.

What better way than this to see how the Japanese live like when you travel in the country, by sharing your stay with them in a cabin hotel?

It was an experience to remember or to relive, so I will be back.

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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 26, 2014.