Built in 1972 as a monument to a promised ideal that never came to fruition, the Nakagin Capsule Tower (8-10-6 Ginza, Chūō-ku) continues to be popular with photographers wanting to capture it’s unique architecture. The building is basically two towers consisting of elevators and plumbing with 140 capsules attached like jenga blocks. It was claimed to be the tower of the future whereas these days it is a bit of a vacant rust bucket!
There was a time when you could stay in a couple of the capsules via Air bnb (at ludicrously high rates of ¥80,000 – ¥100,000 per night! That’s £530 – £660 or $730 – $910!!), and in the last few years it has become possible to do 45 minute tours of the place for ¥3000 (£36/$50) courtesy of the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building Preservation and Regeneration Project.
There is a cheaper way of seeing of one of the capsules though. Located just north of Tokyo is the Museum of Modern Art Saitama (MOMAS) which is a short distance west of Kita Urawa Station on the Keihin-Tohoku Line. In the garden area to the side of the modern art building is a small white block of sorts which you might think from distance is a toilet or something.
However, this is a prototype of one of the capsules and it is free for anyone to check out. Sadly, you can’t step inside and experience the claustrophobic setting as was done in this BBC documentary back in 2006.
The Nakagin Capsule Tower kind of doubled up as a “Nagasaki” love hotel in ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013). There is much more on how that was all faked at the foot of this post.
Each capsule measures four metres in length with a width of just 2.5 metres. It is possible for many people to touch both walls when inside!
These capsules are rather old-fashioned and dated now regarding the interior features that include a telephone, a radio, clock, TV and music player.
There is also a prefabricated bath and the rooms were designed by Kisho Kurokawa with the idea of business people using them as second homes or just for office space.
The round window is 1.3 metres in diameter and just gazing through it did remind me of some Japanese apartments and hotel rooms I’ve stayed in. Everything you need is there but it would certainly feel like solitary confinement for many! I’d still like to spend a night or two in one though!
Bonus: The exterior Nakagin Capsule Tower scenes in ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) were actually shot in Australia! Hugh Jackman and Co. never went to the real location in Ginza as those street scenes around the “tower” were actually shot in the Surry Hills area of Sydney.
Brisbane Street was transformed to look like a Tokyo street with Japanese signs and Asian people throughout. The tall building on the left and the lower part of the one on the right can be seen in both the screenshot and my photo.
CGI was then used to impose the Nakagin Capsule Tower on top of the cream coloured building. The picture of me below was of course taken in Tokyo which is about 7,800 kilometres (4850 miles) away from Sydney. It was taken seven years ago when I cycled the Wolverine trail in the order which it appears on screen. As you can see, the buildings in the background are different.
Click here to read ‘TF Top 5……Tokyo Movie Locations Where You Can Stay’
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Modern Architecture #1’
Click here to read ‘Journeys Into The Ring Of Fire Episode 4: Japan’
Click here to read ‘Australia Filming Locations #6 – The Wolverine (2013)’