The Millennials Shibuya: Hi-Tech Comforts in Futuristic Pods

Guide to Japan

Its rooms may be tiny, but The Millennials Shibuya promises a high-tech hotel experience, complete with beds that literally give you a morning lift. Along with private capsules, the “social apartment” concept includes shared spaces for socializing.

Shared Area Promotes Socializing

A new hotel, just five minutes’ walk from Shibuya’s world-famous scramble crossing, promises a futuristic accommodation experience. The Millennials Shibuya opened in March this year, following in the footsteps of its sister hotel The Millennials Kyoto, which has been in business since last year. It occupies the third to tenth floors of a ten-story building. 

One of the selling points of The Millennials, which aims to attract young moderns, is the shared space, including a co-working area and a lounge with a kitchen for self-catering. These facilities occupy 20% of the hotel’s floor area. The hotel’s operator Global Agents is known for developing the “social apartment” housing concept combining the privacy of studio apartments with shared housing communal space, an approach that has been driving the company’s growth. This is the thinking behind the hotel’s common area.

The co-working space is open to non-guests too, for a fee.

Evolution of the Capsule Hotel Idea

The guest rooms, called “smart pods,” are a technological evolution of the capsule hotels pioneered by Japan. With a floor area of just 3 square meters, the rooms are the same size as compartments in traditional capsule hotels, but ceilings are 2.3 meters high, giving the impression of a larger space. An impressive array of specially developed IoT features ensures guests’ comfort.

Smart pods line a hallway. With the bed in sofa mode, there’s room to stand in the compartment.

The most eye-popping feature of each pod is the bed, which can also be used as a sofa. Linked to an alarm clock, the upper part of the bed rises to fold at a maximum angle of 60 degrees and bring the occupant to a seated position at the appointed time. When the bed folds up, it also activates a light. The brainchild of Global Agents president Yamasaki Takeshi, this bed is guaranteed to rouse even the most sleepy-headed traveler. 

Yamasaki relates that one of the reasons he developed this bed is that he himself has a terrible time getting up in the morning. Besides, compact space can be bland, so he decided that packing the compartments with the latest gadgets would add a touch of pizazz. All the room’s features, not just the alarm and the sofa, are controlled by means of an iPod Touch which guests receive when checking in.

Yamasaki Takeshi, Global Agents president.

Ordinary capsule hotels are designed for maximum efficiency: the bed takes up all the private space and there is no room to stand. But at The Millennials, the bed folds up, freeing up floor space and allowing the occupant to stand and change clothes in private.

There’s also a cabinet under the bed large enough for storing a suitcase. The sliding door reveals a space the width of the bed. With baggage out of the way in the cabinet, there’s extra space available, whether for changing clothes or repacking a suitcase.

Bed angle, lighting and other functions are controlled via an iPod.

Fusing Art and Technology

The rooms have no monitors, but in some pods guests can project images from their computers or smartphones onto the blind at the entrance. When pulled down, it serves as an 80-inch screen, forming an instant home theater. Guests can watch videos or look over the photos they took during their trip, enjoying the technology any way they like.

In pods equipped with projectors, the blind at the entrance pulls down to act as a screen.

Comfort is top of mind at this hotel. The 120-centimeter wide bed and its 25- centimeter thick coil-spring mattress ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. Unisex design cotton nightwear, available for an extra charge, feels soft against the skin and can be used as casual wear on the premises. The amenities’ Japanese-inspired design is popular with guests.

An assortment of amenities available for guests.

The Millennials Shibuya has a different vibe than its Kyoto counterpart: some smart pods are “art pods” whose walls feature works by 20 popular artists.

Yamasaki says “I wanted to bring in some of Shibuya’s energy, so I intentionally incorporated graffiti art into the décor. Art imparts a lifestyle feeling that ordinary capsule hotels don’t have. We’re doing this on a trial basis of six months to a year right now, but depending on guests’ reactions, we may continue to decorate this way.”

“Art pods” add to the Shibuya vibe.

Mixed-Gender Floors Popular

Four of the Shibuya hotel’s six floors offer mixed-gender accommodation; the remaining two are for women only. This arrangement was reached based on experience with the Kyoto property, which has changed its floor configuration twice so far. Before that hotel opened, management assumed that many guests would be solo travelers, so two of the four floors were set aside for women; of the remaining two floors, one was for men and the other for mixed-gender pairs. But once the hotel opened, it became clear that this was not working.

“We realized that many foreign guests travel in mixed-gender groups. They want to stay on a mixed-gender floor, so in Kyoto we ultimately designated three floors for mixed-gender pairs, and one floor for women,” says Yamasaki.

Self-catering kitchen complimentary service includes bread or rolls for breakfast, beer in the evening, and coffee around the clock.

The Millennials Shibuya has gotten off to a smooth start, attracting over 1,000 pre-opening bookings; about 80% of guests are non-Japanese. Yamasaki is planning to open 10 new properties over the next three years and is even eyeing overseas expansion. The high-tech capsule hotel, designed for travelers of all types, may spread worldwide.

The Millennials Shibuya

(Text by Mitamura Fukiko. Photographs and video by Miwa Noriaki.)

hotels Tokyo Shibuya