Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo is a claustrophobe's nightmare

Claustrophobic? Don't Visit This Capsule Tower in Tokyo.

Claustrophobic? Don't Visit This Capsule Tower in Tokyo.

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Dec. 2 2013 10:57 AM

Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo Is a Claustrophobe's Nightmare

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Beside an elevated highway in Tokyo's Ginza district is what looks like a huge pile of front-loading washing machines. The 13-story structure is Nakagin Capsule Tower, a residential building consisting of 144 cubic pods.

Built in 1972, the tower is a rare example of the Metabolism movement in Japanese architecture, which prized module-based designs in which individual units could be replaced.


Each of the 144 Nakagin capsules is its own 8-by-7-by-12-foot apartment. Designed for single salarymen, the units are equipped with a stove, refrigerator, TV, reel-to-reel tape deck, and telephone. The bathroom, which resembles an airplane lavatory, is three steps from the bed. A table folds down from the wall for dining and work.

Though tiny apartments are standard in Tokyo, the Nakagin capsules did not herald the dawn of pod-based urban living. Its cubes, intended for a 25-year life span, have never been replaced due to prohibitive costs. The building suffers from water leaks, has asbestos in its original air-conditioning system, and is mostly unoccupied. The threat of demolition is tempered only by outraged members of the architecture community who want to see the rare Metabolist structure preserved.

If you'd like to experience a Nakagin capsule before it's lost forever, one of the units is currently being rented on Airbnb for $30 per night

The view from the bed.

Photo: Dick Johnson

The bathroom and apartment door as seen from the bed.

Photo: Miki Yoshihito


Sleep cramped in concrete:

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Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.