Monday, 8 August 2011

9 hours in Kyoto

Japanese capsule hotels have always intrigued me. Who stays in these places? How do you sleep in a space barely bigger than a coffin? And don't you get woken up by the snoring of your neighbours? On my last trip to Kyoto I decided to check out 9 hours - a new capsule hotel with a difference.

As you can see from the video - 9 hours is definitely a uniquely Japanese experience. Virtually everything follows a colour pattern of white, black and a few spots of red - all carefully designed from the shoe lockers to the slippers, pyjamas and tooth brushes. 9 hours even developed its own fragrance for its shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Flat, form and texture - all the objects fit into one of three design categories.

The highlight of course are the capsules or as the hotel refers to them: "sleeping pods". It's all high-tech with sleep control systems designed to make you sleep more comfortably and wake-up with the gradual increase of light. Significant research - I was told - has also gone into designing pillows and mattresses in order to create a cozy space that promotes peaceful sleep.

The traditional market for capsule hotels are businessmen needing an affordable place to stay. 9 hours takes it one step further and creates a stylish place of transit. It also offers the same amenities for women hence the women's only elevators that lead to women only capsule floors to make them feel comfortable, safe and secure.

For those of you who are thinking of visiting Kyoto and maybe staying at 9 hours - definitely try it for the experience. The design is great, the pods are comfy and I slept really well. But anything longer than one night might leave you - as in my case - wanting a few more comforts from a normal hotel room. I missed a comfortable lounge to chill and read. And the lockers on the floors are simply not big enough for overseas travellers with a lot of luggage. Though I must say after a couple of nights in Ms Hashimoto's quaint traditional Japanese B&B smack bang in the old town (which I loved!) 9 hours couldn't have made for a starker contrast. Tradition and high-tech, elaborate rituals and minimalist design - in Japan it's all side by side and that's one of the many reasons why I find this country so fascinating.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Hau den Lukas - a Hamburg institution

I'm a big fan of Hamburg. I love strolling through the HafenCity with its modern architecture and the old beautiful brick warehouses that give the city a worldly flair, or catching a boat to tour the massive port, eating Fischbrötchen or Sushi or going on a shopping spree.

Now I'm not a big fan of fun-fairs - but if you're out for some roller coaster action, want to enjoy the view from the ferris wheel or nibble roasted almonds or tasty waffles the Hamburger Dom might be an option.

The name sounds a little misleading. I first expected some religious landmark, but it goes back to a group of merchants, craftsmen and jugglers, who in 1337 were granted the right to seek shelter in the cathedral Marien-Dom whenever the weather was particularly bad. At the end of the 19thcentury, the fairground showmen had to move to Heiligengeistfeld, the location of today’s fairground. But the name Hamburger Dom stuck and today the fun-fair runs three times a year.

I found out about this Hamburg icon while co-producing a short multimedia piece during a workshop led by Bombay Flying Club at the Akademie für Publizistik earlier this year.

So, meet H.J.H. Schroeder - the merchant who runs Hau den Lukas - an institution that's been around for over 50 years and something you don't want to miss if you're touring the Hamburger Dom.


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