Tokyo’s famed Nakagin Capsule Tower was once used by sex workers

It’s probably Tokyo’s most famous and futuristic pieces of architecture: the Nakagin Capsule Tower.

Despite its repute, it’s an endangered species: demolition of the Metabolist landmark has been scheduled for a long time.

People have continued to reside in the pod-like pied-à-terre living units or use them as office spaces. Or for other uses, it seems.

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We had never heard of this before but it seems that certain capsule rooms in Nakagin were used by prostitutes to service customers.

In Tokyo, a brothel-style fuzoku service typically has its own little place with basic facilities. Otherwise, the sex worker often goes to a nearby love hotel with the client after visiting the site of the service.

We wonder if the Nakagin sex workers were using the building for the novelty value or for practical purposes, such as the central location close to Ginza and office districts.

A love hotel has the benefit of anonymity and decent amenities, both of which are somewhat lacking in the cramped Nakagin — and a place where people are frequently outside taking pictures!

However, the tower dates back to 1972 and our research indicates that the “pink capsules” — about two or three of the rooms — were probably in use in the earlier days of the building’s life. At this time, there were fewer love hotels than there are now and Nakagin was also not such an attraction for architecture buffs with cameras.

As the name suggests, these prefabricated capsules were painted pink and one recent occupant reports that the pink is still visible around the edges of the walls, despite renovation.

You will probably struggle to find a prostitute plying her trade inside Nakagin today, unless you rent a capsule yourself and hire a call girl (“delivery health,” as such a service is euphemistically known), but the building can still be erotic: it served, for instance, as the setting for an incredible photography shoot.

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