Testing the benefits of vertical sleep and coffee in Harajuku.

Earlier this month, Nescafé announced it would be giving customers at its Harajuku cafe the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee…and a standing nap, thanks to the installation of special sleeping pods created by Hokkaido-based Koyoju Plywood Corporation.

Called Giraffenap, these standing pods are specially designed to let you sleep while your body is in an upright position, so you can essentially nap like a giraffe. The special promotion began on 22 August, and because prior reservations are necessary, our reporter Egawa Tasuku hopped online and was lucky enough to nab a slot just a day after the pods appeared.

▼ So he headed down to Nescafé Harajuku for his nap.

The “Standing Sleep Coffee Nap Experience” is priced at 825 yen (US$5.68), which gets you a coffee and 30 minutes in a sleeping pod, and there’s the option to add a side to your order, from a three-piece menu created in consultation with Professor Mitsuo Hayashi of Hiroshima University, a leading expert in the science of sleep and drowsiness.

The Roast Beef Baguette Sandwich (870 yen), the Shrimp Terrine Sandwich (760 yen) and the Grapefruit Mousse (580 yen), are said to be high in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps to induce drowsiness, so those who order from this menu are recommended to eat their side before entering the sleep pod.

▼ Roast Beef Baguette Sandwich (top), Shrimp Terrine Sandwich (below)

Egawa decided to add a Shrimp Terrine Sandwich to his experience, bringing his total to 1,585 yen. Both the food and pod reservations were completed at the same time, which meant that when Egawa arrived at his allotted time, it didn’t take long for him to be seated and given his sandwich, along with the free coffee that’s given to everyone who takes part in the pod experience.

▼ The sandwich looked like something from a fancy cafe, and it had a nice flavour.

As he ate his sandwich and waited to feel any sense of drowsiness from the tryptophan, Egawa was able to take a good look at the space, which was bustling with members of the media on the day he visited.

 ▼ Egawa was approached by several media outlets, including Reuters, to give his thoughts on the experience.

After polishing off his sandwich, he slurped up his coffee to prepare for his nap. Nescafé recommends drinking a cup of coffee before taking a 20-minute nap in the pod so that the caffeine will hit just at the time when you’re waking up. This is what’s known as a “Coffee Nap”, and it’s a trend that’s catching on around the world, as it’s been shown to improve alertness and mental acuity in several studies.

Would it work for Egawa, though? Time to find out.

There are four pods available — two of the darker Spacia model and two of the lighter Forest design. Egawa had chosen the Spacia, so that was the one he was directed to, and as he entered the pod, a member of the foreign media filmed him opening and closing the door. Egawa imagined what voiceovers they might use for their footage, and wondered if they would misrepresent him as an overworked salaryman seeking an antidote to Japan’s karoshi overwork culture.

Once inside, though, Egawa was safe from the prying eyes of rival press outlets, leaving him to take photos exclusively for our readers, without any spin. To give you an idea of what it’s like inside, there’s a very small space when you enter the pod where you can leave your bag as you get into position for your Giraffenap.

▼ Door on the left, space for around one backpack in the middle, and Egawa, squeezed into his giraffe position, at the bottom.

The instructions posted on the wall inside show you the correct way to use the pod, with the diagram inside the purple circle showing the ideal posture and the diagram with the cross showing the incorrect posture. Remember, we’re here to stand and keep the blood flowing for a good nap, not be hunched over in a seated position!

The six steps for the correct posture and adjustments, as numbered in the diagrams above, are as follows:

01 Firmly place the soles of the feet on the sole pad
02 Place your shins/knees firmly on the pad
03 Use the up/down switch to adjust the height of the seat pad
04 Lower the arm rest
05 Adjust the height of the arm rest to a comfortable position with the lift switch
06 Raise the arm rest and leave the room

Inside the pod, you’re completely concealed from the world outside, so Egawa felt a comforting sense of calm as he followed the instructions to get into the correct position. As a sanitation measure, a fresh disposable paper sheet is placed over the table on which you place your head and arms, so be sure to leave it on. Staff will change it for the next customer.

Taking a quick look around, Egawa saw there was a ventilation fan overhead, and a small fan in the rear overhead position. Both can be turned on and off, using switches on the wall or a remote control, so you don’t have to worry about any ventilation issues.

▼ Egawa found the height adjustment controls for the seat and arm rest on his right hand side.

The controls to adjust the brightness of the lights, and turn them off and on, were on the wall (circled below, top) while the remote control for the fan was on the ledge by the height adjustment controls (circled, bottom).

This is the view looking down from the head and armrest area. Egawa’s body was fully supported by the various cushioned pads and there was no fear of falling, given how comfortably snug everything was.

▼ Don’t worry — that’s not a seatbelt, that’s just the strap on Egawa’s cross-body bag.

When the lights are off, the pod becomes adequately dark, although the light that streams in from outside through the small triangular windows on the door might disturb light sleepers. Egawa thought it might be nice if they could install a little curtain across the door, to provide those who prefer total darkness with a darker option.

▼ Egawa took out his phone to give you a sense of how dark it was in the pod with the lights off.

If you prefer brightness to darkness, the Forest pod has an entire wall that’s slightly permeable to light, making it a good option for claustrophobes.

The final piece of equipment in the pod is an air purifier, which is installed under the seat rest, providing you with purified air for your 20-minute power nap.

Resting his head on the pad as instructed, Egawa felt his entire body relax — even the hernia in his abdomen felt much less uncomfortable in this position, compared to lying down. He could easily fall into a comfortable sleep here, but unfortunately…he didn’t.

The reason why Egawa couldn’t nap wasn’t because of the pod itself. He’d been so busy making notes and taking photos of everything for us that by the time he was ready to nap, his 30 minutes in the pod, which is meant to include 20 minutes for a nap and five minutes before and after to get you sorted, was just about up.

So he opened the door and walked out into the brightness of the cafe, where he realised that even spending half an hour inside the pod without sleeping had worked to re-energise him. And as he left the cafe, his mind was now racing with all the possibilities a pod like this provides — can you imagine if they enlarged the pod slightly to include a big monitor, a refrigerator, and a space to put a PC and a game console inside? That would be the ultimate gaming pod, and one Egawa would spend good money on.

▼ The Giraffenap sleeping pods are only at the cafe for a limited time, until 17 September.

According to the makers of the Giraffenap, the compact pods are suited to offices, where workers can use them for coffee naps to boost their energy, creating a more labour-efficient workplace. So Egawa might just have to sing the praises of the pods to our boss at work…because we’re still waiting for someone to make this pod, which is set up to look like the interior of a Japanese train.

Cafe information
Nescafé Harajuku / ネスカフェ原宿
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 1-22-8

Photos ©SoraNews24
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