Japan is surprisingly big on cafe culture. The locals love to take some time for themselves and enjoy some drinks and food in various cafes – be that the traditional European coffeehouses, wacky themed establishments, or even animal cafes. However, there is a type of cafe that is unique to Japan, and that’s what we know as manga cafes, or sometimes Internet cafes. Manga and Internet cafes usually have extensive libraries of Japanese comics and DVDs, as well as computers, televisions, and DVD players that the customers can use to their liking.
They also usually serve hot and cold drinks on an all-you-can-drink basis. Some even offer snacks and instant ramen – and even if they don’t, there’s surely a convenience store where you can stock up nearby. Manga and Internet cafes offer more than just a pleasant atmosphere and a cup of coffee – they can even serve as temporary stays for people who miss the last train after a night out or want to catch early-morning attractions, such as the Tsukiji fish market tuna auctions.
However, using a manga or Internet cafe can be challenging for foreigners, as these establishments are mostly catering to the local public. Today, we run you through the process of using a Japanese manga cafe, so that you don’t skip out on this unique experience the next time you go to Japan.
1. Find the manga cafe
If you know some elementary Japanese, it shouldn’t be too hard to sport a manga or Internet cafe, as the signs are usually written in hiragana. Most manga cafes are gathered around big train stations, such as Shinjuku in Tokyo, as they are more likely to attracts overnight stayers, but you can also find at least one around any other train station in Japan.
2. Create a membership card
Now, you might be wondering why would you need a manga cafe membership care if you don’t intend on staying there more than once? The answer is simple – these cafes are not geared towards foreigners and one-time visitors. Most of them target the Japanese public, and the average Japanese will definitely sleep in a manga cafe more than once in the life. Moreover, since manga and Internet cafe chains usually have establishments all over Japan, you can use your membership card in any of their locations.
As much as you might not need that membership card, you’ll have to go through the trouble of creating one, as that is the only way to get access to the cafe. It’s not that much of a hassle though – you only need a passport or ID with your picture on it, and around ¥200 for the card fee. After the time is up, you’re supposed to take your membership card and the receipt you received at the beginning to the front desk. if you stayed more than the designated time, you will be charged extra. Cash is the most common payment method, but some manga cafes also accept credit cards.
3. Choose a seat/booth and time plan
There are two types of manga cafes – the ones with regular office desks, and the ones with enclosed cubicles for those who need more privacy. The cubicles are usually equipped with sliding chairs, or even futons you can catch some Z’s on, which makes these cafes so popular with people who miss the last trains. The ones with desks are less comfortable, but also cheaper. In any case, manga and Internet cafes usually offer several plans: under ¥500 for an hour, ¥900-¥1500 for 3 hours, and up to ¥3000 for 9 to 12 hours. After you choose your time plan, you’ll get a printed receipt with your booth/desk number, and the time when your plan expires. Don’t lose the receipt – you’ll use it to pay when you leave the cafe!
There’s plenty of fun things to do in a manga cafe. If you’re confident in your Japanese, try reading some manga or magazines available in the cafe. You can also rent DVDs (just bring them to the front desk for that), or watch Netflix and YouTube on the computer in your booth. Have as many drinks as you like – they’re all included in the price! Lastly, get some sleep if you have enough time, especially if your booth is equipped with a futon.
In the end, using a Japanese manga or Internet cafe is not as complicated as it seems. The only step that confuses foreigners is the creation of membership card, but the rest of the process is pretty easy to understand. Don’t miss out on the manga/Internet cafe experience next time you visit Japan!
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