The first time I heard of a Manga Café, a shop in Japan where people pay an hourly charge to read manga, I was intrigued. I also thought it was useless. In this day and age, you can easily find even the most obscure manga on the internet. Or you could read the volumes for free in a book store (or used book store, since the newer volumes sometimes come in protective packaging). I didn’t understand why anyone would actually pay money to go to a manga café (also known as a manga kissaten).
But it turns out I misunderstood Japanese manga café’s clientele.
Who goes to go Manga Cafés / 漫画喫茶店?
I would say about 50% of the manga café patrons of businessmen. The other 50% is made up of students, tourists, and the occasional straggler who missed the last train.
Unlike the name suggests, Manga Cafes are less about reading manga and more about renting a private cubicle to sleep (or use the computers). For more information about Manga cafes, check out this article.
Why do these people visit Manga Cafés?
The obvious answer is to sleep. Unlike most countries, Japan’s subway system is not 24 hour. In the mad rush during the last train, some people inevitably don’t make it, so they have to wait until the first train – around 5am.
People who miss the last train have a couple options. If they want to sleep, they can go to a hotel (expensive), a capsule hotel (less expensive, but still pricey), a karaoke shop (not terribly expensive to rent a private room), or a manga café.
Those who don’t necessarily need to sleep usually end up at Gusto, Jonathan’s, or another 24-hour family restaurant with a “drink bar” where they can get free refills all night.
As far as sleeping in concerned, Manga Cafés seem to be the cheapest offer: with a seven hour “pack” costing between 1000yen and 1700 yen (between 10$ – 18$). Karaoke bars typically cost about 1,500yen – 4,000yen for a “night;” capsule hotels are between 3,000yen and 5,000yen for a room, and hotels are more than that. So 漫画喫茶店seems to be the cheapest offer (even though, as I mentioned before, it’s not actually that cheap).
What do people do inside a Manga Cafe?
At night, most people sleep. Some people surf the next (free internet and computers in most “cubicles”). Others actually read the comics, but those are few and in between. As a result, night-time rates for Manga Cafés / Manga Kissaten are nearly double the daily rate.
During the day, most people in manga cafés use the internet. All things considered, it’s a relatively cheap way to surf the net. They also have ports where you can charge your electronics. My manga café even had docs for iPhones and iPods.
I have to assume some people visit manga cafes to, you know, read manga – but I have no idea.
These manga cafes have existed long before the internet; they have adapted surprisingly well to the change in technology. It’s not the ideal place to sleep, but it is cheap and mildly comfortable.
If you are planning on visiting a manga café (especially if you plan to spend the night there) – check out this quick guide of Things to Bring to a Manga Café before you go!
If you want to stay at Com Com Manga Cafe (the place I stayed at) so you can go to the early morning Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction, here is some information:
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