Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#35 Internet Cafes

on August 1, 2012

So back in June my boyfriend and I stayed overnight at an internet cafe.

It was my 3rd time staying in one; my first time was in Takamatsu, Kagawa.  I also stayed at one in Matsuyama, Ehime.  This time we went to Kyoto (Shijo).

(Note: my pictures will be small because I took them without flash and some of them didn’t end up the greatest quality).

Here’s an aisle in an internet cafe, with various cubicles.

Internet cafes have various “packs” you can choose from when you enter, from a couple of hours at a time, to overnight.  Many people, including myself, stay at Internet cafes overnight because it’s cheaper than getting a hotel room somewhere.  You can generally stay overnight at an internet cafe for anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 yen, plus a 300 yen registration fee the first time you go, which gives you a membership card to that chain of internet cafes, good for a year.  After a year, you have to renew it and pay the membership fee once more.  Still, in total it’s extremely reasonable for someone staying by themselves; single-room hotels in Japan are generally 5,000-7.000 yen.  When my boyfriend and I get a double occupancy room, we can sometimes get it as low as 3,000 per person, but often more like 3,500, meaning an internet cafe is still cheaper.

The downsides to internet cafe is you use a shared public bathroom, and while there are showers, sometimes you have to pay for them.  If you want all the comforts of a hotel and absolute privacy, by all means stay at a hotel.  It’s true that internet cafes can feel more like “roughing it,” but you do what you can if you’re trying to be frugal and save money.  Plus there are benefits unique to an internet cafe that I will get to shortly…

The internet cafes are generally quiet, though some have soft music playing in the background.  You have a cubical all to yourself with space to lay down (if you choose a “flat seat” meaning there’s no chair, but just a padded mat-like space).  You also have your own computer in your cubicle, and access to various TV shows and movies you can stream through it, besides the regular internet.

There are generally pillows, blankets, and slippers provided for you, and should you need more, you can usually request additional ones at the front desk.  Some places even have earplugs; otherwise I do recommend bringing your own pair, and perhaps a sleep mask as well.  Although they try to keep the place dim, it can still be helpful to block out the light completely.

Most cubicles even have a connecting door that you can open if you’re sharing with a friend.  Me and my boyfriend had these two adjacent cubicles:

(Also don’t worry – nobody would ever open one of these doors if they didn’t know the person next to them – Japan is a very private and polite society).  Additionally, some places have “pair-seats” which are basically the size of two cubicles but more open and meant for two people to lounge around in.  Sometimes they have two computers and sometimes they don’t, so ask about that before you choose one.  You can also generally choose where within the internet cafe you want to be placed; when you first walk in there’s often a computerized map of the floor showing which seats are available and which are taken (marked in different colors).  Thus you can choose to be near the bathroom, or near the drink bar (explained in a moment) or just off in the corner for things to be quieter and have less people pass by your cubicle.  There’s also sometimes smoking and non smoking sections.  In general though it’s a smoke-free place.

The picture above shows an advertisement for food you can order in; there’s usually a larger menu with other items as well, and whatever you order (from the convenience of your cubicle) will be brought directly to you by a staff member.

For the rest of us that prefer to be cheap and/or get more bang for our buck, included in the price of any pack you buy are unlimited soft drinks, juices, hot chocolate, tea, and coffee.

When you get your drinks, you just grab a cup or mug, as you can see in the above photo, and get what you want.  When you’re done, you just set them down in a tray.

Just like any coffee shop there’s often an area with napkins, creamer, etc.

Some places even have soft-serve ice cream machines!  Which, of course, is all-you-can-eat, and might even have chocolate syrup you can put on it, or you can combine it with soft drinks and make a float!  The one I went to in Kyoto (from which I’m posting pictures) didn’t have one of these unfortunately, but they did have a miso-soup machine!

One of the benefits you also get with an internet cafe (besides the delicious free drinks/soup/ice cream), that I didn’t make use of the first two times, is shelves and shelves of manga.  You simply take what you want to your cubicle and can read as much as you want.  There’s tons of manga, all the volumes, from so many different publishers and serieses.  Old stuff and new stuff.  It’s a great place to read a ton of manga, or try out new manga you wouldn’t get to read otherwise.

So, while in Kyoto I perused the manga shelves, tried out a few things that looked okay at first but weren’t terribly exciting, until I found an absolute GEM of a manga that I will talk about in next week’s post.  Stay tuned!

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