Summer Surfing - Internet Cafes in Japan
Joanne G. Yoshida
In summer in the city in Japan, an internet cafe is an ideal way to sail smoothly through a few hours. Time passes quickly in the cool dark depths of your choice of a "Flat Booth" or a "Sofa Booth". You can choose the type of private cubicle in which to dive into the wide-open space of your reading or computing pleasures.
There is a certain mystery to internet cafes in Japan from the outside; and once you enter you may still be feeling in the dark. Rows of aisles of 'booths' leave little clue of what is going on through the sliding panels. Though once you experience an hour or two there, it is easy to feel comfortable.
The quiet hum of the electronics and the low-lighting give a deeply peaceful feeling to what is almost like a modern-day-multi-media-library. If you choose a booth, you slide open the door and enter a private room equipped with a television (I've never used the TV yet) and a computer for getting online, headphones, and two desk lights to give spot illumination for reading or looking at the screens.
Lately I have been going with my daughter so my experience is limited to the daylight hours. She can only stay until 6pm. (There are regulations and time limitations which vary from elementary to high school students). She pulls about five manga off the shelves, grabs a cold drink from the all-you-can-drink ji-do-han-bai-ki, and plops down on the floor. I either bring some writing work, catch up on internet correspondence or blogging, or even meditate.
If you choose a sofa booth, there is a comfortable cushiony leatherette sofa to stretch out on, and if you prefer low-to the ground, in a "Flat Booth" you sit on cushions with straight backs which you can pull up to the computer or relax to read. In either case, take off your shoes before stepping up to enter your numbered compartment.
In the entrance you can find an array of snacks, cup noodles, da-gashi (like penny candy), and sundries for sale. In the corridors there are vending machines, which dispense drinks for free from Ume Hi-C to about 8 coffee variations (Vienna Coffee, American Coffee, Caramel Salt Latte, et. al). Blankets, slippers, and pillows are stacked between aisles of manga, magazines, DVD's and videos.
People also use the internet cafes to sleep and shower; the prices for a long stay (about 2980 yen for 12 hours) are less than most business hotels. In the bathroom you can find disposable toothbrushes and hair driers.
Billiards, karaoke, tanning machines, and other amusements are sometimes housed as well in these multi-media complexes.
The price of an Open Bench Seat, which is also available, is 240 yen for the first 30 minutes, and 100 yen per 15 minutes after that. We prefer the booth, and is worthwhile to get the 3-hour pack, which is 980 yen.
Special Deals at Japan's Internet Cafes
Check out special deals, for example at the internet cafe Popeye (Tel: 097 513 5531; Oita branch), if you bring in food from outside, you get a 200 yen wari-biki (reduction) during lunch hours from 11am.
Enjoy your summer in Japan, and if you catch a wave that lands you in a media internet cafe just remember to bring your kai-in ka-do or member card each time you go.
* Internet Cafes often require that you become a member, and a 100 fee is charged for the inconvenience to the staff of having to search for your records without the card.
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