Somehow living in SF has made it even more difficult to survive Tokyo’s stifling hot summers. I couldn’t have done it without ice cream, coca-cola, and the occasional air conditioned space. This trip I spent quite some time in air conditioned manga cafes, a.k.a. “manga kissa” or “manga kissaten” in Japanese.
The manga cafes in Tokyo are way more than just cafes with comics… they’re also combination internet cafes equipped with internet/tv/game terminals and ps2s. You can check out games and dvds in addition to manga and magazines. And if that isn’t enough, I’ve even seen cafes with dart boards and pool tables.
The setup of your personal area in a manga kissa can really vary. There’s the standard library/classroom setup (a chair in front of a small desk), there are somewhat more private cubicles, and then there are private booth options. Booths can be large enough to share with friends and come in various types: regular chairs, couches, mats, or massage chairs. One cafe I went to in Akiba had futons with pillows in a tatami room, and another had a large tatami floor “family room” for groups of 3 or more. Some places allow you to close your booth for complete privacy… aside from the security cameras overhead to make sure you don’t steal anything!
The cost is generally something like 200-400 yen for the first half hour and then an equivalent pro-rated amount in 10-15 minute increments. The price always includes free coffee, tea, and soft drinks… and sometimes free soft serve ice cream! (Sadly, the machine I tried was broken.) Most have more substantial food or snack options, and I never had a problem bringing in my own food.
A complaint I had which only applied to one of the cafes was the nasty cigarette smell! There are a lot of smokers in Japan and of course all manga kissa are indoors with air conditioning. Although every cafe had a non-smoking section (it may be a requirement) this one had only a very tiny area situated right next to the smoking section! Ugh!
Quite a few customers must spend their nights here as there are always reduced rates for a certain number of hours late into the night until the extreme early hours of the morning (places are usually open 24 hours/7 days a week) and they all had shower facilities and blankets. I personally would definitely not mind spending the night in one of those tatami/futon rooms!
I have decided that for my next trip (hopefully during either spring or fall), I will backpack around and spend every night in a different manga kissa. Whee!