Manga CafésSociety Culture
All You Can Read
Manga cafés are places to catch up on Japanese comics, from the latest big releases to old series that are now hard to find. There may be tens of thousands of volumes on the shelves of the largest establishments, so it’s no wonder that some people prefer to go and read in a manga kissa than to buy their own manga. Today’s cafés have gone multipurpose, too, allowing customers to use the Internet, watch DVDs, play games, or listen to music in addition to reading comics.
The hourly charge is about ¥100–¥400, and customers are generally required to register first by presenting personal ID. Although there is an initial fee for one or more hours, customers staying longer can pay for extra time when leaving. Many cafés are open 24 hours a day. Some outlets offer a special overnight package spanning several hours for less than the hourly rate. There are often packages for long-term daytime stays too.
Most manga kissa have a space with dispensers offering free soft drinks, and usually sell snacks as well. Some cafés may even have alcoholic drinks for adult users.
An Alternative to Hotels
Cafés have booths with chairs or a sofa for individuals or couples, which make it possible to read in privacy. Some booths are equipped with computers for enjoying the Internet. Depending on the café, customers might be able to rent out video game consoles or even play darts, pool, or table tennis in a sports area.
Individual booths are not very big, but can serve as an alternative to hotel rooms for those who wish to save money. Some manga cafés have shower rooms, offer blankets and hair dryers at no extra charge, and sell toothbrushes and razors. They have become one of the refuges for stranded revelers who miss the last train home at night.
At the same time, there is concern about people who live permanently at manga or Internet cafés because they have nowhere else to go. This is a social issue that has received much media attention in recent years as a symptom of an increasing poverty problem in Japan.(Banner photo: A busy manga café in Shinjuku, Tokyo. © Jiji Press. Photo of shelves courtesy Connie Ma.)