Last time, I talked a little bit about Japan travel, and this time, I’ll talk about my experience using some of the internet cafes while I was over there.
The hostel that we stayed at provided complementary wifi access, but as with most complementary wifi, it wasn’t reliable. We also rented a Softbank wifi hotspot at the airport, but it was not very reliable, either. I needed to get some work done, so I figured I would go for an internet cafe.
A quick net search revealed one in the area we were staying called Comic Buster. As a general note, I think these stores usually serve Japanese residents, because you need to register in order to use the computers. The first shop clerk asked me if I lived around here and ended up taking my hotel address and number. I think that she thought it was a one-time thing, so she didn’t take my $3 membership fee, but I had to come back later because I didn’t finish my work, and I had to go through that with a different shop clerk…
Now that I’m actually reading the page that I linked, doesn’t it say that I get free registration if I mention that I saw the note on the home page? Damn, I lost 300 yen…
Well, I was set up with a private booth, which is the standard setup. The walls are probably as tall as a typical fence, and there’s a clear door that you slide closed and can cast a blanket over to secure your privacy. You get a Windows 7 PC. The JP keyboard layout is pretty funky, I had trouble finding certain special symbols for some reason:
I don’t think I was supposed to, but I ended up hijacking the ethernet cable from the desktop for my own laptop. It was a lot harder in the booth that I got during the evening because of how little space there was in the booth and how the chair was completely not adjustable.
When we went to Tokyo, we also needed another place to hide out from the rain and have internet until we could check in with the person we were staying at in the evening, so asking around, we found a Gera Gera tucked away on the 3rd floor of a building. In hindsight, It’s pretty easy to find if I knew to look up and pay attention to the signs. We had to go through the same registration process, and it was kind of awkward to agree to all the things the shop clerk was telling me in spite of not following most of it — well, we got service, so I guess that it was a success, and it was kind of interesting. I felt sorry for the guests who had to wait until we were done with, though.
There seems to be a lot of different internet cafe chains throughout Japan. While transferring stations, I was handed a pack of tissues, complements of the nearby Space Create. I checked out their website and was surprised to find that they actually put some effort into catering to their female guests. I gotta say, those look like pretty nice booths, and I wonder if they actually see some patronage.
In conclusion, the net cafes are not what I imagined them to be. They really emphasize privacy, and there’s really not a lot of open space. There were “open” booths rather than “private” booths in the Comic Buster that I saw, which amounted to a lounge chair facing out of the window, but there were only a few of those compared to the dozens of booths there were. I guess it’s no big surprise, given the lack of space in general, and you probably don’t need or want an open space for the stuff you’d come to a net cafe to do.
I’m a little scared to think that it really seems like a great place to hang out in Japan: there’s great internet, there’s shelves and shelves of manga, there’s unlimited drinks from the fountain, and you can even order cheap food. I think I saw a shower room in the back as well. It really seems like an ideal setup to sink all of your time there if you wanted to. I feel like the novelty of traveling in Japan was the only thing that made me think of it as a waste of time to hang out there for too long, but it that kind of place really appeals to me…