If you are young and traveling or living in Japan and on a budget then you have probably heard people tell you to stay at a manga or Internet cafe instead of finding yourself a hotel or hostel. It’s cheap and easy to do and if you give in a Google search you will probably find quite a few guides telling you how to do it.
But is staying in a manga cafe the right choice for you? It’s definitely not for everyone and depending on what you are looking for it can be a great choice or the worst decision of your trip.
So, without more ado, here is a list of Pros and Cons of staying at a Japanese Media Cafe.
- Cheap! This is definitely a choice for people on a budget as you won’t find many cheaper places to stay, especially not without booking ahead. Prices vary depending on the location but in general it can go from around 800 yen for around 3 hours or up to 3500 for 10 hours.
- Location, location. Media cafes can be found all over the place in Japan and that can be a really awesome thing. Not done exploring an area? Partying so late that you missed the last train? There is probably a media Cafe close by that you can crash at without going too far at all, or paying for an expensive taxi.
- Entertainment galore! Whether you want to peruse the larger manga library, watch tv or movies, or surf the net, these are all things that are typically included in a stay at a media Cafe. Even if you can’t find sleep you’ll still have plenty to do for the duration of your stay.
- Shhh! Quiet! If you haven’t noticed yet Japanese people tend to be a lot quieter than most westerners. You’ll find that media cafes are very quiet places, the only sounds you’ll here are people moving around every so often and the occasional snore or person having a midnight snack. Obviously this is going to depend on who is around you, so it is pretty variable.
- Free drinks and even showers! That’s right, a lot of these media cafes will offer extras like a drink bar(non-alcoholic) and even showers and tanning booths. Now this is not every place so check what kinds of extras places might have when looking around as not every place will be the same. The drinks bar is actually pretty awesome and affects a variety of drinks from different sodas to hot drinks like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. The showers and other amenities are often for a price( a few hundred yen) but if you are the kind of person who feels like they can’t go without a shower then that is definitely a positive to look for.
- Itsy Bitsy Living Space. If small spaces aren’t your thing then this might not be for you. While it is generally more spacious than say a capsule hotel it’s not by much. There are a variety of different cubicles available at many media cafes and you can pick the one that suits your needs best. The smallest rooms are ones with just a general computer chair that doesn’t recline, this are usually the cheapest but if you can’t sleep sitting up then they probably aren’t for you. Other common room types are ones with a fully reclining computer chair and flat rooms which have a padded floor. If you need to sprawl out and lie down to sleep then go for the flat room. There are also options with couches if you are with friends and want to share. These are generally karaoke booth type rooms and a little bigger. Comfort is also not top priority in these places so if you are looking for a super soft bed then look elsewhere.
- Privacy. If you need to feel like you have entirely your own space then this isn’t the best choice. Height wise the cubicles are maybe around five and a half feet tall so unless you are a rather short person you would easily be able to peer into other cubicles when standing. So, don’t go standing as this is generally considered very rude. While no one may be looking in on you, you still won’t be able to escape that open feeling as you stare up at the large open ceiling space above you and listen to the faint movements of everyone around you.
- Speaking of noise, if you need absolute quiet to sleep then bring some ear plugs. While media cafes are indeed quiet there is still a lot of ambient noise going on constantly. There might be background music playing quietly and the sound of people shuffling around or even coming down on some chips at 4 in the morning. This might be highly dependent on the location though as I have read about some places turning off the power from midnight to six to allow for sleep.
- More expensive then you might think. That’s right, even though the cheap price made it into the pros list there are definitely some price factors to think about if you want to stay at a media Cafe. The shorter you stay, the cheaper it is. If you are out partying until 2am and just need to crash somewhere until the first train of the morning then this is a wonderful option. Or if you need to be up for an early flight or event(like the fish market in Tokyo which starts in the wee hours of the morning before trains run). If you are looking for a full night’s stay then the price can go up dramatically, to around 3500 yen. Now, this is still very cheap for a night’s stay somewhere but if some of these other cons seem like they might be a problem for you then you can probably find a room at a hostel for around the same price.
- Keep an eye on the time. The different packages available (3 hours, 6 hours, etc.) are definitely convenient but be aware of which one you pick. Many place will not let you change afterwords and they usually charge around 100 yen for every 15-30 minutes you stay over your time, which can really add up. They will come let you know your time is up too, so if you pick a 3 hour package at 3am after your done partying, be prepared for a 6am wakeup call.
There are obviously a lot of good and bad points about staying at a Japanese Manga Cafe. In the end it is really up to you whether or not this is an experience that you just have to try. As for me, I’m not sure it would be my go to choice if I have time to plan ahead. If I even miss the train then sure but if it’s a trip I’m planning ahead for then I’ll probably find myself a hostel.
If you are looking for a media Cafe to stay at in a busy area then check out the people standing around holding signs. These will many times be for media cafes or karaoke places. Be aware that the price on the signs may not be what they seem, as they are usually for the cheapest option possible and not the reclining or flat rooms.
Overall, staying in a media/manga/internet cafe in Japan is definitely on the list of cheap and unique places to stay in Japan. If you are traveling or living in Japan on a budget definitely don’t discount this as an option!