Manga Cafes: Japan’s Cheapest Place to Sleep

The first time I heard of a Manga Café, a shop in Japan where people pay an hourly charge to read manga, I was intrigued. I also thought it was useless. In this day and age, you can easily find even the most obscure manga on the internet. Or you could read the volumes for free in a book store (or used book store, since the newer volumes sometimes come in protective packaging). I didn’t understand why anyone would actually pay money to go to a manga café (also known as a manga kissaten).

But it turns out I misunderstood Japanese manga café’s clientele.

The cubicles are NOT sound-proof

The cubicles are NOT sound-proof

Who goes to go Manga Cafés / 漫画喫茶店?

I would say about 50% of the manga café patrons of businessmen. The other 50% is made up of students, tourists, and the occasional straggler who missed the last train.

Unlike the name suggests, Manga Cafes are less about reading manga and more about renting a private cubicle to sleep (or use the computers). For more information about Manga cafes, check out this article.

Manga Cafe near overnight Tsukiji Fish Market Com Com manga kissaten Japan Japanese price

Why do these people visit Manga Cafés?

The obvious answer is to sleep. Unlike most countries, Japan’s subway system is not 24 hour. In the mad rush during the last train, some people inevitably don’t make it, so they have to wait until the first train – around 5am.

People who miss the last train have a couple options. If they want to sleep, they can go to a hotel (expensive), a capsule hotel (less expensive, but still pricey), a karaoke shop (not terribly expensive to rent a private room), or a manga café.

Those who don’t necessarily need to sleep usually end up at Gusto, Jonathan’s, or another 24-hour family restaurant with a “drink bar” where they can get free refills all night.

As far as sleeping in concerned, Manga Cafés seem to be the cheapest offer: with a seven hour “pack” costing between 1000yen and 1700 yen (between 10$ – 18$). Karaoke bars typically cost about 1,500yen – 4,000yen for a “night;” capsule hotels are between 3,000yen and 5,000yen for a room, and hotels are more than that. So 漫画喫茶店seems to be the cheapest offer (even though, as I mentioned before, it’s not actually that cheap).

It's (almost) like a bed...

It’s (almost) like a bed…

What do people do inside a Manga Cafe?

At night, most people sleep. Some people surf the next (free internet and computers in most “cubicles”). Others actually read the comics, but those are few and in between. As a result, night-time rates for Manga Cafés / Manga Kissaten are nearly double the daily rate.

During the day, most people in manga cafés use the internet. All things considered, it’s a relatively cheap way to surf the net. They also have ports where you can charge your electronics. My manga café even had docs for iPhones and iPods.

I have to assume some people visit manga cafes to, you know, read manga – but I have no idea.

The shop had over 20,000 volumes (according to their website)

The shop had over 20,000 volumes (according to their website)

These manga cafes have existed long before the internet; they have adapted surprisingly well to the change in technology. It’s not the ideal place to sleep, but it is cheap and mildly comfortable.

If you are planning on visiting a manga café (especially if you plan to spend the night there) – check out this quick guide of Things to Bring to a Manga Café before you go!

If you want to stay at Com Com Manga Cafe (the place I stayed at) so you can go to the early morning Tsukiji Fish Market Tuna Auction, here is some information:

Location (to type into Google Maps): 104-0061 東京都中央区銀座4-14-8 佐野ビル3F
Website: http://www.iicomcom.com/s_ginza.html

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

5 Comments on Manga Cafes: Japan’s Cheapest Place to Sleep

  1. why people in japan using some place like that to sleep? it is save from theaf? in my country if you sleep on internet cafe mostly your phone or wallet or most extreme is your shoes will get stolen when you fell a sleep
    btw, if you like to join some android development please feel free to visit my website http://www.topandroid.net

  2. Anonymous // 1 October, 2013 at 5:31 pm //

    After living in Japan for several years, I have only recently discovered manga cafes! I am stoked because as you say, they are a great, cheap option as a sleeping place for those unfortunate nights when you happen to accidentally miss the last train – something I have been guilty of a number of times! If you found this article interesting, you may also like to read the brief summary in this one: http://www.deepjapan.org/a/1212

    • Interesting! I’ve used Manga Cafes for naps too. They really are great (and not as bad as one might imagine).

      I’ve never missed the last train, but have gotten pretty close. It’s always relaxing to know I have an option in case I do miss the train, though~

  3. Do you know about anything shady that happens at these cafes? Is there much of a homeless population that would take advantage of this?

    • Short answer – yes, they have a bit of shady stuff that goes on. Before I stayed, a lot of my Japanese friends warned me to guard my wallet and iPod, since items (especially valuable ones) are often stolen from sleeping customers.
      I had a friend who would go to Manga cafes to stream and download porn, since his dorms wouldn’t allow it.
      I’ve also heard that couples will occasionally have sex in their small cubicle (I’m not sure if it’s true or not, since it’s deathly quiet inside the cafe – and the rooms are only covered, both sound-wise and visual-wise, by a curtain). Who knows?

      I had a pleasant time there – nothing shady happened at all. But I also might have slept through it…?

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