Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mane Cafe

I was originally going to include this entry in Maid Runner, but I've got enough material to keep myself busy there for a while and Mane Cafe really isn't directly related to maid cafes in either case. This started out when I was visiting different maid cafe websites, trying to verify that each cafe was still operating and to get the correct URL for the site, when I got to the Melty Cure page. Most maid cafe websites have a list of links to either sister sites (e.g. - pages for cafes owned by the same umbrella corporation) or to advertisers of related products (e.g. - cosplay supplies shops). What I found on the Melty Cure page, though, was a link to something called "Mane Cafe" in Gotokuji. Gotokuji is about 10 stops southwest of Shinjuku on the Odakyu line, well outside of the Akihabara region.

Bear with me here. In Japanese, "kitsu" means "to eat or drink, to consume". "sa" is one pronunciation for "tea". "Kissa" ("kitsu" + "sa" = "kissa") then refers to either "tea drinking", or "a tea house". "Ten" means "shop or store". Interestingly, "kissaten" has taken on the meaning of "coffee shop".

"Manga" means "comics, comic book" (Japanese variety). So, you'd think that a "manga kissa" (derived from "manga" + "kissaten") would be a place where you eat manga. But no, although some people are said to "devour" books, a "manga kissa" is a coffee shop where you pay by the hour to sit and read comics. Manga kissa started popping up in the mid- to late-1990's, and later absorbed the internet cafes (netto kafe) (shops where you could pay by the hour to surf the net) so that now there's little distinction between a manga kissa and an internet cafe. On the other hand, some internet cafes have individual rooms where you can sleep overnight, and that have become popular with unemployed, homeless, young adults

Mane Cafe, while advertising on Melty Cure, is really just a manga kisse. The name comes from "MAnga" + "interNEt" ("ma" + "ne" + "cafe"). They have two plans, incremental and bulk. The incremental plan costs 70 yen for 10 minutes (420/hour ~ $5 USD). Bulk is 1000 yen for 3 hours, or 2000 yen for 10 hours. There are 6 booths, large enough for 1 person, with a chair, desk and PC. Not that comfortable for reading, but fine for watching DVDs or playing PC games. There are a few TV rooms, with a small couch, PC and TV, and then the group room that is almost like a small living room in an efficiency apartment. The real attraction to a manga kissa is that it's wall-to-wall comics. The front desk has the latest copies of the weekly magazines, and then there's thousands of volumes of both boy's and girl's comics. If you're trying to find a series that you like, you'll have a good selection to work from. If you want to read a complete series, unlike a regular bookstore, all of the volumes from the set are here. And, if you read fast, you can consume $10 of weekly magazines for the $5 cost for a 1 hour stay.

Mane Cafe has a small selection of snacks and cup noodles (120 yen for chips and crackers, 150 yen for cup ramen) and an all you can drink for free vending machine for juice, coffee and tea (although it's poor-quality coffee). If you're looking for a place to sit down and chill for an hour, a manga kissa isn't that bad of a choice. To get to Mane Cafe, ride the Odakyu line to Gotokuji station (1 stop north of Kyodo station). When you exit the station, there should be a McDonald's to your right. Turn left and walk 1.5 short blocks. Mane Cafe will be down the stairs to your left. (I should mention that nearly every major station in Tokyo has an internet cafe within a 1-2 block radius of the exit and most of them are similar to Mane.)

They also have a points card. 1 point per regular visit, 2 or more points if you get the 3 hour or 10 hour package. Every 15 points gives you a free 30 minute credit. (At 420 yen per 1 hour visit for 1 point, that's 6300 yen ($65 USD) to get a 210 yen ($2.25) credit, which is 3.33% on your spending.

(Right outside Mane Cafe, on the way back to the station, I found this group doing "tachi yomi" (standing and reading manga for free) in front of a bookstore. Kind of ironic. At least with a manga kissa it's only 420 yen to sit down for an hour while reading.)

Coincidentally, the same day I visited Mane Cafe, the Yomiuri newspaper ran a story on how internet cafes are being targeted by the police for attracting hackers. Seems that a lot of net cafes don't check the customers for IDs, allowing hackers to access the net anonymously. And the police are threatening to crack down on net cafes as a result. For reference, Mane Cafe asked for my ID before letting me get inside.

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