Internet “café” is actually a gross misnomer for this nine-story building in Shibuya, and not only because the Nescafe-in-a-paper-cup from the vending machines is predictably vile, but because it’s an understatement in every possible way of size, function, and cultural experience value. Yes, really. These establishments strike me as a weirdly compacted sample of Tokyo living, open as they are twenty-four hours a day in one of the most restless parts of town, and where tourists, youth, and businesspeople crash between the last and first trains, where the city’s “homeless, runaways, and divorced husbands” take refuge, and everyone can take unlimited advantage of some of those things celebrated as Japanese trademarks: karaoke, manga, electronics, the sensation of mild delirium.
Of course, you could just check your email or whatever website you can’t live without (see below) in a small private cabin, smoking or non-smoking according to your preference and with a comfortable swivel chair or a tatami-style situation that calls for strong blood flow through your thighs, or else shameless sprawling. That’ll cost you 180yen/30minutes, or 800, 1,200, or 1,500yen for 3-, 8-, and 12-hour internet bundle packs, respectively.
Hang on, “bundle pack”? This should be your first indication that these internet cafes are not just meant for sending reassuring ten-second updates to the people back home (or begging for money for a return ticket)–as they tend to be in other cities.
Visitors to Tokyo, or even longer-term residents, however, might be wary of using them for anything more, because…well, I’m not really sure. Perhaps it seems dangerous, or dirty, or suspect, or even in violation of house rules. In fact, extended stays for gaming, working, napping, or whatever it is you’re doing in there are not only tolerated, but encouraged. As the showers on the 9th floor might indicate. Or the free blankets and the towels for-rent at the reception. Or the special rates that kick in between 11pm and 5am–the 1,280yen flatrate for a karaoke room in those hours, for example.
Just to be certain that passing out in my karaoke or ‘net cubicle instead of marathon singing for six straight hours or catching up on a decade of correspondence wouldn’t get me thrown out, I subtly* ran the idea by the staff at the front desk.
Who recommended checking into one of the rooms with the tatami floors, because it would be more ideal for sleeping, obviously. Ta-da.
*”Can I sleep here?”
I figure, then, that it’s entirely possible to spend a night in Shibuya with entertainment included for a minimum of 1,280yen in a karaoke room, or for 1,500yen in one of the internet booths. But before you throw a house-warming party, you might want to run yourself through a mental/physical preparedness test. Safety is of little concern, but the size factor will definitely matter. The hallways at KaraNet24 were very quiet, the rooms would pass an unseemly-odor- and stain-test, were private and fairly comfortable–and very small. For coma sleepers like myself it would hardly matter; in any case, the main thing is to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into.
Tip: KaraNet24 also has locations in Shinjuku and Ikebukoro; some more of the most ubiquitous internet cafe chains include Manboo!, EZcafé, Gran Cyber Café Bagus, and Media Café Popeye