On a public holiday with a typhoon crawling it’s way towards Tokyo, and my regular freelancer’s ‘hot desk’ closed for the day, I decided to try out Takarajima 24 – an internet cafe that advertises completely private rooms and that it “competes with hotels”. What a perfect environment to get some work done!
Compared to some other internet cafes such as Manboo!, Takarajima is a little on the expensive side. I went for a weekend daytime pack of 5 hours which set me back 2,000yen. There was a choice of fully reclining chair, sofa, massage chair and lie flat floor seat – depending on the branch there may be other options. Since I had work to do, I went for the reclining chair option. If you’re planning to use the internet, you need to register – otherwise there are no questions asked.
Opening the door to my room, there was as promised a large, comfortable reclining chair. There was also a large (for the tiny room) 37inch TV, computer with separate monitor, DVD player and even a small sink next to the door. However, anyone who goes to Takarajima to work is an idiot – this place is obviously for sleeping as well as various other more vigorous private activities. It’s no secret that manga kissas (internet cafes) compete with love hotels for trade, but this place is really going for it. In my little basket with room key and instruction manual was a condom. Also, the “room service” guide included a page of “joke goods” with 28 (!) different varieties of self pleasuring products – classy.
The real problem with getting work done was mainly ergonomic – the TV and monitor are perched on a shelf. The keyboard and mouse roll out from underneath. The only way I could use my laptop was to clear the keyboard and mouse out of the way. The complete lack of windows and natural light is also a big minus in terms of being a pleasant place to get some work done. So forget about this option as a private office – I don’t know what I was thinking.
At this stage, you’re probably thinking that staying somewhere where people go to wank can’t be very hygienic. First, if you’re afraid of that then you must be in denial when you go to any hotel. Secondly, I once went behind the scenes with a cleaning crew at a love hotel (it’s a long story) – they are incredibly thorough with their cleaning and I’m sure this place must be the same.
So for your money, what do you get? The best value package is the 1 day course for 3,000yen. You can check-in any time from 2pm and you have to check out at 10am the next day. A huge benefit compared to some other cheap accommodation is that you can lock your room and leave the internet cafe. The typical problem with staying at internet cafes is that you are not assured a space to sleep. However, with the 3,000yen 20 hour pack, you can secure your room in the late afternoon and then head out for dinner and any other entertainment. Additionally, there is a free shower and you can choose from a cheapo food menu consisting of chips or cup noodles from 100 to 200yen. Blanket rental is 200yen while you can rent a bath towel for 100yen. You can even buy a fresh pair of socks for 200yen. Or, you can do what the Japanese name for these places (manga kissa) suggests – read comics. You can borrow up to 10 comics and 6 DVDs at a time for free.
DISCLAIMER: In case it isn’t obvious already, low budget accommodation options like internet cafes (this one in particular) and love hotels are inherently a bit dodgy – so there is a definite trade off for the low price. If it’s your first night or time in Japan, you should probably go for something a little more conventional like a hostel or a hotel.