I’m a complete cheapskate but I thrive on something different. So instead of hostels, hotels, home stays and Air BnB, I go for Couchsurfing, home swaps and sometimes even 24 hour bath houses but in Japan, some of these options just seemed so difficult. Couchsurfers only wanted females or weren’t available and despite having a billion 5* quality references, I was getting nowhere. Either hosting guys is a no-go or their obsession with cats means their couch residency is more important. Hostels were asking for 30 quid and my pockets were pretty light as it is so I was in a bit of a bother.
Then I discovered a complete gold mine. An oasis in the money sucking metropolis of Tokyo
It was about 10pm at night, my phone was running out of battery and I had a total of 1800 Yen in my pocket or the equivalent of €17. Nowhere in the city was going to take me in on that budget. I wandered a few 24 hour restaurant pretending to look at the menus to kill time and have somewhere to rest. I spend 300 on a bowl of miso soup and sip it as slow as possible. 10:45pm….this is going to be a long night. Shit! I stumble around downtown Tokyo and hit Shinjuku a place well known for it’s all night atmosphere and I hope to find some people in the street to vibe with. However, I spotted a sign 4 floors up said Bagus 24 hr Internet Cafe and decided maybe a night on Facebook or sleeping on a keyboard will kill some time.
The elevator opened into what seemed like a gentlemen’s private members club. Classical Jazz, black carpets and suited receptionist. I nearly turned around in embarrassment to get down as fast as possible but I was welcomed with a warm smile. Approaching the desk, look at the menu of options…a private booth with computer, TV and matted floor for only 1450 Yen. I took that with 50 Yen left to spare and he guided me to my booth.
So why am I blogging about this? Here’s why, for a half the price of a hostel I got the following:
- Unlimited vanilla and chocolate ice-cream
Unlimited soft drinks
Unlimited coffee, tea and other hot drinks
Access to a million Manga comics (that I couldn’t read)
Pool and darts to play
Showers (450 Yen extra but I snook in and took one when no-one was looking)
Private booth with slippers and blanket
This is way more than a hostel would provide and you can be sure I got my value from the free ice-cream. These kinds of cafes popped up to cater for the ever growing obsession with Manga and the highly addicted gaming culture of this generation. It only takes a small metro ride to Akihabara to see what I mean as they froth over card games, manga figures, small dolls and women are running around as maids.
I played billiard with some very jovial Japanese men who told me that they live there. They told me that it’s too expensive to rent in Tokyo so they keep the most of their belongings in train station lockers for 400 Yen during the day and then spend their evenings in Internet Cafes like this one. He sported that there are over 50,000 people doing this in Japan since the economic downturn a few years ago. He gave up his flat and hasn’t been happier. He’s lost the intimate privacy so bringing girls home is a no-no, but he laughed that his ex was a bitch and he’s not interested in that anyway. He whipped out a hidden flask of whiskey from his pocket and slammed it in my hands demanding “You try”. You really do meet some rather unusual characters in Tokyo.
I lined up those hot drinks slurping hot chocolate, lashing lemonade and green tea until I keeled over and fell asleep.
I was allowed to stay 8 hours for my 1450 Yen package and at 5am, I was out the door and on the train making the most of my JR Pass. In fact it gave me the whole day to go sight seeing and I got more than I usually would done rather than if I stayed somewhere that let me sleep in until 10am.
Since then, I’ve stayed in three different cafes (Pop Eye is another famous chain) and all have been amazing although none as good as the experience at my first. Mainly due to the random nature of it but also the quality. Just search Bagus Internet Cafe Shinjuku and you’ll find what you are looking for pretty quick.