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Memoirs from a Japanese Internet Cafe (japantimes.co.jp)
93 points by bemmu 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments

I remember internet cafes in Russia back in 2004. I was 11 years old at the time and was a common visitor. My father dropped me off at one of these cafes for an hour one time and I ended up playing GTA 2 the whole time. That's how I was introduced. It was actually my very first time using a computer. I had Playstation and SEGA before.

I remember showing up early in the morning before 8AM and there were already people waiting in the hall. Time was cheaper in the morning and you could buy a "pack" of 3 hours for 100 rubles which was equivalent to $4. It was also sometimes dangerous because older guys used to bully younger people and take their money. I remember one time I was walking out of the cafe after playing for 4 hours and was approached by 2 guys, slightly older than me. One of them whipped out a knife and said: "Give me all your money or I'll slice your throat, I don't give a fuck, I'm minor so nothing bad will happen to me". I knew these two somehow. They had a reputation for attacking and robbing people, so they weren't fucking around. I gave them crumpled 10 rubles and said it's all I have left, because I'm going out of the cafe, not in. They should be stopping people who are going in. They believed me and let me go. I had another 500r on me and was glad they didn't check my pockets. Later this evening I came back to play more despite being afraid of getting mugged again, that's how strong my addiction to these cafes was.

To be frank those places weren't like cafes at all. We called them clubs. All they had inside were computers with LAN connection. Internet was there as well, but it wasn't popular. Most people were playing Counter Strike or Battlefield. Most clubs were managed by a single person, an admin. Those people weren't owners, they were just there to take money, allocate time to specific computers, and to tell people to get out.

I first went to Japan before smartphones existed. Internet cafes were a place to look at Yahoo Maps to figure out where you were, and to check your email. When I traveled I relied on paper maps. All of the computers were running the localized version of Microsoft Windows. Everyone had flip-phones, and a lot of people had more than one. Instead of SMS they used email on their phones.

The internet cafes had beds (sort of, more like booths with padded benches) and showers and vending machines with hot food. I went back and forth across the country without reserving hotel rooms in advance, and I spent the night in internet cafes fairly often.

I went back about 2 years ago and I saw mobile internet access advertised on the train for very low prices -- far cheaper than what you can get in the US. Smartphones were common. I saw a few internet cafes but I don't think people need them anymore. They will probably all be gone soon.

Net cafes are still super popular in Japan. They are used to crash when you dont have money for a hotel since they are very cheap. People dont really use them for Internet, since they have a huge streaming dramas and movies offering and you can also grab manga to read in your box. they have food and free drinks. Its pretty much a private space for rent,which is very much desirable in crowded Japan cities.

Even before smartphones, Internet cafes were extensibly used to just rest for a an hour or two, watch some video or read manga (very practical to binge reading a full series).

I think that role is here to stay as long as people want a place with a closed space with low social requirement.

I saw a few internet cafes but I don't think people need them anymore

Sadly, a few homeless have resorted to living in the se internet cafes to avoid living on the streets. That said, the number of these cafes have been dwindling.

Thats better than being in the street and its cheap enough to make it possible to go there often and have a shower. Its great they exist for the less fortunate of society.

Why do you think people will stop needing a cheap place to crash? As far as I can recall, they're the least expensive lodging option.

In South Korea the bath place is the cheapest place to crash. Popular to locals and tourist needing cheap place to sleep for the night.

In Japan Manga cafes are still a little bit cheaper than bath places.

This was when people still had face to face exchanges by making sounds and gestures usually while sharing liquids. Making a friend was a big deal back then.


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