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Tokyo's 2D Cafe (soranews24.com)
177 points by allthebest 76 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

I don't see any unusual tricks of perspective. A better name might be "paper cafe" rather than 2D cafe as it reminds me of paper dolls and paper dollhouses.


That thing is insanely expensive! Is there something special about it to justify the price tag?? I feel like I'd be cheap and buy some poster board and make kids build their own(?)

Could as well put up a proper IT version: https://i.imgur.com/km9TGBh.jpg

In a world where most IT offices these days are as sterile and bland as possible I would applaud a coworker that went out and did this.

Off topic, it was the first one that came up in search. In related products there are others for $30.

It's some random amazon seller massively overcharging. Nothing too surprising.

In certain circles, "3D" means the real world and "2D" means the opposite. 3D models are "2D", for example.

It's really interesting looking at the evolution and interplay between social network and real life trends around this topic:

1. It's cool to take photos and apply filters (Instagram 1.0)

1a. It's not cool to take photos and apply filters (Cameras get better, filters are over-used)

2. It's cool to take videos and use AR filters (Snapchat/Instagram evolved)

2a. It's not cool to take videos and use AR filters (filters are over-used)

3. It's cool to decorate real world to look like a filter, take unfiltered photos (2d cafes)

There's also a [store/boutique/experience/outlet/place where you pay for a thing] in my town where they just have neat sets for you to take photos in. There's a room of ducks, a fake bridge through a magical forest, an upside down room, etc.

The entire business model is selling tickets so people can take photos and post to social media. And it's a great one.

I stumbled upon one of these walking around my city the other day. I thought it was either a new museum, or some pop-up museum exhibit, but it was instead exactly what you described: a photo studio with many preconfigured sets that are pretty inventive.

In hindsight it’s so obvious: cameras are getting very good, sharing photos and video is now trivial for the majority of the population, and everyone has a camera in their pocket. What a money-making opportunity, even if someday people will eventually go, “meh, I don’t need to visit that new photo studio place that opened up.”

This reminds me of how Apple seems to (or at least used to) choose apps to promote on the iOS App Store when a new version of iOS came out: what new capability will now be widely available with the new iOS version? Make an app that highlights that capability, and not only will Apple feature you, but also a bunch of tastemakers will use your app and spread the word. It could be support for new camera features, adding AR capability, adding calendar integration, improved sharing capabilities, etc.

Go to what’s new but ubiquitous, and there are probably people willing - at least in the short term - to pay with eyeballs or money.

> It's cool to decorate real world to look like a filter, take unfiltered photos (2d cafes)

It’s more of a comic book look in this case IMO.

See also: pop art makeup look


I wonder if anyone did the pop art makeup look and went to the 2d cafe with that on their face yet. That’d make for some nice photos for Instagram for sure!

There's also a cafe just like this in Seoul (Hongdae neighborhood). "Cartoon Cafe" I believe?

I guess the real trick is getting incredibly uniform lighting over each square cm of all furniture.

I would have liked to see a photo with people in it to help show the contrast. Although the food photos were pretty good in that regard.

there is a "restaurant with rooms" in Turin in which the rooms are designed by local artists and one of them is "2d"

The restaurant is also very good.


I've seen pictures of this restaurant multiple times on the web. What I haven't seen, is a person in the picture. I wonder if having a person in it ruins the illusion?

A quick google image search results in people in the cafe.

which all look carefully curated to me. i cant find any with more than one person in it within first few pages of results

This is a fantastic novelty for once, but I personally find the setting jarring and unsettling for repeat visits.

I lived in tokyo for a bit and i always wondered if these theme cafes get repeat customers. I enjoyed going to like a Feudal Japan era cafe, but animal cafes aside, i never really had a desire for a repeat visit especially since the lines can be SUPER long.

Aren’t many of the ones that are themed after IP’s explicitly temporary?

I went to a bird café In a mostly residential area just north of Ueno park last year. It was a total blast. We only went in because my spouse didn't feel well and need to rest, but it ended up one of the highlights of our trip. Everyone was super happy. All guests were laughing at the birds that were in a huge cage; the caged birds were seemingly having a great time snuggling and humping each other; the birds you could visit with were clearly excited to get attention. One bird kept chirping at my wife every time she stopped petting it. The entire place liked like a room for kids, but there were no kids, just happy adults and birds. The music they played sounded like music from a happy scene in an anime. It was almost surreal. I would go back in a heartbeat!

We did go to a hedgehog cafe which was bad. Unhappy staff and the animals are nocturnal and just want to sleep. It felt just like animal abuse.

Previous discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21322807

EDIT: I was wrong, the previous discussion was for a similarly styled cafe in Korea, whereas this one is in Tokyo.

These are two different cafes that use these visual effects (one in Tokyo, Japan, and one in Seoul, Korea.)

Shoot, I didn't read the titles correctly enough; you're absolutely right, they're two completely different cafes. Thanks for the correction!

On the bright side, it's absolutely relevant to the discussion and useful for comparison.

This is quite similar to a room in Meow Wolf (https://santafe.meowwolf.com/). That one was quite well done, down to painted shadows in spots where real shadows were cast from the lighting.

Looks cool. I'll have to go check it out.

Reminds me of the sets from "The Fabulous World Of Jules Verne"


go to 01:07:12

And of course more recently Sin City

Is the quality of a place only dictated by instagrammability, today?

Eh, thats definitely something happening in the west but theme cafe culture has been a big thing in Tokyo for far longer than Instagram has existed. These places don't typically stay around for too many years but they are common places to take casual dates, or for groups of people with shared interests to go. C.f.: gundam themed cafes, cat cafes, feudal era cafes, etc.

Reminds me a bit of Disney's Animators Palate dining room:


Looks more like cel shading with outlines rather than 2d (though both terms are used interchangeably for anime and cartoons).

If you like this you should check out Meow Wolf. It’s in Santa Fe and has a very funky vibe.

It would be cool to have a flashmob where everyone is wearing a skeleton onesie in there :)

They should name it Borderlands cafe :P

Don’t these kind of places rely on perspective tricks, ideal POVs, lighting, and really good photographers (like those floating crosswalks)? I think if I saw it in real life, it wouldn’t be as impressive since those conditions would break down quickly.

Yes - BUT the main reason people go isn't for the first-person experience, it's so they can take photos and post online. So none of those limitations really matter.

Reminds me of the quote I heard about 'experiential' businesses: "If you can't take a picture and brag about it online, then it's not experiential"

Kind of reminded me of how Starbucks used to disallow photography in their Chinese stores. It was to prevent copying, but it didn’t go down well since it was mainly a lifestyle business in that country.

That's for making 2D stuff look 3D. This is the opposite--no perspective tricks or limited POVs are necessary, just outlines and stark contrasts.

Just another cafe serving sugar junk food in single use plastic cups.

At least show someone sitting in it.

This is beyond trippy.

So it's crap to visit IRL but it allows you to take good Instagram photos.

This is what we want now?

Fair enough if it's what people want, but say that.

Don't pretend like it's also a place you will enjoy as a cafe or find visually appealing to look at with eyes.


Does every restaurant have to appeal to the Instagram generation now?

Are all restaurants doing this? I'm pretty sure the Italian cafe down my street is still doing their own thing (serving good food at good prices).

If its not your cup of tea to visit a place like this, the solution is simple. Visit somewhere else for food. Otherwise, there are all sorts of inventive restaraunts through the ages, from Benihana's (at least in the 70s when it was fresh-and-cool), to "Blind Restaurants" to sports-bars, and now apparently this 2D-cafe drawing style.

No, these restaurants don't necessarily serve the best food (in my experience anyway). But that's also not the point... the point of Benihana's / Blind Cafes / Cat Cafes / Sports Bars / 2D Cafes / etc. etc. is to provide a new experience beyond just food and drink.

Taking pictures and sharing them with friends is not a generational thing. It has been a cornerstone of human culture since the concept of photography was invented.

Are we not allowed to enjoy what we see anymore?

Even before photography, we were painting portraits of our food (https://twitter.com/neilgupta/status/1183559136467922951). This is not remotely new behavior, humans like to tell stories.

However sometimes it feels like it is being hijacked. Sometimes it feel that the main experience is "sharing a picture", rather than having an experience (view, sound, smell, all senses plus emotions) and then trying to share it with pictures. Sometimes it feels that people are too focused on being the directors of their lives rather being the (ad-lib) actors. The gamification and addiction-inducing practices of certain social media probably has something to do with this trend. This, I think, is the generational thing.

I doubt it; people have been going on vacation, and selecting places based on non-self-interest reasons for ages.

In my own family, every vacation turns into a question of how many tours and points-of-interest we can fit, and the whole thing is just stressful. And at those PoIs, the only real interest is getting a good picture with $thing in the background, and visiting the next thing.

And it's common enough behavior that whole industries revolve around it, which we call tourism.

And of course, those tourist hotspots are natural places for locals to avoid, because they cater very directly to those tourists.

Instagram is a very direct extension of the model, but with a much tighter feedback loop, and much more advanced strategies and competition. Boomer-style tourism is just as culturally dumb (and profitable) as instragram-tourism, but implementation-wise, instagram-tourism is simply on a different level of technical proficiency.

Well... You are unfortunately correct.

>Sometimes it feel that the main experience is "sharing a picture", rather than having an experience (view, sound, smell, all senses plus emotions) and then trying to share it with pictures.

Sure, I can agree with this! But whether you allow the experience to be hijacked is entirely up to you. You and your family/friends can simply put your phones away and look for yourself. Fighting smartphone addiction is better with friends.

This restaurant appeals to me and I am not in the Instagram generation.

Restaurants are extremely competitive. I’m not surprised that they go to great lengths to differentiate.

Japan raised comics to an art form long before Instagram. Akira volume 1 was published before Instagram's founders were even born. This isn't generational.

I believe you mean any instead of every

I'm amazed by the number of restaurants I walk by in Vancouver. That you happen to see the internet photo worthy more often than the straight forward venues is a side effect of the internet photo worthy restaurant essentially self selecting itself to be shared online

"I don't like it, and therefore others should not like it either"

Do we have to assume that they do it to satisfy an IG crowd, or can we simply allow them doing it for the sake of the experience?

Another take, is it that bad though if they did? It would be free marketing. Hopefully it would bring actual customers and not just selfie-photographers :)

This seems entirely consistent with long-standing Japanese quirky fun, established well before IG and FB existed.

Only the ones you see trending in feeds.

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