The Popeye Media Cafe of Japan More Than a Hot Internet Spot

Many of Japan’s hottest spots are found in open-air malls or underground malls. The design is ingenious. The internet cafés of Japan are a subculture of their own. The Popeye Media Café is probably like most others, but it does rate at the top of many internet hit lists. At first, the place looks like a library. Men and women alike pass by the primary rack of girlie magazines and head straight for the comics: “Dragonball Z” or “Anime”. Rows and rows of ten foot tall shelving units hold millions of these paperback comics. I have heard that they are similar to a written soap opera that leaves the reader hanging at the end.

Reading isn’t the only thing to do in the Popeye Media Café, though. Short of being a mini-hostel, the place offers “sleeping” booths, couples’ booths, business and/or private booths. The public area, which hosts about thirty stations generally, sees its busiest use between the hours of 2:00am and 7:00am. It’s not uncommon to see people resting on their keyboards or sound asleep beneath one of the blankets that the café offers for when the air conditioning gets too cool. These public booths are the least expensive internet access at about 400 Yen per hour. A discount of a few dollars is offered if you know that you want to spend at least three hours. The three hour price is 1000 Yen, and each subsequent hour after that goes back to the original 400. It’s easy to figure out how to correctly say Ichi jikan open, or ‘one open hour’ after a few visits. Try not to be offended that some cafés may charge men and women differently.

The business booths are back-to-back with the public booths but they have rest room-like doors (that don’t actually reach the floor) for privacy. The cubicle area has a large, comfortable executive chair and carpeting. Users are expected to use the complimentary slippers offered inside the cube and leave their shoes at the door. Although it isn’t sound-proof, it is visibly private. For better privacy, customers can go either upstairs or downstairs to the reclining rooms or the couples’ rooms. It’s probably not in good taste to guess here in print what goes on inside these private rooms, but my guess is that many people use them to simply sleep.

One activity that may come as a surprise to some visitors is the open use of pornography even in the public area. Many people scan the personals, or questionable websites, some of which come with video … and sound. At first, this may be a shock in public, but there are visual barriers between each booth and if the audio portion is particularly offensive to anyone, they can simply request to be moved. Another common activity in public in Japan is smoking. Although the café is separated in to smoking and non-smoking sections, the results are not optimum.

There are also vending machines that offer free hot and cold food and drinks. If you can’t read Japanese, the drinks with the red label are hot, and the blue labels are cold. The hot lemon tea is quite good and they even offer a café mocha kind of drink that’s a tad sweet, but good. The food machines have pictures, so you know (not quite exactly) what you’ll get. Non-traditional selections include tater tots, French fries and other crispy looking concoctions for about 400 Yen. It’s nice that there is also a water cooler as some of their drinks tend to be very sweet and their foods, rich. For dessert, two flavors of free slush drinks are offered.

The seats in the necessary rooms of Japan have so many buttons; it’s unclear which one is used to flush. But who wants to flush when the heated seat is more comfortable than most desk chairs? It makes one think that Japan must actually be the birthplace of the word rest room. It’s an excellent marketing tactic; stay as long as you like. Incidentally, the button used to flush is usually the orange one. Never, ever push the red one. The button with the musical note symbol is used to muffle any unwanted noise that one may make while in the stall; it mimics the flushing sound. Most public places have such rest rooms and the internet cafes in major Japanese cities are no exception.

For your rest room comfort, there are also individually wrapped toothbrushes, various colognes and freshening cloths.
Whatever your public technology needs are in major Japanese cities, the Popeye Media Cafés chains can meet them. Like the rest of the service in Japan, the staff is overly accommodating and customer service driven. Many of the younger people speak some English which is handy if you have to do more than point at the picture you want. If a problem arises that can’t be settled through kind gestures and some sign language, one of the clerks will usually make a whispered call and an English speaker will appear in moments to help out.

So, when it’s time to write home about all you’ve seen and done in Japan, be sure find a Popeye Media Café nearby for all of your comforts. You can have coffee, a light lunch and use an upscale rest room without ever leaving the building. If your chronicle keeps you at the keyboard into the wee hours of the morning, just rent a sleeping booth for a couple of hours and you’re good to go! By the way, the red button in most rest rooms will immediately call for emergency help, as if all that Japan has to offer is not enough attention for visitors to this exotic wonderland.

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