Plus Alpha: Lets Mangakissa!

Plus Alpha is a weekly column that explores life in Japan from the perspective of American expatriate and game-industry veteran Jarik Sikat. Having worked in numerous areas of the game industry since 1994, Sikat relocated to Japan in 2010.

So you missed that last train back to your hotel? Need a break from that fast-paced Tokyo lifestyle for a few hours? It’s time to visit a “mangakissa.” Ikuze! (Let’s go!)

First, a little about the term “mangakissa.” The “manga” part refers to Japanese comics, while “kissa” comes from the word “kissaten,” or coffee shop. Though you’ll soon realize that mangakissa more closely resemble hotels than your local Starbucks.

Today, we’re less than 20 minutes outside of Shibuya and hiding out at DiCE Mizonokuchi in Kawasaki.

Our first order of business is to check in at the front desk. Some shops may require you to sign up for a membership, but at DiCE, all you need to do is pick your room and a time package. You can pick up 30 minutes for just 290 yen if all you want to do is catch up on email and Facebook. But you’ll probably want to settle in for a few hours, or splurge on the 12-hour overnight package for just 2,480 yen (around US$32). At check-in, they’ll offer you complimentary, comfy room slippers and a small blanket, so you’ll definitely want to take them up on that; just return them to the front desk when paying.

DiCE offers three types of rooms, including a “flat room” with a cushioned floor and pillows, a “relaxation chair room” and “pair rooms.” Measuring at around 5’ by 3’, the flat rooms are larger than the relaxation chair spaces, which use an office-style reclining seat. The pair rooms are double the size of the standard flat rooms, and have two PCs. I prefer DiCE’s immaculate flat rooms so I can take a nap, especially when staying overnight. Each of the rooms resembles an office cubicle with extra-high walls and a sliding door for privacy. Non-smoking rooms are thankfully placed on a separate floor from the smoking spaces.

If it’s manga you’re looking for, feel free to browse through DiCE Mizonokuchi’s 30,000-volume collection. They also have all of the latest magazines. DiCE’s Ikebukuro location has amassed a whopping assortment of 180,000 volumes! It’s all in Japanese, but you’ll find many other diversions if manga’s not your thing.

In addition to each room having its own TV, you’ll find multiple cinema channels on your PC (which also comes loaded with standard Microsoft Office applications and Skype). There’s a deep library of anime, Japanese and Korean TV shows, porn and of course movies, all streamed full-screen to your desktop for free. During my visit, Super 8, The Mighty Thor and the complete Harry Potter series were just a small handful of the movies available, along with classics such as Jaws and Jurassic Park. While most of the American films were in English, some films, Thor for example, are dubbed into Japanese.

As for games, most of the 70 rooms at DiCE come equipped with a PS2, but you’ll have to bring your own titles. That doesn’t mean you can’t get your game on… provided you’re into MMORPGs. DiCE has 68 different online games, such as Monster Hunter Frontier, Dynasty Warriors Online, Lineage II and Final Fantasy XI. Other mangakissa I’ve visited also have darts, pool tables, and the occasional arcade game.

Getting hungry? You’ve got a few options, which differ depending on which mangakissa you choose. All of the mangakissa I’ve visited have a free “drink bar” or complimentary drink vending machines serving up all varieties of coffee, tea, soft drinks, juice and even soup. At DiCE, you can buy reasonably priced snacks and cup noodles. Some mangakissa have full kitchens that offer complete lunch and dinner menus. You can place your order directly from the PC in your cube. Don’t feel like you’re trapped once you check in; you’re free to step out to a McDonald’s or nearby “conbini” (convenience store) for supplies.

So it’s morning now, and you want to get cleaned up before tackling another day in Tokyo? Have no fear. There’s a complimentary shower room. Amenities such as shampoo, towels, combs and toothbrushes are also available for anywhere between 20 and 80 yen each, so you can step on to that packed subway train with confidence.

Visiting a mangakissa is a great oasis from the noise and lights of the urban jungle. As a foreigner, it may be difficult if there’s a language barrier, since the PCs are only in Japanese. However, mangakissa in Akihabara and other areas with a heavy tourist population tend to be English-friendly, so don’t be intimidated. Drop in, relax, and have fun.

Jarik Sikat has worked in the videogame industry in areas ranging from localization and product development to public relations and marketing. As a freelance journalist and writer, his work has appeared in PlayStation: The Official Magazine, Official Xbox Magazine and Newtype USA.

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