Porn Shops and Internet Cafes

laox

For the most part I found Tokyo efficient and easy to navigate, but on the rare occasions that I did get lost, it was usually in a magnificent way. One such incident happened while my friends and I were making our way back to our respective hostels after a long day of wandering. The trip included changing train lines, and unfortunately the two lines were not connected, so we found ourselves wandering the side streets of Kanda, a city reminiscent of Akihabara with all the lights and flash, only perhaps a bit seedier. Walking in ever widening circles, we checked and rechecked our maps to no avail until finally one friend decided to ask for help. The rest of us stayed put as she headed back into the subway station to ask for guidance.

Suddenly I was being nudged, my attention drawn to the tall, garishly lit building in front of us. “I think that’s an internet cafe!” my friend explained, pointing to the symbols on the sign. Indeed, they seemed to indicate a laptop computer and television. “Let’s just go take a look.” We waved to our other friend to let her know where we were headed then hurried over.

As soon as we stepped foot into the cluttered store we realized that her interpretations had been off. Narrow pathways snaked between tall metal shelves which were lined with books and movies not fit for innocent eyes. It was clear that the only girls who ever graced this store were the ones that lined the walls, scantily clad in seductive poses that needed no translation. My friend let out a snicker, and her laughter soon escalated as a young Japanese man emerged from the back room, looked at us in wide eyed surprised, then began yelling rapidly as he chased us both out. I’m not sure which had scandalized him more; that we were American tourists; that we were female; or that we were giggling.

Later on, after my friends and I had parted ways, I did spend some time in a real (non-sketchy) Internet cafe. Although the clerks at both places I visited spoke no English, we were able to communicate through miming and pointing at a picture “menu” which gave options such as computer room, video room, computer room with chair, etc. I chose the basic computer room (roughtly $3 for the first 1/2 hour) and was given a floor and room number (at Gera Gera I was simply told to choose an empty room). There was a concession area where you could get your fill of free drinks (once again I chose the melon soda) and food at a price. Shelves of Japanese comics and videos lined the walls, free to borrow during your stay. The individual rooms were small cubicles with a desk, computer, monitor, television, light and bean bag chair. I slid off my shoes and closed the door behind me, then booted up my computer.

I’d had initial apprehension about using Japanese computers, especially as to what the keyboards would be like, but both at the hostels and at the Internet cafes the keyboards let you toggle easily between Western and Japanese characters. The desktop was a strange mixture of Japanese and English, but I was able to navigate easily by the icons. It was a comfort to be able to go online, talk to my friends via messenger, check my email, and just rest my feet and relax in the warmth of the cafe while sipping my melon soda. At the end of my visit I handed my pass to the register and they added my extra time to the total.

Internet Cafes in Japan are much nicer (and more private) than the ones I’ve been to in the United States. The prices are reasonable for an hour of use, although I can see one easily losing track of time. It’s said that Internet cafes can also be used as budget accommodations, and some even offer showers and reduced late night prices. Just try not to think too hard about what the guy in the cubicle next door might be up to.

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2 Responses to Porn Shops and Internet Cafes

  1. Pingback: Reflection in Ueno « Four Thousand Miles

  2. Pingback: Tokyo Q&A « Four Thousand Miles

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