While making my initial plans for spending my weekends in Tokyo I came across several themed cafes. I’ve heard about these before, and many of them only run for a certain time while the theme itself is popular, though several are constantly operating such as the Gundam Café in Ahkihabara. I’d never really been to cafes back in America, unless one wanted to count the Starbucks located on campus, but I would always buy my coffee and leave. I would never sit down for a meal, which meant I never had the sort of experience that comes from the atmosphere of these places.
The one I wanted to visit first was only running from August to September and is themed on a currently running animation called ‘Dangan Ronpa’. Being a huge fan of this show I figured this was a must do for my first weekend in Tokyo, considering how short the running period is. Finding the café itself was a hassle, as these places aren’t really out in the open and heavily advertised, save for some popular Maid Cafes, and this one was tucked away on the fifth floor of a building down the main road of Akihabara. When my party of three arrived we were told that we’d have to wait an hour and a half for our table so we passed the time by wandering the stores below which were filled with various Anime Goods, Music groups, and other Pop Culture goods. After the wait we were finally welcomed in for the experience.
The café itself was small, not nearly as grand as I had pictured. The walls were lined with screenshots from the show while the promotional trailer constantly played on loop in three widescreens at the back. The tables were set for four people and were relatively small so once we got our dishes we had a bit of a struggle fitting them on since we were trying to share them. The current menu had 9 themed drinks and 6 themed dishes, and the prices weren’t too bad. I knew the café would be a little expensive at most dishes being 740 yen a piece, which was why going in a group to taste multiple dishes ended up being the best idea. We were given an hour time limit to spend in the café itself and with our food we were given several free promotional items just for buying something at the café at all. We made use of the hour and even with the blasting opening theme and the chattering people, it felt oddly relaxing and also exhilarating at the same time.
This was just a taste of what the cafes in Japan have to offer, and they serve multiple purposes. One of my classmates is being paid to tutor English and they work from whatever café location coincides for both student and teacher; so the cafes serve a form of business. Themed cafes, like the Dangan Ronpa one, are purely for the recreation and experience while more common ones can be business places, meeting places, or just somewhere to relax. Some are cheap, such as a smaller café I pass on the way to school with reasonably priced coffee and cheesecakes at only 280 yen. The more popular ones that draw in a crowd tends to be a bit pricier, since the experience alone is worth the price of admission. The themed cafe almost felt like being in an amusement park while the smaller one felt like reclining in my room.
I don’t plan to halt my café ventures here, as this weekend I plan to check out a Butler café, the female guest tailored counterpart to the popular Maid cafes in Akihabara. And later we’ll be making a trip to Shibuya for a Bunny café. I never really took the time to sit down and enjoy the experience of just eating or anything else back home, since I was constantly moving or took my food to go when I wasn’t at a restaurant. But the cafes feel different. They aren’t a place to just pass by and leave, but people of all ages will stop and spend some time, which makes sense considering the daily strain of their working lives. In the morning it’s common to find businessmen with coffee in their hands reading some report or the morning paper before work. Other times there will be children, elders, and students all gathered under one roof. It’s an odd, but peaceful coexistence that I certainly plan to make further use of.