Internet Cafes, Japanese style: A brief sketch on a crossroad of geo/cyber-spaces．
Intrnational Geographical Union:
Intrnational Geographical Congress 2008, Tunis, Tunisia, 12-15 August, 2008.
Internet Cafes, Japanese style: A brief sketch on a crossroad of geo/cyber-spaces
Hrumichi YAMADA, Professor, Tokyo Keizai University
Tokyo Keizai University, 185-8502, Japan
Internet cafes in Japan have developed a unique style, in comparison to their counterparts worldwide, in recent years. Japanese style cafes are usually equipped with facilities other than wired PCs. Booths to maintain customers’ privacy for a certain degree (but not fully) are provided, and those cells may be furnished with TV screens, VHS/DVD players, game machines, etc. They hold huge collections of manga (comics), magazines, newspapers, videos, DVDs etc. for customers’ use. In recent years, they call themselves “complex cafes” in official contexts, describing their multi-facet services.
Providing free drinks, cheap foods, and even bathing facilities, those cafes practically function as inexpensive shelters. In years 2006-2007, a new vocabulary "Internet cafe Refugee" was coined, and existence of those marginalized semi-homeless people were focused in the Japanese media.
Such “evolution” of Japanese internet cafes is based on preceding traditions of other amusement facilities like karaoke box, dating cafe, manga cafe, video booths, etc. Those cafes are havens not only for the homeless, but for more diverse people. They are convenient venues for people with limited knowledge and/or budget on PCs to play online games in high-speed environment. They are also used by criminals to access the internet more anonymously.