Imagine Tokyo or Osaka downtowns' streets at any time of day and night: busy people commuting, shopping, walking at high speed up and down arcades full of neon signs, and noise screaming from the Pachinko parlours and advertising posts. You're going with the flow, kidnapped by this high energy tempo and everything looks so alive. Now, imagine you have to wait for something, someone, maybe with a couple of hours to kill, your home is too far and you feel sleepy... You want to relax but a cafe is not the right place: you won't feel quiet enough. What you need is to be alone, to get some intimacy.
Well, pragmatic as it is, the Japanese society has the answer: a place where you can sleep, read mangas, eat, smoke, watch TV, DVDs, use the Internet, play videogames.. sometimes even take a shower.. and... it's not a hotel. It's a space that has not a particular name, a place exclusively japanese. I haven't seen that anywhere else in the world, yet have desired it so much. I would call it the most ultimate transitional urban space. It generally signals itself as a Manga and Internet Cafe. Open around the clock, it offers the customer for around 500 Yen/hour (3,5 euros) a private booth with a computer inside. The chair is always comfortable and depending on the sophistication of the place, you can also get a sofa, a massage chair or a sleeping chair (it's a bit more expensive then). There's usually background music, classical or new-age to help you relax. You have a pair of headphones if you want to listen to your own stuff. Consequently, you can't make noise and therefore you're asked to turn off phone calls!
Japanese cities have many transitional urban spaces: a wide diversity from the Pachinko parlours where you can play all day and night long the same game (dropping tiny balls into a tiny hole)to Love hotels where you can rent a room by the hour.
But the Manga reading place fits my needs perfectly. I'm currently writing this blog from the most sophisticated one I've come across, in the heart of busy downtown Kyoto. It's the "FUJIYAMA CAFE Relaxing", worth a visit if you come here...