Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Overnight at an Internet Cafe in Japan

Sleeping in an internet cafe was one of my "to-do" things while in Japan because, unlike cafes in the Philippines, internet cafes in Japan actually have promos and packages for overnight users. These are targeted at people who missed the last train, people who partied until late in the night, or people like me who are too lazy to book a hotel. As for my case, when I went to Okayama, I was only going to spend one night there so I thought it would be cheaper to stay at an Internet cafe than at a hotel.

The internet cafe I stayed at is called Ekimae Cafe, which means "cafe in front of the station". It was indeed very near Okayama Station, but it wasn't directly "in front". I read about it from a blog written by a foreigner so I assumed that it was a relatively "decent" place. Even the pictures of the cubicles posted on their website seemed...well, decent.

I found the cafe easily however, standing in front of the building, I began to think that maybe I made the wrong decision. Forget about hotels being more expensive. At least they all look safe, unlike the suspicious-looking building in front of me. I was a solo foreigner and a girl, at that! I have confidence in my communication skills but you know how everything just goes flying out the window when you find yourself in a pinch or panic.

Anyway, I had no other choice. I did not want to spend the night at McDonald's (which, thinking back now, would have probably been a better choice). I mustered my courage and stepped into the small, claustrophobic elevator that smelled of cigarettes.

A small wave of relief washed over me the moment I saw that the person manning the counter at the cafe was a girl. She was probably even younger than me. I was just so glad that I wasn't the only girl there. I availed of their 15-hour night package, which includes a free cup noodle, unlimited internet usage, unlimited drinks and soft ice cream, and free use of their shower room.

They also had different types of cubicles that you can choose from. They had regular cubicles - the ones with a regular seat and computer unit - and they also had cubicles especially designed for those staying overnight. These specially-designed cubicles had reclining chairs, massage chairs, sofas, and even floor mattresses. You can borrow card readers, cellphone chargers, headphones, and if you use the shower, you will be provided with a towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, body rinse, shave, ear buds, and hair dryer. The cafe also has a few aisles of manga that you can read for free during your stay.

Food and drinks are sold inside but it is also okay to bring your own food and drinks. Actually, a sign inside the cafe says that you can bring anything - yep, anything - except alcohol. Of course, dangerous objects such as firearms and the likes, you know what I mean, are also prohibited.
All mine for the night.
Sure, the services they offer are very convenient and a bit unbelievable. You get a lot for a very low price. But, my greatest disappointment, not only with this cafe but with most Japanese shops for that matter, is that smoking is allowed inside. Alcohol is not okay, but smoking is. There are exhaust fans and ventilators, but the whole place just reeks of cigarette smoke! I could hear the persons in the cubicles beside me lighting up one stick after another and every time they did, my cubicle gets filled with the suffocating smell of cigarettes. The worst thing was, the smell stuck to my bag, and even to the clean clothes inside my bag. Even after I showered in the morning, I still smelled like I just smoked a pack of cigarettes inside a sauna room.
Cubicles have sliding doors with no lock.
In the end, my experience at the internet cafe was not a very pleasant one. I was not able to sleep a wink and I almost suffocated to death. If it hadn't been for the overpowering cigarette smell, it would have been a blast, considering all the free food and services that come with the night package.

I don't know if all internet cafes in Japan are the same, but I probably won't be staying overnight in one ever again. The next time I will travel, I will book myself a hotel room even if it's more expensive. At least I can breathe clean air while I sleep.

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