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What’s a better choice: Capsule hotel or a manga cafe?

grrrltraveler bagus gran cafe, m

After I stayed at Popeye Media Cafe in Fukuoka, I was charged to keep going.  Like my explorations of Korean love motels and bathhouses, I was ready to take the tour of manga cafes (aka manga kissas).  Afterall, what I experienced for a $12 overnight stay was pretty darned exciting and if done right, it could be a ghetto palace.

A quick look at other Tokyo accommodations I’ve tried

Staying at a hostel

My first night in Tokyo, I stayed at a hostel in the popular Akihabara district. It cost around $22/night  for a dorm bed at an old, run-down building with fickle hot water and the reek of cigarette smoke coming from a downstairs bar. The showers and bathrooms on each floor were hodge-podge work-around creations ( a shower in a sink? …And a sink built over a toilet?). The mattresses were so used, they were practically futons. One night was enough.

Staying at a Japanese home

Next, I stayed with a girlfriend in the Chiba prefecture, halfway between the airport and Tokyo. Staying in a Japanese home with local hosts is a wonderful opportunity to experience an authentic Japanese lifestyle and cuisine. Unfortunately, budget-wise, “free” doesn’t mean cheap. The ride to her prefecture alone, was the cost of my hostel, not to mention, customary “Thank you” gifts (pre and post visit), hiked up the cost. It’s definitely a stay I enjoyed and was grateful for.  But it’s certainly, not cheap to stay with friends. …Unless you’re fine with mooching.

Capsule hotel or a manga kissa : What’s the better choice?

My last night in Tokyo, I wanted to try the capsule hotel in Akihabara. But standing before the night manager in an aging lobby, while iquiring about a night’s stay,  the pros and cons didn’t balance.

We all know the pros of staying at a capsule hotel.  A capsule hotel has the “cool factor” of being able to tell your friends, you’ve slept in a life-sized bubble like an astronaut in some Space Odessey movie.  But that’s really the only thing it’s got going for it. It’s a bare bones businessman’s sleeping cot.

What do you compromise for this experience:

  • No charging facilities for batteries and electronics (there’s an outlet in the shared bathroom!).  
  • No WiFi and internet facilities were on a separate floor. 
  • No eating allowed in the capsule.  
  • No checking out the facilities before renting. 
  • No credit cards unless you want to pay a % fee.
  • A shared bathroom (… and the aged hotel lobby alone told me what I could expect of that).
  • You must additionally, rent a locker if you have luggage.

All this nothing and “No…” costed around $40.

I stood outside for a while, contemplating the choice, while illegally smoking a cigarette in a non-smoking zone. It was 10pm. The choice was stressful (hence, the cigarette). I had an hour to decide. The train stopped running at midnight.

Go with the capsule or run across town to a manga cafe listing in Shinjuku?  I really needed to charge my camera and iPod batteries for the next day.

Getting to @Gran Bagus manga cafe in Shinjuku

When I got out of Shinjuku subway, many businesses were already closed. Most building lights were off around Shinjuku station and only a couple of shops were still open, with owners getting ready to leave. No more train service for the evening. Good or bad, this cafe needed to be “it” for the night, but the building wasn’t looking to be an easy find. I asked a passing pedestrian for directions…

Haruku Departu-mentu store, doko desu ka?”  I asked.

The building was around the corner.

gran bagus manga cafe, what is a manga cafe

Welcome to the stylish Gran Cyber Bagus Cafegran bagus shinjuku tokyo Lounge and refreshment area

When the elevator doors opened, there was already a queue of Japanese waiting to check in. Some were already holding overnight bags. The layout of @Gran Bagus Cafe was black, sleek and glossy. The lounge/lobby area had a wall of soft drink and food vending machines.Two front desk attendants dressed in white long-sleeved shirts were servicing customers. I was in a good place. gran bagus rates, manga cafe rates tokyo I looked at the price list on the wall. Feeling fatigue,  I decided to splurge. I’d go for the 9 hour package at a flat cubicle compartment and sleep in.  I needed the rest.

As I said in my first post about manga kissas,  this isn’t a place for a businessman, who only wants a quick nap time until morning. This has been becoming the place where young ‘un-employees’ are holing up in to avoid high costs of rent. It’s (unofficially)a techno-geek’s relaxed living space, with shower facilities.

What do you get at a boutique manga kissa?

  • Your own private cubicle space and enough sleeping space to sprawl
  • A shared bathroom.
  • Your own charging station, computer and tv counsel, and on top of that… free WiFi!
  • The freedom to eat in your cubicle space
  • Unlimited free soft drinks (anywhere from tomato juice to iced mocha lattes!)
  • Unlimited soft serve ice cream (yes, soft serve ice cream!)
  • Free luggage storage
  • And access to wall-to-wall manga magazines

And it cost less than the capsule hotel. And unlike a hostel dorm, I had privacy and space!

gran bagus manga cafe, what is a manga cafe

gran bagus manga cafe, what is a manga cafeThis is actually a lot more comfortable than it looks. At 5’8″, I could lie in my flat very comfortably. If you’re 6’0″ you could sleep diagonal. gran bagus shinjuku tokyo sleeping

How clean is it at @Gran Bagus?

Clean. Whenever someone left their cubicle space or I exited the bathroom, a cleaner went in and rigorously cleaned and wiped everything down. For instance, when I walked into the (shared) shower, it felt like having a private hotel bathroom. Everything was clean, sparkly, white and not a drop of water was left as evidence that someone was there before me. I got 20 minutes of shower time. Unlike Popeye Media Cafe, I had to pay a small shower fee, which was almost equivalent to the cost of Popeye’s towel rental (so it actually balances out). For that fee, I got a clean, white towel, free toothbrush and razor. manga cafe gran bagus shibuya, tokyo cubicle manga cafe, manga community in Japan, top manga cafes in tokyo shibuya

Where to find the best manga kissas?

@Gran Bagus Cafe and Popeye Media Cafe are well-known chain cafes in Japan. They’re boutique cafes and although they’ll cost a bit more than smaller cafes, they carry the amenities for a comfortable overnight stay.  Not to mention, they have the capacity to bed as many people as a small hotel (Bagus ranged around 200 cubicle spaces). So if you’re looking for a last minute place to crash during the week, your odds aren’t bad. However, for weekends, you might want to get there early to secure a spot. While I can’t vouch for every chain or location. If you know nothing about Japan or were short on time, I’d suggest checking out these larger chains first. They’re more likely to maintain similar standards.

@Gran Cafe Bagus Behind Haruku Department Store,  B17 West gate, At Shinjuku station

@ Gran Cybe Cafe Bagus in Shibuya, Mitsuyoshi Bldg 6F, Shibuya   www.bagus-99.com/netcafe

What to do with your luggage?

At night, some manga kissas offer luggage storage or you can keep it in your unit.

Storing your luggage in the daytime after you’ve checked out of the cafe, is the real trick… I stored mine train lockers.

Every metro station in Tokyo has locker areas and many of them will fit a standard-sized roll-on suitcase (the size that would fit a plane’s overhead compartment).  It’s 400 yen for a locker for large bags. This is why you may want to consider packing light and taking a roll-on suitcase or small backpack or sports duffle.  If I traveled with my ordinary backpackers backpack, I might have a harder time fitting it into the train lockers.

Have you ever experienced a manga cafe or a capsule hotel? What would you choose?

 

16 Comments

  1. I’m now in the Gran Cafe Bagus manga Cafe. Arrived too early in Shinjuku station at 7 am so I decided to look for a place to laze around before the stores are open. It’s awesome indeed! A 5 hours stay for only 1000 yen. Will be using the shower too. Glad these kind of places exist 🙂

  2. Meredith says:

    It’s worth noting that your capsule experience was only one hotel – I have stayed in capsules that have had wifi, outlets, and TV in the capsule, and allowed food in there too. The Hotel Asakusa and Capsule (4-14-9 Kotobuki) allows all of these, and I was astonished how large the capsules were, too! By contrast, Hotel Kawase (2-19-14 Kaminarimon, also in Asakusa) had tiiiiiny capsules with only one outlet that was already taken up by the TV (which I unplugged and used anyway). So it varies a great deal, really!

  3. Jacki says:

    Thank you for this post! I think I’ll cancel my hostel stay and hit up Manga Kissas. Couple questions .. 1) How do you find one near you for the night? and 2) How early should you be there to get a spot? THANK YOU!

  4. Laura says:

    Just wondering if there was a maximum usage time for the storage lockers? I plan on moving around quite a bit and am interested if I could store my souvenirs in the lockers for days while I wander the country until departure time ^_^

  5. Juan says:

    I made the same mistake of going to what I thought was a normal one, but as soon as I got in I understood what it was about! Left to an Internet cafe near Okachimachi but although the staff was super friendly, it didn’t seem very clean.

    I wish I had found this article earlier 🙂

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      @Juan: haha… yes, they porn ones can be a little raunchy and smoke-filled. Glad you found somewhere at least! =)

  6. Randy says:

    I like staying at the Green Plaza Capsule Hotel in Shinjuku everytime I come through Tokyo. This place has recently added a female only section as well for the women. Both places run you about $40-$50 per night.

    I tried an internet cafe in Tokyo, but it seemed quite small for a 6’4″ guy like me. The café seemed to be good if you need a quick power nap or a quickie as the place had so much porn and provided a condom at check in.

    The capsule hotel is definitely the way to go in my opinion if you don’t have tatooes and just plan a single night. Here is the link http://www.hgpshinjuku.jp/en/

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      Great to know @Randy! Thanks for sharing. When I researched capsule hotels, I didn’t come across many. ha ha… you went to a porn manga cafe! There’s those too. I don’t think I’d want to sleep there. ha ha.

  7. Melissa says:

    I looked into a couple capsule hotels online before I went to Tokyo but they were all male only and still pretty pricey so I gave up and went to AirBnB. If I was only going for a few days and could travel lightly these cafes sound like a great option.

    • @Melissa: Yeah, most of them are male only. The only one I know of is in Asakusa. Think I found it on Hostelbookers or Hostelworld. Thought about AirBnB for a more local perspective. How did that turn out for you?

  8. Agness says:

    I’m so scared of travelling in Japan knowing that my $25 budget would not be enough for the accommodation. Gggggrrrrrr! Those places look so nice, but I don’t like the price 🙁

    • @Agness: To stay within the $25/day limit certainly can be a challenge but not impossible. Y’all seem to do well with Couchsurfing… an option I’ve not been successful at. The lowest cost hostel in Tokyo started at around $19/night. This manga cafe, I upgraded my stay. I didn’t take the cheapest, because I wanted greater comfort and to see what other possibilities there were. Most of my days I hit around $30/day, but I’ll bet you both could find a way to slim that down. 😉

  9. Chris says:

    I’ve written about the capsule hotels but never actually stayed in one. I thought Wifi for one thing would be standard. Hmmm.. I think you made the right decision!

    • @Chris: Thanks! You’d think wifi would be the standard and they did have it… just not in your capsule, which is a standard you’d expect for that cost.

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