August 10


Sleepover at the Comic Book Cafe

It was 2:30 in the morning on a rainy Shibuya night. Not a cab in sight. And if there had been, chances are, one of the hundreds of other people straining their eyes searching for one in vain would have beaten us to it. What to do, what to do? Fortunately, my friend was Japanese, and everybody who has ever been an impoverished student in Japan knows what to do when they miss Last Train.

Let’s find an all-night Comic Book Cafe! my friend suggested. You want to read comic books at this hour? I asked, incredulous. No,no, you can sleep there. And it’s really cheap. Everybody does it.

Half an hour later, we found ourselves in one of the last cubicles available at the manga kissa Bagus. ¥1300 each included all the free soft drinks we could guzzle, all the vanilla or chocolate soft serve ice cream we could wolf down, a vast library of comic books, unlimited net surfing, clean bathrooms, a shower, and a place to stay until dawn.

Your home away from home at the Comic Book Cafe. (This is actually a “single” cubicle with a “premium” chair; “pair” cubicles are slightly wider and furnished with an infernally hard bench, two footstools, and two leatherette pillows.)

If you’re a Kanji Master, there’s no shortage of reading material.

But all we really wanted to do was catch a few zzzs. The cubicle was wide enough for me to stretch out my legs on one of the two footstools, but not lie down. I propped myself in the corner and closed my eyes. It was dark. Well, dark-ish. But these were cubicles with walls that were only about five feet high, so although people tried to be quiet, scores of train-missers sharing a room wasn’t anywhere near silent. All around me, snoring (in various styles), conversations (in various states of drunkenness), a few all-night gamers leveling up or dying (I could hear when they did either), and occasionally someone stumbling out of their cubicle, fishing around for their shoes, and shuffling to the bathroom.

3:15. 3: 55. 4:20. 4:45. I got up as quietly as I could, and sneaked out the door to catch the first train home.

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo

In the wake of a deadly earthquake, fans erupt in a frenzy of mourning when it’s discovered that their favorite pop star is among the dead. But when Detective Kenji Nakamura is sent to investigate a death at a local shrine, he finds evidence that suggests the impossible: How could the head priest have been murdered by…read more