A cafe has opened in Tokyo that imposes fines on customers. Why do they keep coming?

A cafe has opened in Tokyo that imposes fines on customers. Why do they keep coming?
A cafe has opened in Tokyo that imposes fines on customers. Why do they keep coming?


The article was recorded at the Central Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired

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In a cafe in Tokyo sit writers who have to submit a draft, students who fail to complete the thesis and illustrators who must already submit a sketch. The owner of the place walks among them, urging them to move forward with their tasks and sometimes even just standing behind them and staring at a serious and disturbing look. For that they are here, and they even pay for it. “Customers look at each other and see that they are at the same level of pressure,” he says, “and so, together, they end up working hard.” And what happens if you do not complete the tasks? Pay a fine of course

In a Manuscript Writing Cafe in Tokyo, adults of their own free will sit down who have a hard time meeting it, trying to break the writing barrier with the close supervision of the place owner.

Meet the cafe that will fine you if you do not meet the deadline / Photo: Reuters, Kim Kyung-Hoon

Takoya Kwai, the owner of the cafe, instructs his customers to set an hour to complete the task and if necessary, also urges them to move forward. And what happens when they do not meet the deadline? If they do not arrive by the time they leave, they will have to pay a fine of $ 22. “It’s a respect-based method,” Kwai says, “but it seems to work not bad. Customers look at each other and see that they’re under the same level of pressure, and so, together, they end up working hard.”

Students with submissions, comic book illustrators, writers and staff who must complete the presentation – all are already flowing into the cafe, which opened in April in one of Tokyo’s trendy neighborhoods.

$ 2 per hour of supervision

Joe Sassanoma, a lawyer at a technology company, was instructed by his publisher to complete a law book by the end of the year. But unfortunately, the words that would explain contractual obligations of cloud computing providers did not flow to his keyboard easily.

The place has 10 chairs, and the stay costs $ 2 per hour – or $ 4 and a half if you ask for a premium seat, which overlooks an all-white wall.

The book Sasnoma began writing as early as last year, when he was tucked away in his apartment. When he resented the blows to his chess friend, the latter advised him to try the cafe. Sassanoma arrived one day in early May and paid for a four-hour session. The goal he set for Kwai was to write three pages. Already on his first attempt, the lawyer came out as the winner. Since then he has returned several times, and in each of them he has already managed to write four pages. “Maybe it’s the atmosphere, maybe because I pay, but I sit down and immediately start typing,” he says.

Having to meet a deadline is of course a universal challenge, but the particular way the cafe offers is related to the writing and exam culture in Japan. Already in elementary school, students are preparing for the entrance exams for the prestigious middle schools. These exams focus on memorizing facts, and students who are prone to procrastination need the help of a parent or tutor to persevere in the work of memorization. There are also those who go to study in public libraries, where the forced silence and the industrious environment put into the atmosphere.

Kyoko Utagaki came to the cafe to work on a digital concepts instruction booklet for government officials. She says that the technique in the place reminds her of her childhood. “It’s convenient,” she says, “it feels like home, when you could get help from someone who takes care of your homework.”

The academy also sees the cafe’s model as an inspiration. One of the lecturers at Taisho University sent his students there to understand what it means to work under pressure. Looking at clients, says student Suzuno Saito, she realized that even after university exams, “we will always have pressure, even when we grow up.”

The conditions for creating a Nobel

The Manuscript cafe did not quite invent the method. Some of Japan’s great writers have already found that they work best where their bills pile up as they linger. They used to go to the ryokan – a traditional Japanese roadside inn, where we relied on help from the local staff.

The Japanese writer Yasunari Kwabta, who died in 1972, even won a Nobel Prize for works he wrote in Ryokan. The maid at the inn where Kwabata used to stay described in a memoir she published how she would try to create exactly the desired conditions for each of his writing sessions, which lasted whole nights. She would make charcoal in the fireplace that would last until morning, and thermos hot water next to a kettle full of tea leaves.

Kwai Cafe is a kind of version of Ryokan for 2022. Customers can choose from three levels of supervision. At first, which Quvetta would probably have felt comfortable with, he simply lets the writers sit alone with a kettle of coffee or tea by their side. As part of the mediocre level of intervention, he approaches customers every hour and offers them a snack whisper, like wrapped candy, rice crackers or cookies. The aggravating level is similar to sitting in a test hall under the eye of an examiner, Kwai explains: “It’s just like taking a test. I stand behind them and watch.”

Otagaki, who has a YouTube interview channel, says she considered staying at an inn to write, but eventually stayed in town because of the plague. She says she prefers the cafe over shared work spaces because it has no music, there are fewer people, and she likes the noise from the highway interchange nearby: “People just write with the white noise from the street.”

Vacation package in a closed room

Kwai and his two partners at the cafe do not make much money from hosting the writers. The space is also used for a more lucrative business of producing videos for YouTube and other sites. However, they see potential in franchising on the idea, and plan to open another writing studio in Tokyo’s financial district. In their minds, groups of bankers will work there together on reports or presentations.

The cafe also has competitors. In the city of the hot springs Yogawa, located south of Tokyo, there is a ryokan that offers package tours for writers, starting at $ 130 per night including three simple meals. At check-in, guests are required to sign that they confirm their time intervention, indicating how long they need a push. Another program is for readers who want to complete books piled on the shelf. The director of the ryokan says that his clients are mostly women in their 20s and 30s who are involved in professional or creative projects.

At the same time, the Tokyo production company is a company of several ryokans and together they provide a service designed for literary figures, or at least for those who want to pretend to be such. When they emulate the conditions that publishers impose on real writers who have not met the deadline, these inns close the guests in the rooms and the staff members occasionally call to check on their progress. During the corona.

Back to the Manuscript cafe, where lawyer Sassanoma feels particularly stressed. On his last visit to the cafe he started working on a particularly difficult chapter. He hoped to write two pages, and with only half an hour left for the time allotted to him, he hurried towards the goal: “I can tell myself I at least got something today,” he concluded.

Who is Inda participated in the preparation of the article

The article is Hebrew

Tags: cafe opened Tokyo imposes fines customers coming

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