May 13, 2006

"The Japanese love liminal spaces and gray zones."

Media Immersion Pods.
...Japan's "petit iede," or little runaways, come for downtime, free lattes and smoothies, and, at some branches, showers. They use the places as trial separations from home — staying a few hours, overnight or a few days, long enough to scare their parents. (A "night pack" allows use of the pod from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. for about $10; some places sell toothbrushes and underwear too.) Periodically the management will remind a customer that the cafe is not a hotel, but above all Bagus respects people's privacy.

ON a recent afternoon, at around 5:30, I visited the Gran Cyber Café in the Shinjuku neighborhood for the first time, to read e-mail and visit a news site or two. Checking in, I was assigned to pod 16-A.

I loved 16-A the instant I saw it. I closed the door, slipped into a low-slung leatherette seat and surveyed the all-you-can-eat tech feast, which includes VHS and DVD players, satellite and regular television on a Toshiba set, PlayStation 2, Lineage II and a Compaq computer loaded with software, all the relevant downloads and hyperspeedy Internet. In the nearby library were thousands of comic books, magazines and novels. On the desk was a menu of oddball snacks, like boiled egg curry and hot sandwich tuna.

The atmosphere is airless and hot, with a permanent cloud of cigarette smoke. Over all the effect is of a low-wattage, low-oxygen casino.

7 comments:

David said...

With that ringing endorsement of all things Japanese may I take this moment to wish you a

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

Also to all the other Ladies who post on this site, where would the world be without Moms in all their personifications.

Bless you all!

Maxine Weiss said...

Time to go low-tech.....no-tech.

Amish is the lifestyle for you.

Natural. Don't the Amish live longer?

Peace, Maxine

Townleybomb said...

Don't the Amish live longer?

Yes, but the Japanese live longest of all.

Japan abounds with spaces like these-- capsule hotels, love hotels, karaoke boxes. It's a country where privacy tends to be hard to come by, and intimacy as well-- Japanese people tend not to call a person 'friend' until they've known them for years, and Japanese men are famously reticient about displaying affection.

Balfegor said...

Wow. うわ~! And I thought Seoul was ahead with the Video-rooms and the Computer-rooms and all that. Cor. Is this the shape of things to come?

Wickedpinto said...

Japan (well Oki where I have experience) also has small apartment complexes with small courtyards with beautifuly groomed gardens and water features.

I didn't know this until one day my car broke down and 3 of us were walking back to base in order to get some help, and it started raining, we took cover in one of those entrances to apartment buildings that aren't entrances, and there was just a little peak through an iron gate into a window, that opened into the courtyard. It was small, and manufactured obviously, but there is no doubt it was beautiful.

We kinda made it a habbit during the trek back to base to check on the random mid to upscale apartment buildings along the way to see if there was a courtyard.

They were relatively common, at least common enough to not be uncommon.

However, they were all small, and manufactured, but there is a beauty to man trying to mimic a perfect nature in a small space, just as there is to natural beauty untouched by man in large spaces.

altoids1306 said...

I think there's a tendency to over-read from these social trends and try to draw cultural or psychological conclusions from them.

Growing up, we had comic-book cafes, where you can read their entire collection on a per-hour basis, get some food, and rent VCDs/DVDs. In the late 90s, internet cafes popped up, and now they stuck the two together. It just makes sense.

Why in Japan (and other East Asian nations) and not the US? Space - each week a phone-book size comic book is published, and there's no way you could store it all at home. Houses are small, so there's generally one TV in the living room. Since space efficency is necessary, there usually are no hallways - the living room connects all the rooms, so people would be criss-crossing all the time.

When I was a kid, I would go to a comic book cafe by the school for a few hours after each term exam to catch up on a few months, and repeat it a few times a year. They also run the AC very strongly, so it's nice in the summer.

Wickedpinto said...

When I was a kid, I would go to a comic book cafe by the school for a few hours after each term exam to catch up on a few months, and repeat it a few times a year.

We didn't have comic cafe's(at least here), until later, but that is EXACTLY why my first full time job was at a comics store.