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Manga Cafés Around the World: Otaku Havens for Weebs

Manga Cafe

Originally considered niche interests, manga (Japanese comic books) and anime (Japanese animated shows) have gained major appeal worldwide, with an increasing number of fans each year. These two types of entertainment, which initially appeared in the US in the late 1900s, gained a wider audience through streaming services, causing an anime boom. With the uptick in anime viewers, there was also an uptick in manga readers, as many viewers wanted to check out the story behind the anime.


What is a manga café?

Manga Cafe Example

Despite the increasing popularity in the last few years, manga cafe options are not new. These specific types of cafes have been around since 1979, allowing a convenient location for manga lovers to indulge in various comic books. Often, these manga cafes are more than a reading spot; they also offer Wi-Fi, non-alcoholic beverages, and in some cases, showers and the ability to stay overnight for a small fee.

Manga Cafe Example

Below, we explore the ins and outs of manga cafes, from their history to tips and etiquette for the best experience.


The Foundation of Manga and Anime in Japan

Japanese culture surrounding Manga and Anime

Reading manga

In Japan, it's common for nearly everyone to watch anime or read manga. However, the frequency of Japanese citizens reading manga varies depending on their age group and interests. Even still, it's considered a popular activity for many.


Historical context and evolution

Old Manga

Initially, manga and anime were considered a niche interest. It began as sketched-out stories about daily life in 1814. It was not until 1902 that the first modern version of the manga was published with typed texts. After World War II, the popularity of manga began growing, seeing a boom in the 50s and 60s. Once manga was adapted into anime in the 80s, it grew in popularity, especially after it reached the US.


Impact on Japanese society and worldwide

Jujutsu Kaisen Anime advertisement on a subway wall

Manga is not only for entertainment; it is a medium that has become popular for explaining various topics, from etiquette to politics, history, and more. Because of its wide variety of topics, these comics have been able to bridge cultural barriers.


The concept of Otaku: Understanding the fans behind the phenomenon

Perhaps you've heard someone mention the word "otaku" and wondered what it means. This word refers to someone who shows an obsessive interest in their passions. In particular, an otaku typically focuses their energy on manga (also known as a manga otaku) and/or anime.


Otaku is a slang word from the Japanese language, meaning nerd or geek. It is also used to refer to someone as the "honorific you," typically as a nickname between one otaku and another. This meaning signifies a common interest between the two people.


Otaku vs. Weeb: Clarifying Misconceptions

There is often another term that is mentioned consistently when referring to Japanese culture - a weeb. There are major differences when discussing the words weeb vs otaku, as the word weeb is meant to describe a non-Japanese person declaring Japanese culture as their passion. Some may consider a weeb a wannabe Japanese person, though it can have a positive or negative connotation depending on the intention of the person uttering the word.


Manga Cafés as Cultural Phenomena

A manga cafe offers a private spot for otakus and weebs to enjoy reading manga. These cafes feature private rooms, which provide a sanctuary for otaku culture. These private rooms provide a space without judgment where anime fans can indulge in whichever genres of manga they prefer. Here, they can spend as much or as little time diving into impressive manga collections without spending a large amount on buying new manga.


Manga Cafe: Japanese Otaku Haven

Manga Reading

Manga cafes are a haven because of the sheer number of manga options available, the low cost of a visit, and the ample amenities and facilities you'll find in each cafe. They're typically quite cozy, providing the perfect spot for catching up on manga for as many hours as you'd like. In between manga, you'll have access to drinks, showers, and even games.


The Anatomy of a Manga café: From Private Booths to all-you-can-read Libraries

manga cafe private booths

A major benefit to visiting a manga cafe is the all-you-can-read libraries. These cafes have hundreds of manga options, including titles that are challenging to find as they aren't printed any longer. You can select multiple manga options to bring to your private room or booth to enjoy. If you wish to rent a room, you'll need to alert the staff beforehand, along with how long you plan to stay. Usually, there are different types of rooms available with varying prices.


Features and facilities: Internet, showers, drinks, and more

manga cafe facilities

There are quite a few features and facilities available at manga cafes, which is a major reason they're different from other cafes. Here, you'll have access to Wi-Fi and unlimited non-alcoholic drinks for a small fee, like coffee and water. Food is often offered as well, though it usually has an additional fee. Should you choose to spend the night at a manga cafe, you can use the onsite showers to freshen up. Other facilities include pool tables, darts, and even karaoke rooms (depending on the cafe).


Manga cafés vs. Traditional cafés: A comparative analysis

Often, traditional cafes have set hours (like 6 am to 4 pm) each day. So, patrons can only stay for a portion of the day, while manga cafes are typically open 24 hours a day. Additionally, traditional cafes have minimal amenities, such as free Wi-Fi, while manga cafes feature showers and private rooms. When spending time at a manga cafe, there is no rush to leave, while some regular cafes may ask patrons to leave if they're spending too much time at a table.


Manga Cafés Around the World

What started as a Japanese-only cafe has now spread outside the country to the UK, Paris, and other locations worldwide. Below are a few of the top manga cafes in the world.


Spotlight on notable manga cafés across continents

• Asia: Akihabara Electric Town, Tokyo

Akihabara Electric Town, Tokyo

The town of Akihabara is well-known for being a popular otaku hangout. This Tokyo town is packed with otaku culture, from unique cafes with waitresses dressed as maids to large amounts of exciting tech. As you stroll the streets, you'll also find manga cafes, like i-Cafe Akiba Place. This once-popular manga cafe is no longer open. However, it was well known for having many amenities, including ice cream and massage chairs.


• Europe: Manga café in Paris

Manga café in Paris

More manga cafes seem to be popping up in Paris, though a notable offering is Manga café V2. This cafe has thousands of Japanese comics available to read for a small hourly fee. Additionally, Japanese foods and items are available at a small connected shop.


• North America: Otaku hotspots in the United States

Haru Cafe in Michigan

North America has only recently opened the first manga cafe in Michigan in the past year (Haru Cafe). Unlike Japanese manga cafes, it is only open Tuesday through Sunday for limited hours. If you don't live in Michigan, there are still plenty of exciting otaku hotspots in the US to explore. There are multiple manga shops around the US to check out, as well as other bookstores with sizable manga collections.


How manga cafés adapt to local cultures while maintaining the otaku spirit

Manga cafes outside Japan often feature small shops with Japanese items, like handmade chopsticks, whereas manga cafes in Japan do not typically offer these products. Because the shops are outside of the country, they know manga fans will want access to other Japanese items besides manga and food.


The Role of Manga Cafés in Fostering Community

Manga Cafés as community hubs for anime and manga enthusiasts

These cafes (also referred to as manga kissa) not only offer a reading location for otaku but also a way to meet others who enjoy manga and anime. Some people will head to these cafes to meet new people or join a meetup with like-minded individuals.

Manga Community


Events and activities: From cosplay contests to manga drawing sessions

This community has led to additional activities and events for manga lovers, including anime conventions, cosplay contests, and more. Each of these events allows manga enthusiasts to share their love for the comics, characters, storylines, and more.

Manga events


The Social Impact of Manga Cafés: Breaking stereotypes and building friendships

While it's normal for Japanese people to read manga/watch anime, those who are obsessed with this media are often judged for being geeky. However, manga cafes are typically a judgment-free zone where you can meet other manga lovers. You can also spend time here with friends, enhancing relationships through activities (like karaoke), conversation, and reading.


Challenges and Controversies

Legal and ethical challenges facing manga cafés

Legal and ethical challenges facing manga cafés

Some critics of manga cafes note that having a library-like setting for manga means the publishers/manga artists are not receiving royalties for their comics. Instead, the cafes are receiving revenue due to charging a reading fee per hour.


Copyright issues and the dilemma of piracy

Some fans have taken it upon themselves to scan, copy, and translate manga to other languages. This causes piracy and copyright issues, as the manga is shared online and read by others.


The dark side of manga cafés: Addressing concerns over privacy and misuse

While many visit manga cafes simply to read manga, others have ulterior motives. Some younger couples are known for visiting the cafe to explore their private relationship further. Additionally, it is becoming a more common spot for those without homes due to the low price per night.


The Future of Manga Cafés

Technological advancements and their impact on manga cafés


With e-comics on the rise, manga cafes are seeing a technological shift. They were already known for offering Wi-Fi to visitors; now, you can find even more exciting tech at these cafes.


Virtual reality (VR) manga experiences and digital libraries


As mentioned, VR is increasing in manga cafes. Now, readers can enjoy e-comics on VR devices. Additionally, anime can be watched on VR devices, providing a unique experience for manga cafe customers.


The potential role of manga cafés in promoting Japanese culture globally

As we've seen an increase in manga cafes worldwide, we've also seen manga cafes offering authentic Japanese items for purchase. The combination of Japanese media, food, and items is allowing others to join in Japanese culture while diving into their love of manga.


Experiencing Manga Cafés

Why should you visit Manga Cafe?

Even if you're new to the manga world, it's worth exploring a manga cafe at least once. You'll be able to spend time in a location important to Japanese culture while digging into exciting storylines and enjoying complimentary beverages.


Anime fans guide to visiting manga cafés: Tips and etiquette

Here are a few things to remember as you visit manga cafés (abroad or in the US):

  1. These cafes are quiet spots for people to enjoy their comics. Be respectful of others by keeping noise to a minimum. If you're listening to music or another type of audio, it should be done with headphones.

  2. Avoid phone calls, as they're not allowed in manga cafes.

  3. Be sure to register if it's your first time visiting. This can typically be done at the front desk with a form of ID.

Manga cafe etiquette


Personal stories: Transformative experiences in manga cafés

Many traveling through Japan have found these manga cafes to be a haven, as it's often cheaper to spend a night (or a few nights) at a cafe than a hotel room. Additionally, these cafes have provided comfort to those who wanted a spot to relax and read without being bothered.


Comparing experiences: Manga cafés in Japan vs. abroad

Since manga cafes have been around much longer in Japan, there are quite a few locations fans can visit especially in larger cities. In comparison, the UK and the US have minimal manga cafes, as they have only begun opening locations since the 2010s and more recently. Because of the smaller number of manga cafes outside of Japan, these cafes are not as pertinent to other cultures.



Manga cafes will always be a safe space for otaku and weebs to dig into their favorite pastime - manga. Here, people can read comic books without fear of judgment, regardless of the types of manga they decide to read.

Reflections on the cultural significance of manga cafés

With manga influencing Japanese culture, from younger to older generations, it's likely additional manga cafes will arise around the world. They will continue to offer a safe space for manga enthusiasts where readers can relax, meet, and explore the world of manga.

Prospects: Manga cafés as enduring symbols of otaku culture

As interest in anime and manga rises, more people will find themselves labeled male or female otaku. It seems these Japanese words/labels for those who are passionate about/read manga will not be going anywhere anytime soon. So, it's time to embrace the otaku label and dive into Japanese comics!


Manga Crate by Japan Crate, available only from February 15th to March 14th, 2024

If you're a manga or anime fan and don't have a manga cafe nearby, you can still celebrate your love of manga with a Japan Crate subscription. This month's box features a fun manga theme, from the artwork on the box to sweet and savory snacks featuring your favorite anime characters. You can even practice creating your own manga with the Manga Art Showdown, a contest with real prizes from Japan.

Manga Crate by Japan Crate

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