Hello from Manga Planet! Today we are introducing Bagus, a popular entertainment venue with 57 branches within Japan. While the company owns a variety of venues, including billiard shops and luxury karaoke bars, we will focus on their manga & Internet cafe, Gran Cyber Cafe b@gus, which offer a sophisticated atmosphere where customers are able to relax and enjoy their favorite manga, a far cry from your usual manga cafes.
Gran Cyber Cafe b@gus at the forefront of manga and Internet Cafes
We visited their stylish and Instagrammable Shibuya Bunkamura Doori branch, which carries roughly 20 genres of magazines, ranging from men’s, ladies’, sports, to travel. They also stock complete collections of English versions of the popular manga titles such as Slam Dunk, Naruto, and Rurouni Kenshin. It is also fully equipped with a ladies-only area, a shower room, a smoking area, and even theater rooms, which means it serves for different purposes and caters to customers from all walks of life!
The average bill here is about 1,200 yen, but you can stay for up to 24 hours for just 5,000 yen. It’s possible to use the cafe just to get lunch, which you can order straight from your terminal, or do your makeup – you can even leave your booth and come back at any time during your stay; the doors have individual locks so security is guaranteed!
We had the opportunity to sit with Mr. Sasaki, the Comics Supervisor of GRAN CYBER CAFE b@gus. We hope this interview will give you some insight into what Japanese manga cafes are and what it’s like to work there!
Thank you for having us today!
First, could you tell us about your work here, Mr. Sasaki?
Mr. Sasaki: Actually, I don’t work at this branch – we have another internet café in Ikebukuro, and I work as the store manager there.
Where in Ikebukuro?
Mr. Sasaki: There’s a movie theater building on Sunshine Doori 60, just before you come to Tokyu Hands. We’re on the 4th floor of that building.
So, are there more manga available here than the ones available there?
Mr. Sasaki: In terms of quantity, Ikebukuro has more, but this Shibuya Bunkamura Doori branch always makes sure it has the major titles.
Do you get a lot of international customers?
Mr. Sasaki: We have branches within close proximity to the Yamanote Line, in places such as Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, and Shibuya. Of the three, I would say that Shibuya and Shinjuku have relatively high numbers of international customers.
Is this the only branch in Shibuya？
Mr. Sasaki: We also have two branches, the Shibuya Center-Gai branch and this one.
What made you decide to work here?
Mr. Sasaki: It’s a bit of a personal story. Our company also has locations for darts and billiards, and I used to come to play darts for fun. From there, I took an interest in the entertainment industry and the idea of having a profession related to darts, so I thought it would be nice to work here. When I joined the company, I found out we also have internet cafes, and I decided to join in since I really like manga.
How long have you worked here?
Mr. Sasaki: 13 years, as of this year.
Since you said that you’re a fan of manga, could you tell me your favorite one?
Mr. Sasaki: My favorite manga… There is one that will get an anime this year called Dai’s Big Adventure. It’s a comic based on Dragon Quest. I also really like the older Shonen Jump series, Yu Yu Hakusho.
Could you tell us more about BAGUS, the group of companies?
Mr. Sasaki: We have a lot of variety. There are internet cafes and manga cafes. We also have darts and billiards, ping pong, karaoke, and virtual golf. We even have capsule hotels, which are very different from the old stereotype of capsule hotels.
We also run KAWAII MONSTER CAFE HARAJUKU. I think foreigners are very familiar with it.
Recently, we’ve been offering do-it-yourself beauty treatments. We provide state-of-the-art slimming equipment that you might see at a professional salon for customers to use themselves. Right now, we are offering this on a subscription basis, where customers get unlimited visits (over a certain period) for a set price.
We also have lounge bars. I guess there really aren’t any luxury karaoke spaces like that overseas. It even has a stage, so it’s really nice.
How long have you been running manga cafés?
Mr. Sasaki: As a company, we’ve been operating for 34 years. We started with a billiards shop in Shibuya and we opened our first internet café in Shibuya in 2000. I think it’s our biggest branch.
How many manga cafés do you have in Japan?
Mr. Sasaki: We have 15 internet cafés. One in Namba in Osaka, and 14 in the greater Tokyo area.
So does that mean that “manga kissa” and internet cafés are the same thing?
Mr. Sasaki: At our company, we don’t really use the phrase “manga kissa.” Instead, we use “comic and internet cafe.” Rather than using a slightly old-fashioned phrase, we generally use “internet cafe.” International customers might be more familiar with the word “manga kissa,” so we’re happy for them to use it. However, in Japan, we never really use it anymore. Now it’s “comic and internet cafe.”
I see that you have a lot of manga available, but how should one go about searching for a particular title?
Mr. Sasaki: You can enter the title or you can input the author’s name into one of the search terminals. A map will appear and you can use the shelf number on that to find what you are looking for.
Does that machine have any English options?
Mr. Sasaki: No, it doesn’t have any English yet. For now, it’s better to ask the staff directly if you want to look for an English title.
Do the staff speak a lot of English?
Mr. Sasaki: We have a translation machine called “Pocketalk,” so we use that. As long as the topic is simple and not too out-of-the-ordinary, it can give an answer.
Are there any particular rules we should follow in the store?
Mr. Sasaki: Well, first of all, our internet service isn’t available to just anyone. In order to use the computers in our booths, you’ll need to register as a member. In order to do so, you need some form of identification, such as a passport, and then you’ll be able to use the internet. However, the Wi-Fi in our store is free, even without registering. You can use it on your own computer. It’s just that in order to use the booth computers which are connected to the web from the get-go, you need to register as a member.
Is the whole registration process in Japanese?
Mr. Sasaki: So long as we have some ID, like your passport, and your signature, we only need to take down the number. Once we have that ID or passport number, we can provide our services, even if you don’t speak Japanese. We process everything internally.
Have you had any trouble with international customers in the past?
Mr. Sasaki: We would like them to know about our entry fee. We charge per person upon entry, so a common problem is people who try to pay for only one person because they only plan to use one computer, even if they are entering as a pair. We don’t charge based on the number of booths but on the number of people. But more than calling that “trouble,” I would just say that it’s an issue of not knowing the system.
In regards to that system, is there anything else we have to do at the check-in counter?
Mr. Sasaki: First, we have you choose what kind of booth you would like: if you would prefer a normal booth or a completely individual room, and we ask what you will be using it for. The fees also vary slightly from location to location; some places extend the time automatically while others don’t.
In those cases, we will also have to ask how long you plan to use the space. So in summary, we need to know your preferred booth type, how long you’ll be here, and whether or not you plan to use the internet, so we know if the aforementioned ID registration is necessary. But that’s really it. As long as we have that information, we can offer you our services. Oh, and if you smoke or not. It’s very simple.
For people who want to read manga, there are many titles that are really different in English and in Japanese, so what do you do when that comes up?
Mr. Sasaki: As long as you tell us, we’ll do our best to look it up for you.
Is there some kind of training on the manga?
Mr. Sasaki: The staff here interact with it on a daily basis, so when a comic is returned, they naturally start to learn about them while they put them back on the shelves. By replacing the comics they get from the customers, they start to notice which titles are popular now. You could also say that Japanese people naturally develop a common sensibility for manga just by living in Japan. It’s kind of rooted in our lifestyles since a lot of people start reading it in elementary school.
What else would you like your international customers to know about b@gus?
Mr. Sasaki: We offer all-you-can-eat soft serve. We have free soft drinks and free soft serve, and we offer a lot of manga. We have 30 kinds of drinks, which are really popular, and even just our coffees come in more than 10 types.
Thank you very much for your time!
Mr. Sasaki: The pleasure is mine!
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If you’re interested in reading more of Manga Planet’s interviews, be sure to read our exclusive interviews with Director of Comic Fiesta Chin Hwa, Head of Comic Frontier Sudwi Karyadi, Otakorp, Inc. (Part 1 and Part 2), Directors of San Japan, LLC Dave Henkin and Tanya Arguijo, K-BOOKS Akihabara Hon-kan Manager Mr. Moritsuka, K-BOOKS Ikebukuro Chara-kan Store Manager Mr. Natori, Chairman of DoKomi Andreas Degen, former Production I.G. scriptwriter Yasunori Kasuga, The Golden Age of Decadence artist Yutsuki Inumura, After School! artist Umiharu, Kou Oushirou of MANGA.CLUB, and the RAYZ OF LIGHT Rōdoku Geki Cast.
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