Some girls want to break into the writing game so badly they're willing to take on some pretty grubby assignments. That's what the editor at Jitsuwa Bunka Taboo (February) had in mind when he assigned the 24-year-old woman, a Saitama native, to spend a week at a certain cyber cafe on Shokuan Dori, a street that borders on the notorious Kabukicho district of Shinjuku.
Told that many customers at the establishment in question were women who worked in the sex industry, she was not especially pleased with the assignment.
The outlay for a "24-hour course" at the cyber cafe that includes a semi-private booth is set at 2,640 yen (tax included). Overnight only is half that price, and securing the space for a full month lowers the cost further to 2,112 yen per day or 63,360 yen per month.
The house rules permit coming and going and permission to bring in snacks and victuals from outside.
In addition to unrestricted access to the internet, drinks are provided free of charge. A "shower kit" consisting of a towel, shampoo and so on can be obtained for 330 yen, and for the same price you can run a load of wash.
The reporter's first day on the "job" was Monday, Nov 25. She took the elevator to the cyber cafe's 3rd floor reception to check in. The first thing that struck her was the almost overpowering odor of cigarette smoke.
At least a nonsmoking booth was available, but it barely helped. The booth was the equivalent of about 1.5 tatami mats, space for her travel bag with just enough room left to lie down. In addition to a computer the nearby desk was equipped with an AC outlet for charging her smart phone and a box of tissues.
"There were containers of room deodorizer set at points between the individual booths, but they weren't effective," she complained. "I wished I was home."
Around 2 a.m., realizing that six more days remained before her departure, she wept.
One thing she found amazing the first night was the variations in timbre and volume of snores emanating from the cubicles. The morning arrived without her sleeping so much as a wink.
Unlike the leisurely soaks at her bath at home, she found herself in a shower where even the hot water emanating from the shower heads reeked of cigarettes. The hair dryer in the woman's toilet was on its last legs, and took three times what was normally required to dry her hair completely.
Eventually she began to interact with the other patrons. Several men in their 40s and 50s appeared to be day laborers. But most customers by far were female, with many in their 30s and 40s. Few could come up with 63,360 yen to pay for a monthly stay, so most of them were obliged to pay out more, a day at a time.
From observing the frequent comings and goings of one young woman at the cafe, the writer speculated she was employed by a "delivery health" (sex outcall service) and was calling on johns at nearby hotels.
It was with a huge sigh of relief that she departed on Dec 2, the odor of cigarettes clinging to everything -- even her plastic hairbrush. "Never again!" she vowed.
Looking back on her experience, she concludes that to stay sane in a cyber cafe you have to have particularly thick skin.
"I'm not a cleanliness fanatic, nor do I come from a wealthy home," she remarks. "But even one day in this sort of rock-bottom environment affects me psychologically. After this, my humble home in a Saitama housing tract really seems like heaven on earth."© Japan Today