By Peter Sidell
Traveling can sometimes make it difficult to find internet access, even if you choose to haul around a laptop. An internet cafe can be a good way to get back in touch with the fam - no laptop needed! Popeye is a conveniently located about five minutes from the train station and right by the shopping center Zaza City.
Internet cafes are a great place to take a break and enjoy some air conditioning in the hot summer months. Most offer twenty-four-hour access and even a shower for guests. They found all over most cities in Japan.
Popeye gives the impression it’s not terrible new. The reclining chair is cushy in a way of a chair that’s had a hard life, and you sink right down into it. The armrests on it are a bit bashed, so the varnish is chipped on the edges. There is a computer, complete with headphones, and a television also with headphones attached. There is a phone which goes to the reception area next to a convenient menu of their food offerings. A light above head is optional and has a plug which can be used to charging your phone. There are some slippers on the floor, for those who wish to remove with shoes and relax.
After saying I wasn’t a member, only wanted one hour, and didn’t smoke, I was assigned my cubicle, just around the corner from reception. There was a sign in English that designated it as a Ladies Area where there is No Smoking. I’m neither tiny nor huge among American standards, but I had to turn sideways to squeeze into the portal to my cubical. The No Smoking area seemed about as affective to me as a no smoking area in a restaurant. The cubicle walls are only about five feet high, so the smoke would of course rise and waft around. I could smell a bit of it, but thanks to the Ladies Area being tucked away in a corner, I wasn’t choking on it.
I set my things down and ducked back out to get a drink from the drink bar, which is ‘free’ which any savvy person knows actually means ‘included in the cost.’ There are hot drinks and cold drinks available, all you can drink. I went with a glass of melon soda. There is soft-serve ice cream in the drink bar area, but that costs extra (50yen).
Popeye calls itself a ‘media cafe,’ so the internet isn’t all it has to offer. Outside the cubicles, there is a decent selection of manga and magazines. Of course, everything is in Japanese. The manga selection isn’t bad and wraps all the way around the room with the cubicles in it. They had a sort of feature section right up front, which had some of the more popular titles on display, but none of the newest volumes. The computer has links to popular games in the ‘programs’ tab under the start menu.
There are several price packages available from as little as fifteen minutes. It jumps from half an hour to three hours (I was warned that if I chose the less-than-three-hours route, I couldn’t change my mind later), then five, then more. The more time, the better the deal. I’m sure there are member-card-holder perks, too. In all, my hour cost me 515yen. Double that, and you’ve go the three-hour price (see why I was warned that you can’t change your mind?).
I found out on subsequent visits that they offer a computer with Skype, a mic and camera, but you're put in a small room with an uncomfortable-looking chair and not allowed to have any drinks in there. Nope. <_< Also, if you want a decent computer, don't get put in the ladies corner. Ask for a computer with Windows 7, and they'll give it to you.
I didn’t try the food, but the prices are low. This may or may not be a comment on the quality, but to have something so convenient, they could probably get away with charging more, so it’s nice that they don’t. A miniature katsudon is 315. Five balls of takoyaki are 315. A beer is 346.
It is not at all uncommon for people to stay overnight in internet cafes. Some people even use them as temporary homes in an act of desperation. They are open 24 hours and provide a shower for a reason. Take advantage of it.
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