Revealed: The Japanese cafe for writers on a deadline

Revealed: The Japanese cafe for writers on a deadline, with unlimited coffee… and managers who stand over customers until their work is done

  • The ‘Manuscript Writing Cafe’ in western Tokyo has 10 seats for writers
  • It charges 81p for the first 30 minutes and then £1.86 for every successive hour  
  • Owner Takuya Kawai hopes the cafe’s firm rules will help people focus

Writers facing deadlines go to Tokyo’s ‘Manuscript Writing Cafe’ with an understanding – they can’t leave until their work is done.

Oh, and there’s prodding thrown in to make sure they buckle down and finish.

The clean, well-lit place in western Tokyo has 10 seats reserved for writers, editors, manga artists and anybody else grappling with the written word and deadlines. Coffee and tea are unlimited and self-serve, and high-speed Wi-Fi and docking ports are installed at every seat.

At Tokyo’s ‘Manuscript Writing Cafe’, pictured, writers facing deadlines can’t leave until their work is done

The cafe has 10 seats reserved for writers, editors, manga artists and anybody else grappling with the written word and deadlines

Once they arrive, customers write down their names, writing goals and the time they plan to finish

Customers enter, write down their names, writing goals and the time they plan to finish. They can also ask for progress checks as they work, with ‘mild’ just asking them if they have finished as they pay and ‘normal’ being a check-in every hour.

Those choosing ‘hard’ will feel silent pressure from staff standing frequently behind them.

Owner Takuya Kawai, 52, and a writer himself, said he hoped the strict rules would help people focus.

Customers can ask for progress checks as they work, with ‘mild’ just asking them if they have finished as they pay and ‘normal’ being a check-in every hour

Owner Takuya Kawai, 52, and a writer himself, said he hoped the strict rules would help people focus

‘The cafe went viral on social media,’ said the owner 

‘The cafe went viral on social media and people are saying the rules are scary or that it feels like being watched from behind,’ the genial Kawai told Reuters, displaying a board with the names of customers who completed their tasks and left.

‘But actually instead of monitoring, I’m here to support them… As a result what they thought would take a day actually was completed in three hours, or tasks that usually take three hours were done in one.’

The cafe charges 130 yen (81p / $1.01) for the first 30 minutes and then 300 yen (£1.86 / $2.34) every successive hour. Though a few people have stayed past the official closing time, they have all eventually gotten their work done.

Above are customers’ time slots in the cafe. The business charges 130 yen (81p / $1.01) for the first 30 minutes and then 300 yen (£1.86 / $2.34) every successive hour

Coffee and tea are unlimited and self-serve from this tea station 

There’s high-speed Wi-Fi and docking ports are installed at every seat

Though a few people have stayed past the official closing time, they have all eventually gotten their work done

The cafe’s website notes that the space is ideal for people who have tried to meet a writing deadline ‘at home or in an ordinary cafe’ with little luck. 

‘This unique sense of tension like studying for an exam in a library will really stimulate your creative work,’ the website notes, adding: ‘All the customers in the store are “writing manuscripts”, so the atmosphere of the place is moderately tense and you can concentrate on your work.’ 

Emiko Sasaki, 37, and a blog writer, said she relished the chance to be free of pesky social media and phone calls.

‘It’s good to be able to concentrate on writing,’ she said, completing her goal of three blog articles in three hours.

A board displays the names of customers who completed their tasks and left

‘I don’t know what kind of work might be born, but I’m proud to be able to offer my support so that things written here can be published to the whole world,’ the owner said 

Pictures suggest that customers hold their personal belongings in mesh shopping baskets underneath their chairs

Pictures suggest that customers hold their personal belongings in mesh shopping baskets underneath their chairs. Writers can bring their own food and drink to the cafe, and can even order their favourite takeaway to fuel them to meet their deadline. 

The cafe, originally a livestreaming space, was hit badly by the coronavirus pandemic, but Kawai is now hopeful as word of mouth spreads about its new format.

‘I don’t know what kind of work might be born, but I’m proud to be able to offer my support so that things written here can be published to the whole world,’ he said.

For more information visit koenji-sankakuchitai.blog.jp/ManuscriptWritingCafe

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