Haruka has a home page in Japanese which serves as a guide to Manga Kissa:


"It's a major shift from a place merely selling a cup of coffee, to a place selling time and space," says Yoshiyuki Igaki. Igaki works at the franchise department of Biz-i whose parent company runs 33 directly owned Gera Gera Manga Kissa, including their flagship store in Shinjuku that boasts the highest sales in Japan, with an average of 1,000 users every day.

"Manga Kissa in the past were places that served coffee that happened to have a random selection of comic books too. Often with dim lighting and a depressing ambiance, these places were thought to be shady businesses. But now, selling coffee and other beverages is the secondary business. Manga Kissa are selling space and time. Some people come into our stores because they missed the last train and consider a Manga Kissa to be a better option than staying in a capsule hotel. We are open 24 hours a day and we have comfortable reclining chairs to accommodate their needs."

Gera Gera constantly tries to incorporate new services. The installation of the Internet has been a big hit for them and they say they will be investing more in new areas. They currently have a Manga Kissa with a shower room, and another has a kids1 room so moms can leave their children there while they read comic books or spend time peacefully. Although some of the services they test are targeted for those who may not necessarily be interested in manga, Igaki stresses that the key for sustainable growth is to have a good selection of comic books. "Just being an Internet cafe is doomed to failure."
So how long will this trend last? Igaki believes the Manga Kissa market will follow a similar success pattern as those of video rental stores and karaoke boxes. The stores with poor service and poor management will make their exit and the ones that are responsive to customers' needs will prosper. He says the trend will continue until 2002 before it levels off.

And there is not much concern about the bottom line for Manga Kissa management. The fees they charge for the first hour, which usually include free drinks and free access to the comic books, general magazines, Internet, and in many places DVDs and video games too, is within a very reasonable price range of 300 to 500 yen (US$ 2.75 - 4.55). But at most stores, profitability can be as high as 50%, with the return on investments in computers and game terminals coming back in as little as a year.

Their biggest challenge lies in how much they can change the preconceived negative image of Manga Kissa still held by many people. But look at me! Just one visit cured my allergy and ever since I have casually dropped in to check my mail or monitor how my Internet auction has been doing.

So, is it safe to ask a girl out to a Manga Kissa? With a careful selection of the store and a mention of this column, you might even find yourself being thanked! So, take your chances?

Comic Book Publishers Hit Hard

Overall sales of newly published paperback comic books and magazines have declined six percent from last year. Two major reasons come to mind. First of all, as my smart readers will easily have guessed, the decline may be due to the increase of Manga Kissa. Secondly, keen readers of comic books have started to visit used bookstores such as Book-off where they can buy more and pay less. Half of Book-off's sales are currently generated from comic books.

It is almost as if the two, Manga Kissa and used bookstores, joined forces, spread a map of Japan and strategically planned their move to beat the publishers under a military campaign! Manga Kissa are usually situated in metropolitan areas, whereas used book stores are generally found in suburban or local areas, thus covering Japan in its entirety. There is no way sales of newly published comic books can get away unaffected.

However, there is a bit of hope, although it is very tiny. A new comic book trend is emerging. American comic books translated into Japanese, such as X-men and animated cartoons like South Park and Powerpuff Girls, are gaining in popularity by not only appealing to the fanatic otaku, but also to the general public. Not many used bookstores or Manga Kissa have American comic books on their shelves yet. Readers of American comics don't yet want to let go of their new books to used bookstores because they like the original graphics. If publishers move swiftly enough to release translated American comic books, they just might find their own new niche. Data and Information source for sidebar: Nihon Keizai Shimbun

K Bookstore: The Animanga Fan’s Paradise 

“K Bookstore”is the current umbrella term in Taiwan for a mutated brand of manga rental stores. Basically it functions as lending library for club members, only you must have the materials consumed within the precincts of the store. Most have quite impressive collections of manga tankoubon, anime and TV series VCDs, video-games, J-pop CDs and magazines. There are roomy couches where you can sit undisturbed and fire through fifteen volumes of manga nonstop. Plus they provide you with computers with not only high-speed access to the internet, but also surround sound systems and high-end display monitors. Most operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Drinks are gratis and come in unlimited supply. Some stores even provide you with free sandwiches for lunch and inexpensive meals at the club’s canteen for dinner.

It’s no accident then, that K Bookstores have become the hottest hangouts in town for the animanga fan. The business model has been accordingly transplanted in Hong Kong, and on both sides of the shore some successful companies begin to emerge as chain-businesses with networks extending from one neighborhood to another, and in some cases even from one city to another. Nowadays, to “K” a manga series means to skim through it at the nearest store, since most of them charge you by the hour.

For all its potential conflicts with copyright issues, on the whole I venture to think that it is altogether a healthy infusion into the nightlife of both societies. There used to be not a place where you could even sit for drinks after 10 p.m. without unsolicited interruptions by dubious characters who might pick your pocket or slip sedative substances into your drink. Now night-crawlers have found a hearth where they can warm themselves with like-minded readers on lonely, frosty nights in these gigantic and dehumanizing cities. Sometimes, you come to recognize a few kindred spirits who frequent the same haunts as you by sight. Sometimes, when a summer typhoon outside darkens the sky, you would rather curl up in your corner of refuge rereading an outrageously wicked manga than to hurry home. Sometimes, you need a day off and don’t want to be found by anyone you know at all. Sometimes you stare at the page, but your mind is really miles away. Sometimes you stare at the outside traffic. Sometimes the night, can be as dark as you make it out to be...         

Melancholic brooding aside, here are a few links where you can find the locations of these stores:


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