Tokyo’s famous themed cafes usually feature animals – cats, pigs, hedgehogs. The vibe is pleasure and play. Quite unlike the newest addition that’s all about work.
On a busy intersection in the city’s Koenji neighborhood is Tokyo’s latest pop-up café, called the Manuscript Café, and it’s for people who not only have a writing project but also, most crucially, a deadline.
The mood is serious. A handful of customers sit at workstations glued to their computers, watched over by Takuya Kawai, owner and chief enforcement officer.
A fee of about $2.50 an hour gets you fast wi-fi, air-cooled computer stands, and Kawai himself. “I try not to hover,” he told correspondent Liz Palmer. “Not to pressure them too much, but I check their progress every 30 minutes.”
Hiro Sekiguchi has come to write a lecture due tomorrow. On his registration slip he asks to be checked (or you might say gently harassed) every half-hour ’til he’s done.
Writers are procrastinators. Faced with a blank page (or more likely nowadays a blank screen), they’ll find a million ways to avoid getting down to work. Well, not here.
Kawai is making sure of that with Mr. Takahara, who’s racing to finish a manga cartoon.
“Your aim was 24 pages; how are you doing?” he’s asked.
“Don’t worry,” Takahara replied. “I’m right on track.”
With the constant roar of traffic in a nondescript suburb, this place isn’t what you’d call charming, except for the movie memorabilia and a wall of old technology in the bathroom.
But what really counts here is getting it done.
Part of the secret, says Hiro Sekiguchi, is the lack of distraction. “I am comfortable working here,” he said. Not to mention focused.
Greater Tokyo is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, so a quiet place away from the hustle to concentrate and create is precious.
At 20 to four in the afternoon, Mr. Oguchi has finished his project.
“Congratulations!” said Palmer. “How many hours did it take?”
“One-and-a-half,” he replied.
“Why did you write better and concentrate better here?”
“I had a tight deadline,” Oguchi replied. “And of course, I was paying for it!”
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Edited by Randy Schmidt.