Young folks go to Japanese net cafes to surf the web, play video games, read comics, and guzzle soda. Old dudes? Generally speaking, old dudes do not go to internet cafes. Old dudes, generally speaking, go to bars.
Leave it to Japan's most wildly inventive net cafe chain to figure out how to attract salarymen to net cafes like bees on honey.
Net cafe chain Manboo! has always tried to offer more than just computers, video games, and comics. Back in 2004, one branch even rolled out a nail salon for young women to get a manicure.
Now, the Manboo! in Tokyo's Kanda, dubbed Manboo! Plus, is starting a new shoe shine service: sexy shoe shines. According to Manboo!, the shine staffers are all females in their 20s, and they all dress in skirts, low-cut tops, open-back jackets, and glasses. The service was kicked off so that Manboo! can further differentiate itself from other net cafes.
Males who wish to partake need to pay ¥400 (US$4.92) to enter Manboo! for one hour to read magazines, surf the web, play PC games, and watch dirty movies. Female customers are only ¥300 ($3.69), and their booths are located on a separate floor from the male customers. Manboo! Plus is currently running a special "grand opening" deal: the entrance fee for everyone is ¥100 ($1.23) for one hour.
Other free services include showers, phone chargers, and slacks pressing.
Website ZakZak checked out the shoe shine service, noting that a 21 year-old woman who resembled actress Misako Yasuda showed up in secretarial garb, ready to shine his shoes.
The shoeshine room is gaudy and sleazy looking, but that's probably the point.
"I love talking about manga and anime," she told the reporter. "It's nice when you can talk about fun things while shining."
Japanese nightlife is dotted by red light districts, and this shoe shining service seems to blur the line between improper "sexy night clubs" and proper shoe care. The whole thing reeks of the "no-pan kissa" (no panty coffee shops) of the 1980s. Titillation, not sex, is the goal here.
It's highly doubtful that anything more than shining is offered, but Manboo! is clearly taking the trappings of Japanese fuzoku (prostitution) and reworking them into PG-13 for an internet cafe.
In Tokyo, where the nights are seemingly endless, it seems that in some parts of town, manicures just won't cut it—not when your competition is offering way more than polished loafers.