TOKYO — Writers facing deadlines head to Tokyo’s Manuscript Writing Cafe with one understanding — they can’t leave until their work is complete.
Oh, and there are nudges to make sure they loop and finish.
The clean, well-lit place in western Tokyo has 10 seats reserved for writers, editors, manga artists, and anyone else who struggles with writing and deadlines. Coffee and tea are unlimited and self-serve, and high-speed Wi-Fi and docking ports are installed at every seat.
Customers come in, write their names, write down their goals and the time they plan to finish. They can also ask for progress checks while they work, with “light” just asking if they’re done while they pay and “normal” being an hourly check-in.
Those who choose “hard” will feel silent pressure from staff who frequently stand behind them.
Owner Takuya Kawai, 52 and a writer himself, said he hoped the strict rules would help people focus.
“The cafe has gone viral on social media and people are saying the rules are scary or it feels like you’re being watched from behind,” the genius Kawai said, displaying a sign with the names of patrons 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 was completed in three hours, or tasks that usually take three hours were completed in one .”
The cafe charges 130 yen ($1.01) for the first 30 minutes, then 300 yen ($2.34) for every successive hour. Although a few people stayed beyond the official closing time, they all ended up doing their job.
Emiko Sasaki, 37 and blog writer, said she was relishing the chance to be free from pesky social media and phone calls.
“It’s nice to be able to focus on writing,” she said, reaching her goal of three blog posts in three hours.
The cafe, originally a live-streaming space, has been hit hard 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 book could be born, but I’m proud to be able to offer my support so that things written here can be published around the world,” he said.