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November 16, 1995

INTERNET CAFES VIE WITH MY WAY IN FASHIONABLE PARTS OF TOKYO

By CBR Staff Writer

The fascination with Western popular culture, however tacky, characterised by My Way being a perennial karaoke hit in Japan and meaningless word combinations such as Luck Window on tee shirts means that the smart set among Japanese youth – even those that have never previously had any interest in computers – is queuing to log on to the Internet, and while the first cybernet cafe in Tokyo may have opened a few months after Cyberia in London’s Tottenham Court Road, the things are breeding like rabbits. According to Reuters reporter Aya Takada, in Tokyo these venues are vying in popularity with video games arcades and karaoke parlours. Internet is becoming the key word of the year. Lots of people are afraid that they will be left behind in the march of progress if they don’t know about the Internet, says Megumi Yamasaki, a spokeswoman for Electronic Cafe International Japan Ltd, an operator of one of a dozen Internet cafes in Tokyo. Electronic Cafe International was formed by a group that previously operated Japan’s most popular discotheque. It opened the first Internet cafe in June in Shibuya, the centre of fashion and culture for the young. This cafe is designed to show the wonders of multimedia to people who do not know much about computers, Ms Yamazaki said. We are attracting far more customers than we ever expected.

Donated for free

The venue is a cellar fitted out as a replica of a Stone Age residence, it costs $20 to get in – everything is absurdly expensive in Japan and that is only a little more than the cost of a cinema ticket – and the Internet access devices are Macintoshes cunningly donated for free by Apple Computer Inc, in the firm expectation that those that get sufficiently hooked to want to surf at home will buy a Macintosh. Clientele ranges from school kids through dating couples and businessmen to retired people. We come here to know how we can enjoy the Internet, Toshio Sasaki, a 24-year-old office worker told Reuter, adding, no doubt to Apple’s joy that although he was keen to get to know the Internet, he had been hesitant to buy a personal computer and Internet software as he had expected it to be complicated for a beginner. Now I’ve found linking up with the Internet is not as difficult as I had imagined, Sasaki said. I want to buy a computer and try the Internet next time at home, and Internet access is now a key reason for buying a home computer. Despite the enthusiasm of the elite, the craze is very much in its infancy, and the number of active users in Japan is sa yet put at only 100,000, so the untapped potential looks to be enormous.

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