Japan is home to a very large commercial sex scene that at times can boggle the mind in its scope and style. Although I have covered dozens of sex shops in Japan over the years I haven’t really even scratched the surface yet.
Kirari Community Cafe or “Date Cafe Kirari” as it also called in English is a place where guys can go to meet eager women looking for fun and a bit of money. The company has multiple locations. The place under review today is a branch in the Ikebukuro section of Tokyo but the other locations operate in the same manner.
Kirari Community Cafe is located right out in the open on a main street. It is easy to find even for those with a poor sense of direction and marked by a giant flashing neon sign out front that displays the name of the place in Japanese (出会い). Inside the entrance there is a very small lobby that looks more like a hallway. Male employees wait here to help customers.
First time customers have to pay an initial fee of 2,000 Yen ($16.50 USD) sign up for a membership card to visit Kirari date cafe. It takes some time and effort to get the card but once a person has it they can visit whenever they would like without issue. Perspective customers fill out a short informational sheet that asks for a name, age and phone number.
Phone numbers have to be confirmed so perspective customers are called immediately by the staff to check that the digits are correct. This is a safety measure aimed at making sure guys who leave the place with women can be tracked down if something happens. The rule is certainly understandable from that perspective but still fairly meaningless as it is incredibly easy for people to get anonymous numbers and otherwise manipulate their information. More than a few posters on online message boards say they have signed up with fake names and numbers. There is no reason to doubt the but if the system is heavily abused and it leads to problems it is easy to imagine how the sign up process could become more tedious in the future.
Foreigners are accepted at Kirari date cafe though it would be a hard place to manage with no Japanese skills at all since the men on staff and the women who show up at the place are mainly unable or unwilling to speak English. An effort does seem to be made to accommodate foreigners who make the effort to visit the place however so a gaijin capable of speaking even a few words of the Japanese language may be able to manage.
Once customers have a membership card they can visit any time they want for an additional 2,000 Yen. After they pay this one time fee for the day they can head downstairs to the display room. This room is divided into different parts. All are small and at times can get crowded. To the left there is a lounge area the size of a closet that contains a soft drink machine and some cups. To the right there is a hallway and large glass windows.
The windows are made of two way glass so that the men in the hallway can see inside of the room on the other side but the women in that room cannot see the men in the hallway. Women come in to the cafe and hang out in the room waiting to be picked by a guy. They don’t work for the cafe. They are totally independent and free to come and go as they would like. All sorts of Japanese women show up at Kirari but most are in their twenties with a few slightly older. Some office ladies visit after work. Some college students do too. There are also plenty of freeters and a fair share of professional and semi-pro prostitutes.
While the women wait in the room they do things like read comics, play with their phones or even eat. Most look totally uninterested in the situation even though they went out of their way to visit the place. There is a small card on the window in front of each woman that gives a bit of info and a name that is almost certainly fake. Club members can look at these cards along with the women on the other side of the glass to try to find someone that interests them.
Small papers are provided around the room for members to write their name, type of employment and interests. They can also indicate if they are looking for someone to drink with, someone to eat with or someone to spend “free time” with which in this context usually means getting intimate. When a member finds a woman he would like to talk to he takes her card off of the window and hands it along with a completed profile paper to one of the male staff members.
The male staff member then goes to give the paper to the woman in question. If she agrees she will be brought to a one of several curtained off cubicles upstairs to meet the man who selected her. Most women seem to agree to most advances and there is no real loss for anyone who is rejected anyway since they are never even seen.
Members are given ten minutes to chat with the women they select in the cubicle spaces. Being in a confined space with a strange can lead to a strange situation but it doesn’t have to. Many times things flow freely. Everyone knows they are at the cafe to meet and mutual interest is indicated by agreement to meet in the cubicle to begin with so there is really no need for the kind of strange feelings that a guy might feel when approaching a stranger in a public place.
Chat time in the cubicle is used more to arrange a date outside of the cafe than to get to know people. Names and cute stories can be traded anytime but guidelines have to be set before things can go further. Conversation considered too direct or rude is avoided but people can figure things out in a polite way.
Some of the women who go to Kirari Community Cafe are looking for nothing more than a drinking partner. Some have specific goals in mind like seeing a particular movie or trying a specific restaurant. At times dates like these can lead to more afterwards. Many other times the date ends without so much as a kiss. The men are expected to pay for everything and give a tip directly to the ladies they spend time with. There is no set compensation for a regular date but the usual suggestion is 5,000 Yen ($42 USD).
Many women at Kirari cafe are there specifically to sell sex. Some are more obvious than others and a few will be selective but there is usually no shortage of ladies looking to trade a quick romp for some money. Members looking for these kinds of ladies usually write that they are looking for “free play.” During conversations in the private cubicles they usually ask what the woman would think about going to a love hotel or say something like “warikiri dou desu ka?” For whatever reason “warikiri” is date cafe slang for sex.
If a woman agrees to spend intimate time with a member they may negotiate a price right then and there. On the other hand the woman may simply expect the guy to give her an average payment later. There are no rules since each woman at the club is independent but 10,000 Yen ($83 USD) to 30,000 Yen ($248 USD) is the usual range. Members who take women out are also expected to pay for a short stay at one of the many local love hotels which usually costs a few thousand yen.
There are stories of scams and rip offs from women at date cafes flying around but most boil down to guys agreeing to go on drinking dates and being unable to turn it into more later. I don’t think that’s a rip off. I think it is compensated dating. The women who are willing to go straight to bed are usually straightforward about it. From there reneging on the deal is almost unheard of as are things like theft. The women who visit the date cafes have to register just like the men. Many are regulars and don’t want to spoil a place they rely on to make money.
In any place where women work independently there will be a huge variation in sexual experiences. Nearly all women will do oral sex and full intercourse if they agree to go to a love hotel but performance can vary greatly. Some women may be experts in bed while others may be totally passive. Women with mainstream jobs just looking for a little money or fun may hang around for hours and behave in a romantic manner. Others may get right down to business. The more hardened and professional women will sometimes set time limits of as little as one hour. Many of these women often ask for more money than their more amateur counterparts as well. Some women look for long term friends with benefits and sugar daddy situations that can help them earn more money and waste less time waiting for guys to pick them out of a room.
Japanese date cafes operate on an interesting model. They were likely started to get around laws that make things like brothels and pimping illegal. As with places like Showpark DaVinci in Prague and Mainhattan in Frankfurt the business makes money by charging people to enter the facilities. They don’t employee sex workers or take a cut of their income. They simply provide a meeting service in a safe environment.
Although date cafes were created as a response to rules handed down from above the methods they developed are some of the most fair and equitable that can be found in any country. In a place where people had equal standing and were free to sell or purchase sex as they pleased meeting places like these could play a valuable role. As it stands they are businesses in it for the money but helping lots of people come together in the process.
Kirari Community Cafe is one of the better examples of a Japanese date cafe. On top of that they are open and accommodating to foreigners which unfortunately is not the norm in Japan. The only real problem with the place is the cramped space it operates in but that is an issue faced by every outfit in Tokyo.
Kirari offers a lot of service for a little money. The constant flow of male members and female freelancers proves that they do good by their customers. I admit that I may have a soft spot for this particular date cafe since it helped me score my first adult encounter with a Japanese gyaru, but I think my review is pretty objective. Whatever the case I give the place four stars.
Kirari Community Cafe. Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Open every day from afternoon to late night. Website: http://www.cafe-kirari.com/ Map on website.