Boys’ Love (BL) is a genre of fiction in Japan, usually taking the form of manga and anime, that depicts men in romantic relationships with one another. These homosexual stories are generally produced by and for women who want to fangirl over impossibly beautiful men getting frisky with each other.

Like with the maid cafes that cater to male otaku in Akihabara, it was only a matter of time until fictional fantasies started spilling over into the real world. My fellow reporter, Evie, and I went to visit a BL cafe near Otome Road in Ikebukuro, an area filled with stores catering to female otaku and fujoshi.

Entering the cafe we were greeted by our selection of young, eligible, and ostensibly gay hosts. However, here they’re not hosts, but students, and you are a new first year at the school. So you’ll have your dokyusei, or classmates of the same year, and of course your sempai (upperclassmen), who are there to notice the other guys rather than you. You can spend your time ordering food and drink from the special menu (from which you have to read the text exactly as it is with no mistakes), perusing the selection of BL manga on offer, and chatting with the boys. The whole time the boys are always interacting, touching each other, and generally giving you a nice bit of fanservice.


We decided to order the “fantasy coupling Pocky” from the menu where you get to choose two of the guys to enact a sexy scene using a piece of candy. We chose Haru and Hinata, and then were asked to come up with a setting for the special scene to take place. We went with the library, and the sempai stumbling upon his cute little kohai (underclassman) reading a naughty manga. The two of them soon got into character and brought the scene to life. Some bickering/flirting ensued and then, finally, their lips almost came together. It might look like they’re having a serious makeout session, but there was no actual lip-on-lip contact. Still, I have to say that the boys put on a great show.


As a long time fan of Boys’ Love manga, it was a great experience for me. At first I thought that trying to recreate the genre in real life would come off as fake and awkward, but the staff are in character at all times, and I was soon squeeing hard at their adorable antics. Evie, on the other hand, was a novice to the concept who, while aware that it existed, had never encountered any of the huge array of BL manga and other media that’s available. However, she said that the overall experience was very positive, the cafe had a nice atmosphere, and the staff were all really friendly. While she’s not sure if she’d go back herself she would definitely recommend it to others who want to do something interesting and different in Japan.


Despite not many of the staff speaking English, the place is apparently very popular with foreigners, and a whole group arrived just as we were leaving. It’s another one of those wacky things in Japan that has to be seen to be believed, but once you’re in there with everyone in character it all starts to seem quite normal. The place is an escape from everyday life where girls (and guys, too) can live out their daydreams for a few hours and a few thousand yen. However, when all is said and done, it is a fantasy, and we did have to return to the real world. While Evie seemed quite happy to be back to reality, I felt a little wistful, and I’ve vowed to go back soon – perhaps for one of their special themed events!

Cafe information
Ikebukuro Danshi BL Gakuen / 池袋男子BL学園
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Higashi Ikebukuro 3-9-13, Iwashita Building 2nd floor
東京都豊島区東池袋3-9-13 岩下ビル2F
Open weekdays 3 p.m.-10:30 p.m., Saturday noon-5 a.m., Sunday noon-10:30 p.m.

Video, photos © RocketNews24