A place where you can pay staff to look over your shoulder to help you stop procrastinating.

Earlier this month, we got wind of a new weird cafe opening in Tokyo, and this time it had nothing to do with cats, maids or bathhouses.

This new cafe, called Genko Shippitsu Cafe (“Manuscript Writing Cafe”), is all about writing, and though you might be quick to think, “Isn’t any cafe primed for writing?” the drawcard here is that you have to be a writer on a deadline to enter, and what’s more, staff won’t let you leave until you meet your deadline.

As writers ourselves, we know how hard it can be to stay on track with tight turnarounds, so our reporter P.K. Sanjun stopped by the cafe to find out if paying staff to look over his shoulder would improve his concentration and writing speed.

When he arrived, he was surprised to find there were a lot of other writers in need of help with motivation too, as nearly every seat inside was taken.

With no background music playing, and everyone buried deep in their work, typing away feverishly and eyes locked on their laptop screens, there was no relaxed, cafe-style ambience here. And that’s the way the owners like it, as they want to create a sense of pressure to help keep even the laziest writers on track.

▼ Each workspace inside the cafe comes with its own power outlet.

Before you’re seated, staff will ask you to fill out a form to let them know your nickname, your writing goal, and the amount of verbal pressure — “mild”, “normal” or “hard” — you’d like when staff perform their “progress check” on customers. P.K.’s writing goal was to finish one article in two hours, and to help him achieve this, he requested “hard” pressure from staff.

The article he would write would be this one you’re currently reading, which meant he had to take photos, process them, and write the article all within two hours — well, technically less than that now, as he’d been shown to a table and the clock was now ticking on his visit.

So he decided to take his interior shots while grabbing a free drink from the self-serve drink counter, which was stocked with water, tea, and coffee. Unlimited refills are included in your visit, which is charged at 150 yen (US$1.20) per 30 minutes, but you won’t have a lot of time to refill if you’re on a tight deadline like P.K.

By the time he’d taken his photos, P.K. felt he was now well on his way to clearing his goal within the time limit so he began to relax a little. However, that’s when he glanced at the battery level on his laptop and reached in his bag for his charger, only to realise he’d left it at the office.

With only 64-percent battery life left, P.K. now had even more incentive to finish his article in time, so he quickly transferred the photos over from his camera and began writing. As he typed away, and watched the percentages slowly go down on his laptop battery, he began to sweat as the pressure of writing to an even tighter deadline than he’d planned for began to weigh down on him.

That’s when he really began to feel the speed of time breathing down his neck. In fact, the sense of a presence looming up behind him felt so real he turned around, and that’s when he saw a staff member standing there.

“Are you progressing?”

The question made P.K. feel hot under the collar. It was almost as if he and the other cafe patrons were students and this staff member was their strict teacher walking around occasionally to check everyone’s work.

P.K. mumbled a quiet “Yes, thank you”, as he decided to keep his concern over his ever-decreasing battery levels to himself. The surprise progress check was exactly what P.K. needed to finish the job, and he began processing images at high speed, selecting the best ones without wasting a second on any indecision, and smashing out paragraphs with an ease that surprised him.

This burst of speed and concentration felt fantastic, and it was all thanks to the pressurised environment he was sitting in. Well, that and his worrisome battery level, which was now threatening to sputter out within the next ten minutes or so.

Thankfully, all these factors contributed to P.K. finishing his writing goal and meeting his deadline well within his self-imposed time limit. So when staff came around to hand out small snacks, he didn’t feel bad about treating himself to a biscuit. He’d earned it, after all.

At 150 yen for 30 minutes, with free drinks, snacks, Wi-Fi and power included — for those who remember to bring their chargers — a visit to this cafe is an absolute bargain. The reason why the cafe is able to get by on such little profit, if any, is because it’s attached to a recording and broadcasting studio called Koenji Sankakuchitai, and the cafe is open on select days when the studio isn’t being used.

It’s a great place for writers to concentrate on their work without any distractions, and if find yourself working through lunch on a grumbling belly, staff are happy for you to bring in your own lunch from home or get food delivered to the cafe via delivery companies like Uber Eats.

You can even pop out to the convenience store across the street to bring back a bite to eat, as long as it’s within your allotted time. And while staff won’t let you leave until you’ve met your deadline, don’t worry — they don’t keep customers back after they close, so you’ll be able to leave after your deadline or by the 7:00 p.m. closing time, whichever comes first.

P.K. thoroughly enjoyed his visit to the Manuscript Writing Cafe, and one of the best things about it was the strange sense of solidarity he felt with the other patrons, as he knew they were all feeling the pressure just like him. So if you’re looking for a place to give you a push to help you meet your writing deadlines, you should definitely stop by and give it a go.

Just remember to check the opening times for the cafe here, as their schedule tends to change a bit, and if you’re looking for another neat place to write your masterpiece, you can always check out one of these optical illusion cafes.

Cafe information
Manuscript Writing Cafe / 原稿執筆カフェ
Located at Koenji Sankakuchitai / 高円寺三角地帯
Address: Tokyo-to, Suginami-ku, Koenjikita 2-1-24

Images ©SoraNews24
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