Manga Cafe Brings Japanese Experience to German City

Two anime fans dressed as characters from the popular Sailor Moon anime & manga attend the Connichi convention in Germany. (Courtesy: ENEX/RTL/CBS)
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Reading only - not buying: this is the motto at the small "Manga Hof" Cafe in Duesseldorf, in western Germany.

It is the first so-called "Manga Café" in the country, launched by Japanese expat, Tatsuhiro Mizutani.

Manga, the name used for Japanese-style comic books, often combine complex stories with unique drawing styles, and are popular in Japan and have a global cult following.

At Manga Hof, people can have the opportunity to experience a little bit of popular Japanese culture, according to Mizutani.

"In order for the German people to understand the Japanese culture, I think that introducing them to Manga is the best way to do it," says Mizutani.

The bookshelves in Manga Hof are filled with more than 11, 000 Mangas - among those, around 700 in German.

A typical Manga series can have as many as 20 or more volumes.

In the library-like atmosphere of the cafe, people speak in hushed tones, with Japanese music or the audio of a Japanese television playing softly in the background.

But it is more comfortable than in a library as eating and drinking are allowed, with Japanese soups, curries, coffee and soft drinks available.

For five euros an hour, guests can read as many comics they want inside the open space of the café - at tables or on comfortable beanbags.

Drinks are included in the price, while small meals, including Japanese soups can be purchased at an extra price.

One of the cafe's clients, Masaaki Saitow, is a scientist originally from Tokyo now living and working in Muelheim an der Ruhr near Duesseldorf.

He likes the atmosphere at the Manga cafe, as it reminds him of home he says.

"I think it is a very precious place for me to feel some Japanese things," the 28-year-old says.

He also likes the fact that he does not have to buy the Manga books in order to read them.

"If you want to buy some series of Mangas you need some space. Like this (indicates with his hands). But I don't have to buy by myself. Yeah, if I come here, I can read it."

Those who do not want to be disturbed, can book a small separate cabin or a private room at an additional cost, in which they can surf the internet, watch DVDs or play console games with friends.

Mizutani, originally from Yokkaichi in Japan, has been living in Germany for the past eight years.

Before the 39-year-old opened Manga Hof, he used to work as a bartender at a Karaoke Bar at the Hotel Nikko in Duesseldorf.

About 20-30 visitors visit Manga Hof each day, according to Mizutani.

Most of them stay for one or two hours.

At the very beginning, his clients were mostly of Japanese origin.

But now after three months of business, more and more German people are popping in for a visit, according to Mizutani.

More than 8,200 Japanese nationals live in Duesseldorf, which makes the city home to the third largest Japanese community in Europe after London and Paris.

Manga cafes or "Manga Kissas" have been popular in Japan since the 1970s.

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