Where the manga-maniacs go

Shut your eyes and you'd think you were alone. But Yomu Yomu is anything but empty. The sprawling cafe is full of people poring over one of 35,000 manga, or comic books.

Yomu Yomu is a manga cafe, where customers can sit down with a drink or a meal and spend the afternoon flipping through a favorite comic. Japanese cafes traditionally kept a few manga on hand for customers, but the concept of a cafe dedicated to them is fairly new. Yomu Yomu, which means "read read," opened in 1994 and is thought to be one of the first of about 300 manga cafes in Tokyo today. "There will be more in the years to come," predicts manager Eiji Ikeda.

The manga available run the gamut from sports, horror, and adventure to romance, gourmet cooking, and even instructional manga on "How to Get Divorced."

Customers order a drink or a meal on entering, and are granted 90 minutes of free reading time. After that, they are charged an additional 25 cents for every 10 minutes that they stay. Entry time is recorded on the bill and customers pay on the way out.

Some establishments let customers bring their own food and drink and simply charge them for time spent reading. "Those are popular with manga maniacs," says Mr. Ikeda, who suggests that the cafes have gained popularity as Japan's recession has deepened.

For Hisao Ishikawa, a young businessman, the cafes aren't just economical. "My free time is limited," he says. "At a normal cafe, unless I'm doing work, there's nothing to do. Here, there are lots of things to do after work is done." In Mr. Ishikawa's case, that means rereading the sci-fi adventure manga he loved as a boy. "It gives me a nice, nostalgic feeling," he says.

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