I was a bit surprised by this article on the growing popularity of board game cafes in America and Canada. Board game cafes have become popular in Japan as well, but that’s partly by necessity since most people don’t have the space to play at home.
In the time that I’ve been gaming here, I’ve actually never played at a friend’s house. I have played at game stores, game spaces, business conference rooms, community centers, and cafes, but no homes. On the other hand, in America I played exclusively at someone’s house or online. While it’s partly space related, there’s also a cultural element about entertaining others outside the home.
Off to the cafe!
The one board game cafe I’ve been to was Bar Gluck near Iidabashi station. I went with a few friends after a full day of gaming, so ironically we didn’t game there; just chatted and ate. The food was tasty and the staff very nice. The other customers, who were playing games, were guided in their selection and the basic rules explained by staff. They use a “gold” token based system for all transactions, with the exchange rate from Yen to tokens being better the more you buy at once. It was a bit inconvenient since you buy them in blocks, but it also added a certain charm and emphasized the game atmosphere of the cafe.
As you can see from this listing there are a lot of game spaces and cafes popping up. A few popular ones are Jelly Jelly Cafe with multiple locations in Tokyo; Little Cave in Kouenji; Asobi Cafe in Jinbocho.
There’s one place that deserves special mention, and that is Day Dream Cafe, a great space for role playing as well as board games. They have a huge selection of books and games in their library, and an active message board for finding games. The owner is also the creator of the wonderful RPG Ryuutama.
And now for something slightly different
In addition to cafes and bars specializing in games, there are also game spaces, which will sometimes be part of a store and other times their own entity. These are different from cafes and bars in that they usually don’t serve food and drink, so people usually bring their own snacks and beverages. Role & Roll Station and Yellow Submarine are two stores that have play rooms. Like cafes, play rooms usually have a library of games that you can play while there, but also allow you to bring your own.
Bringing back memories of grade school RPG sessions in the library, playing in community centers is also common in Japan. Most areas have a community center with rooms that can be rented, but I believe it’s usually limited to area residents.
So where do you play?
Where do you do most of your gaming? Any recommendations on places to play? Let me know in the comments!