Writers order up coffee and a side of 'nagging' at anti-procrastination café in Japan

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Writers’ block meets a dead end at one Japanese café.

Manuscript Writing Café in Tokyo is welcoming writers facing deadlines, with an agreement that they cannot leave the premises until their work is finished.

If all of this sounds a bit draconian, consider this: The western Tokyo café has 10 seats available to be reserved by writers of all kinds.

It features high-speed Wi-Fi, docking ports at every seat and unlimited, self-serve coffee and tea. 

Any customer who opts for a hard progress check will be closely watched over by staff.

The quaint corner location — drenched in natural sunlight and with exposed brick — also features a full bar.

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Although the workspace seems like a writer’s dream, the staff’s job is to diminish procrastination among customers — meaning that some nagging will be served up, too.

Upon entering the café, writers record their names, writing goals and intended time to wrap up their work on a paper form. 

Those intentions are then tacked up on a big board and displayed to the public.

Writers may request progress checks on their work — ranging from mild, asking if they finished their work as they pay — to normal, which warrants a staff check-in every hour.

Customers will feel the silent but very clear pressure of someone standing behind them and monitoring their work as they write in this cafe.

Customers will feel the silent but very clear pressure of someone standing behind them and monitoring their work as they write in this cafe.
(iStock)

Any customer who opts for a hard progress check will be closely watched over by staff. 

So, yes, these customers will feel the silent but very clear pressure of someone standing behind them and monitoring their work.

The first 30 minutes for all of this costs 130 yen ($1.01) — which increases to 300 yen ($2.34) for every hour that follows. 

Manuscript Writing Café owner Takuya Kawai, a writer himself, told Reuters that he had hoped the strict rules would promote focus. He disagreed with people on social media who have considered the concept to be “scary.”

“I’m proud to be able to offer my support so that things written here can be published to the whole world.”

“Actually, instead of monitoring, I’m here to support them,” he said. 

“As a result, what they thought would take a day actually was completed in three hours, or tasks that usually take three hours were done in one.”

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The café, which was originally a live-streaming space, was harshly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, though Kawai said he is hopeful about the new venture. 

Customers work on their manuscripts at the Manuscript Writing Cafe, which is designed for writers who are working on a deadline, in Tokyo, Japan, April 21, 2022. Picture taken on April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Customers work on their manuscripts at the Manuscript Writing Cafe, which is designed for writers who are working on a deadline, in Tokyo, Japan, April 21, 2022. Picture taken on April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

“I don’t know what kind of work might be born, but I’m proud to be able to offer my support so that things written here can be published to the whole world,” he said.

Although some customers have stayed past closing time, every writer has completed their work by the time they leave the building.

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Reuters contributed reporting to this article.

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