If you dislike that feeling of needing to purchase something every few hours in a cafe, then check out a work cafe in Tokyo. A work cafe is a cafe you can rent by the hour and have all drinks and snacks included.

If you didn’t know, Tokyo, Japan is an extremely dense city where space is at an absolute premium.

A few observations from my time in Japan:

Apartments and offices are typically smaller. Offices, meetings, and homes can be at a distance from each other. It is impolite to be loud in public. I rarely ever saw phone calls in public. I might have been stared at a few times when talking too loudly. Sorry about that…

So what can you do?

Where do you go when you need to work outside of the office or home and don’t have a coworking or shared workspace membership?

The Typical Cafe

On a typical work day in Tokyo, just drop by any local or chain cafe, and you will see this:

Cafes are full.

It is normal anywhere in the world for cafes to be a place to work, study, relax, or do pretty much anything.

However, what is different in Tokyo is that there are so many cafes and most of them are busy all the time.

Even a chain such as Starbucks is packed but also has sections that can be rented by the hour. These booths on the right were about 20 dollars an hour. Most people were meeting up with friends or associates. I even saw a few people that had a booth by themselves for an hour or two. And no, I don’t think they were stood up.

Rent a Booth or Sofa by the Hour in a Tokyo Starbucks

What also makes the cafe culture different is that it is normal to see people with suits and professional attire that are stopping to work.

Is there a better way to work in a cafe?

The Start of the Work Cafe

Instead of waiting in line for coffee, for a seat, and being packed next to people, I decided to try a work cafe.

I am unclear on whether the work cafe was started in Tokyo, however, this is the first time I have ever seen it.

So what is a work cafe?

In a work cafe you pay for example, 10 dollars an hour and get unlimited coffee, snacks, water, wifi, and most importantly, space, to work!

Overall, I visited a handful of them throughout Tokyo, however, more seemed to open up even though I was there for just a few months.

Would you go to a cafe and pay by the hour?

What looks quite similar to coworking and shared workspaces, these work cafes are in fact cafes with essentially short term memberships by the hour, half day, or full day.

Although I don’t think much community or connection will be built there with others, I definitely found these spaces useful for getting work done.

How does it work?

Just show up, start the clock, grab a coffee, get work done, eat a snack, finish your work, and then settle the bill. That is it.

Similar to a coworking space, I enjoyed being able to put my things down and feel like they were secure while also not having to always wait in line for coffees, snacks, or the bathroom.

What was also interesting is that I even saw people that were playing games, watching movies, and just having a fun time in these work cafes. I imagine they just wanted to have more space to be around friends and do things together.

With space at such a premium and traditional cafes not satisfying the need for some space and privacy, these cafes have thrived and seem to be continuing to grow.

If you want to check out a few cool cafes in Tokyo, here are a couple. The first two are more typical cafes that you can get some work done but the 3rd one (Base Point), is a work cafe.

Starbucks Coffee Ginza Six

Hands Cafe Shibuya


Where do you like to get work done?

Would you pay to work by the hour in a cafe or do you only go to coworking spaces or your main office? Tell me about it.

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