So you are all set to travel to Japan and geek-out or indulge in your fandom and you just found out that your favourite anime is having a collaboration café at the time you will be visiting Japan!
OMG! I want to go!!
But then you realize that the cafes don’t do walk-ins and you need a “ticket” reservation.
Oh no!! So how can you go about getting one when you don’t speak Japanese or not a resident of Japan?
Well, I had to do a lot of prior research online (thanks to all those who posted about their experiences) when I first wanted to go to an anime cafe (which was an Animate Cafe) and even so I had a lot of challenges and uncertainties while doing so because the information I could find was not answering the questions I had on HOW to get those reservations.
Having gone to quite a few anime cafes over the years, I can safely say I’m somewhat familiar now with the various systems. ^ ^
So I’ve decided to gather my experiences and share them here on my blog which hopefully might help you out a little in your anime cafe experiences! Do note that this post is mainly for Animate cafes. (For other types of cafes, you can check out this post that I did on the different types of anime cafes which may be helpful to you.)
I’ve included a brief how-to go about getting those reservations, things to watch out for and some tips in this post.
It really isn’t that daunting once you get the gist of it. Especially since Animate has since updated their cafe website and really gave step-by-step instructions on how to go about doing it. (Google translate to English seems pretty alright for the site so feel free to use that if you don’t understand Japanese.)
- Animate Cafes practices what you call an online “Lottery Reservation System” (抽選予約制) where you have to pre-register for the date(s) you plan to visit the cafe and ballot for tickets on the day/session you’ve selected.
- There is another system (which probably isn’t a great translation but you get the idea) called the “Arrival Reservation System” or 空席予約システム that happens AFTER the Lottery Reservation System ballot results are out.
- Update: Some campaigns now allows you to do walk-ins on certain days/branches which do not require a reservation ticket. Please refer to the website for more details.
- Check out Animate Cafe’s official website for the different anime collaborations, their planned dates (on average each anime collaboration lasts for 1 to 2 months )
- Assess the lottery reservation system via a Club Animate ID, twitter or Facebook ID. (I went the Club Animate route and got an account because you can access other Animate events with that.)
- Look out for the corresponding entry/registering period for the date(s) you plan to go for the cafe (Ticket entry period is usually 2 weeks to a month before the date(s) you are interested in attending)
- Select the date; time slot (each session @ Animate Cafes usually is about 90 minutes); and the number of people attending via the system after you have logged in. (There is an option for a one-time usage double-chance entry which boosts your chances during balloting which you can read about in the guide on their website.)
- Wait for the ballot results on the scheduled release date (They will list the date on the website). Only “winning” entries will receive emails. You can also check your account to see if you won the slots you have balloted for.
- Once you got your reservation (Congratulations!), get ready to have a great time at the cafes and remember to bring along a photo ID for verification on the day.
BUT what happens if you didn’t get the date you wanted? Or you didn’t get any tickets??
Remember how I mentioned there is another system of Animate Cafe called the “Arrival Reservation System”?
Well as you know, sometimes people cancel their reservations nearer to the dates or certain timings are more off-peak than most so there are still empty seats on those sessions/days.
Animate has now come up with a friendly system (空席予約システム) where they allow you to register online to get these available tickets via a first-come-first-serve basis. It’s really easy to use. Previously I had to watch their twitter like a hawk and manually call them up to get these last-minute tickets. (It’s tough if you are not fluent in the language.)
However, now they have created a special online system for all these available tickets after the ballot has been done. You can even check in advance the status of these 空席 (empty/available) tickets after the ballot results have been revealed. (Before this, it was only known the day before via their twitter account!)
Do note that other cafes have other systems, you can refer to some of my other posts for information. For example, Anime Plaza practices a slightly different format than that of Animate but the concept is generally similar. All I can say is Twitter is a good friend to have if you want to fully indulge in your otaku-ness in Japan. 😊
Things to watch out for:
- Please register using your real name and one that preferably matches a photo id you have. (They are really strict on this and they do conduct checks against a photo ID before you are shown to your seat. Passports are fine.) English names are perfectly fine. (I would assume other languages are fine too.)
- Do show up on time. I recommend arriving at the café at least 10 minutes before your scheduled session. They reserve the right to refuse you entry if you are over 15 minutes late.
- If you can, do try to select weekdays because weekends usually are full or select a timing that can be considered off-peak to most Japanese.
- Take note of the location of the cafe you are going to!! Animate has 3 cafes in Ikebukuro itself (all within walking distance of course) but it would really mar your experience if you found out you went to the wrong cafe.
- I can’t stress this enough but do adjust your expectations on how the food and drink tastes at these cafes. (There are some anime themed cafes that really serves delicious food but that tends to be the exception rather than the norm.)
- If it’s the Animate mobile truck, you don’t need any tickets since it’s a food/drink truck and all.
So what happens AFTER you are seated?
A staff will generally show you to your seat/table and then ask you if you have been to Animate Cafe before (if you answered yes, they will thank you ^ ^) and does the usual introduction on how to order the food from the menu and inform you when the last order timing will be.
For animate cafes, usually each order of a main or a drink will get you a random character coaster respectively. (It differs for different campaigns and cafes. For example, some non-animate cafes give tablemats instead for each main/dessert ordered and coasters for drinks. Please refer to their respective website for details.)
You have typically 90 minutes to enter the cafe, take lots of photos; buy merchandises and eat. There is a box for you to place your bags in under the table and it’s relatively safe to leave your table if you are a solo diner but I still recommend you pack light for the visit.
There is no time restriction in a sense to buy merchandises (i.e. you can leave your table anytime to select the merchandises you want and pay for it at the counter) but there is a cut-off time, usually 15 to 20 minutes before the end of your session.
There might also be a limit to the number of items you can buy for each type of Animate Cafe exclusive merchandise and if so, the staff will give you an order form when you are seated which you need to take with you during each payment so they can check off the number you bought.
Oh and you generally don’t get to choose which table you will be at so the table-mats (place-mats) designs might or might not feature your favourite characters. Not sure if you can actually request for a change to a specific table but so far, I haven’t seen anyone doing so.
Most fans, I’ve noticed, order more than 1 drink each so to get more coasters. And don’t be surprised if many of them are repeat customers ^ ^ when you see the sheer amount of merchandises and coasters they brought with them during each visit.
You are free to roam around taking photos of the décor and merchandises. There usually will be “autograph books” where you can pen messages or draw some fanart in if you like to commemorate your visits. More often than not, there are also some “props” you can use to take photos of your food/drinks with. (You can check out my instagram for some of these “props”)
Sometimes there will be photo booths (Nintama had it) or some games machine (Boku no Hero Academia had it) which you can play during the session itself.
Oh and Animate Cafes generally will have the customers play a simple mini game sometime in the middle of the timed session you are in. So do join in! (refer to the Tips for more information)
- If you didn’t get the character you wanted from the merchandises or the coasters, you can always ask the other fans at other tables if they would like to change with you. Usually, they will display the ones they would like to exchange at the side of the table. (For example, while I like Midoriya from Hero Academia, I had like 3 of him for the acrylic stands that I bought! So I mustered up my courage to ask some of the other fans if they would like to exchange with mine. Turns out there was a Deku Superfan who obviously didn’t mind (thank you!), and another nice fan who didn’t mind exchanging it for another and I got Aizawa-sensei and All Might’s acrylic stands. ^ ^ )
- Animate Cafes usually will play a mini game with the customers where you would have a chance to win some items. (Usually it’s the coasters). Fun fact: if one of you at the table won, everyone else at the table will usually get the free item as well. They will mention this at the start of the game if this is so. You can check out my future posts on Yowapedal; Boku no Hero Academia and Nintama Animate Cafes respectively for an example of the games played.
- Do apply for an Animate card from any Animate stores before you visit the cafes. You can accumulate points for the merchandise purchases as well as the food items you’ve ordered at the Animate Cafes. It’s free so why not? Animate points can either help offset cost of purchases online or to exchange for campaign items.
Here are some of the Animate Cafes I’ve been to so far ^ ^ The list will be updated as it grows.
- Yowapedal (2015)
- Nintama (2016)
- Boku no Hero Academia (2017)
- Hunter x Hunter (2018)
- Card Captor Sakura Clear Card (2018)
Thank you for reading this long post! If this post has helped you in anyway, do let me know! If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
You can also check out my Instagram for some of the photos I took at these cafes.
Feel free to share with me some of your experiences at the Animate Cafes too! 😊