Whether you’re studying for your school or university classes, trying to learn Japanese on your own, or just have some work you’ve brought home from the office, sometimes you want a quiet place away from the house. Back in Canada, during my university days, my go-to study spot was Starbucks and there were a number of reasons for that. In Canada, Starbucks locations are decently sized and have a large number of tables usually big enough to work on comfortably with a laptop and drink. Furthermore, they had free wireless internet and access to power outlets.
In Japan, Tokyo especially, due to the congestion, cafes and restaurants are much smaller. Finding a place to sit in popular cafes during certain hours can be impossible and finding a table with a power outlet is even more rare. If you’re having trouble finding places to study in Japan, then you should definitely check out these top four places to study in Japan.
1. Café Gusto (ガスト)
One of the things I love most about Japan are the family restaurants. Due to their low menu prices, these restaurants are popular among families, students, and senior citizens. Café Gusto, also known as Gasto or Gast by Japanese people, is one of the best family restaurants in the country. Café Gusto has a wide menu ranging from pizza and French fries to steak dinners and ramen, not to mention an incredibly cheap bottomless drink bar.
The drink bar on its own is 399 yen. However, if you buy food the price goes down to 219 yen. The service is fast and many Café Gusto locations will have free wireless internet access and tables with outlets to charge your laptops and phones.
Drink Bar Price without food order: 399 yen
Drink Bar Price with food order: 219 yen
2. Saizeriya (サイゼリヤ)
The cheapest Italian restaurant in Japan, Saizeriya is your go-to place for affordable pasta, pizza, and drinks. With a cheap endless drink bar similar to Café Gusto, Saizeriya has a wide variety of teas, sodas, and both hot and iced coffee available.
While most locations do not have free wireless internet or power outlets, Saizeriya is still a great place to study and work on a tight budget. The wine and beer are also incredibly cheap, so if you’re especially beat after a long day, you can happily have a beer or two without breaking the bank.
Drink Bar Price without food order: 280 yen
Drink Bar Price with food order: 190 yen
3. Bamiyan (バーミヤン)
For ramen and other Chinese food, Bamiyan is your best bet for decent quality grub on the cheap. If you just want a little finger food while getting some work done, Bamiyan has your typical appetizers like French fries, fried chicken, and gyoza (fried pork dumplings) for 199 – 299 yen a plate. For the drink bar and one appetizer, I normally didn’t spend much more than 600 yen. With numerous coffee and tea refills, you can bet I got my money’s worth during a two-hour study session.
Drink Bar Price without food order: 399 yen
Drink Bar Price with food order: 199 yen (from 10 am to 5pm) and 249 yen (after 5 pm)
Helpful Tip: all of these family restaurants have appetizers available around 199 to 299 yen. Take Café Gusto for example, their drink bar is 399 yen without a food order and 219 yen with a food order. They have small appetizers like French fries available for 199 yen. 199 yen + 219 yen = 418 yen. The drink bar without a food order is 399 yen. Therefore, as long as you have some room in your belly, in some of these restaurants you should always order an appetizer with your drink bar. In the example above, for just 19 more yen, you can get a plate of fries.
4. Community Centers
While they may be difficult to find if your Japanese level isn’t that high yet, the cheapest place to study are city-run community centers; they’re free! They are normally spacious with both public tables and tables you can reserve for group meetings. Furthermore, some centers will have both free wireless internet and power outlets.
Some community centers will even allow outside food and drinks. At my community center, I often saw students studying while eating onigiri (rice balls) and instant ramen (chinese noodles) bought from a convenience store. If you have confidence in your Japanese conversation ability, try asking around for your city’s community center or search online.
Honorable Mention: Starbucks
While Starbucks locations are usually much smaller in Japan than other countries, they are still the same Starbucks franchises you know and love. At least compared to Canadian Starbucks franchises, the Starbucks in Japan has virtually the same drink menu. The one issue I have with Starbucks in Japan is the price of regular coffee. The regular Starbucks roast coffee in Canada is around $2 for a tall cup, with free refills if you have a Starbucks card or cheaper refills if you keep the receipt (the last time I checked). In Japan a tall coffee is 330 yen (around $4.00 Canadian) and there is no such refill option.Starbucks is a great place for people who aren’t confident in their Japanese communication ability. If your Japanese isn’t there yet, like I said the menu is the same as English Starbucks. While the Japanese staff will pronounce menu items in katakana English, they will easily understand your drink order if you speak slowly.
Most importantly, all Starbucks in Japan have free wireless internet and most Starbucks locations will have tables with power outlet access.
If you’re looking for some place to study in Japan outside of your house or apartment, give one of these places a try. Have a favorite study spot of your own? Let me know in the comments below.