From Tokyo to Toronto: The Rise of Manga Cafés

From Tokyo to Toronto: The Rise of Manga Cafés

If you’ve been to Japan or been a part of the anime fandom for a while, you’ve probably heard of manga cafés. They are part of Japan’s list of unique businesses that are exclusive to its streets, along with pachinko parlors and capsule hotels. However, that exclusivity is being challenged with the growing global popularity of anime. Manga cafés (and anime-themed cafés in general) are going international and starting to pop up outside Japan, in cities like Los Angeles and Toronto. But first, a brief history and of these eclectic stores.


Legend has it that the first manga café was born in Nagoya (my source: trust me, bro). Seeking to set his establishment apart from the competition, one savvy tea shop owner made available a selection of manga for customers to read in the shop. The idea worked a little too well because it did not take long for patrons to start coming in everyday to read manga without eating or drinking anything.

Nagoya tea shop owner when he realizes his customers are reading manga but without buying any actual tea.

Unamused, the owner introduced an hourly reading fee. Stay for the story, pay for the saga (and while you’re at it, spend some of that yen on tea). The manga café had arrived. The concept then spread like wildfire around Japan. Today, they can be found in almost every major city in Japan.


Gran Customa. Photo from Japan Today.

The average manga café provides customers with access to an extensive manga library, high speed Wi-Fi and unlimited non-alcoholic beverages like coffee and tea, all included for a fixed rate. Rates average between 200 and 400 yen for the first 30 minutes. Customers get access to either open seating or a private booth. Private booths come at a higher cost but offer seclusion and privacy so you can read Futari Ecchi One Piece in peace. Manga cafés share a lot in common with the ever-popular internet cafés in Asia. But if you’re an otaku, then a manga café is where you want to be.

There are usually different price plans and packages available depending on the length of one’s stay, the amenities and services used, etc.. Many manga cafés offer a wide (and rather eclectic) range of amenities that are either included in the hourly rate, or that you shell out extra yen for. These include desktop computers for online gaming, print-on-demand services, food, and snacks (via vending machines or prepared fresh), and many other amenities.

Many of these charming establishments also offer accommodation. Many of these places also have showers and sell razors or toothbrushes among other personal hygiene items. There are even some in which the client can rent blankets or hair dryers, or even shower rooms. Therefore, it is not surprising that manga cafés have also become a common place for Japanese salarymen and weary travelers who have missed the last train and have to wait until morning for the next one.  Moreover, manga cafés are much cheaper than the average hotel and AirBnb unit, making them the ideal choice for the budget conscious traveler.

However, if you don’t read Japanese, then good luck finding one without doing some research first, as not all of them have English signs, and are also not usually located at street level, but on a higher floor in a multi-storey building.

How an average tourist who knows nothing about manga reacts when they find a manga café.

There are so many manga cafés in Japan that eventually the different establishments had to start differentiating themselves from the competition, just like our Nagoya tea shop owner all those years ago. There are well-established chains of manga cafés front and center in bustling metropolitan neighbourhoods. There are smaller operations tucked away on rarely ventured streets. Some establishments have full-fledged Western style bar theme. Then there are the ones who pride themselves on being as Japanese as possible, complete with tatami mats At least one location, The Onsen Café in Myokokogen) has hot spring. Just in case you wanted to re-live that hot springs episode from your favourite anime.


With the increasing global popularity of anime and manga, it was inevitable that this concept would spring up outside Japan at some point. The first manga café in Europe opened in Paris in 2006. Paris has a thriving café and coffee shop industry to begin with, so it was inevitable. Since then, many new manga cafés have been born. The crown jewel of Paris manga cafés appears to be Le Manga Café v2. Generic name, but the place is anything but. This 2-story otaku haven has a supermarket on the 1st floor, and a manga library and lounge on the 2nd floor, which visitors can access for an hourly fee.

Le Manga Cafe V2 in Paris, France. Above: Ground Floor, Below: Second Floor. Photos from Le Manga Cafe V2’s official website.

Other countries where anime and manga cafés have started to pop up are Latin America and the Middle East. Hero Anime Café in Argentina is such an example. This fine establishment blends (no pun intended) the classic café with an anime and manga theme to create a stylish hotspot not only the local fandom, but anyone craving a strong brew and slick vibe. 

Hero Anime Cafe in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo from Anime Argentina.

Many manga cafés outside Japan are closer to being anime-themed cafés, that happen to have a manga library. They do not charge reading fees and do not have the range of amenities and services as their Japanese counterparts. This works in their favor however, as it enables them to focus on maximizing their potential as cafés and experiment with their menu and décor.

That brings us to North America, which is the hub of geek subculture. There are multiple anime conventions held annually across the United States that draw thousands of fans a year. By multiple, we mean a LOT. Perhaps it’s time for a tournament arc to settle which of these conventions is the best of all. In Canada, Anime North is held annually in Toronto and attracted an estimated 42,000 weebs people in 2023.

Anime North 2023. Photo from Anime North 2023 Full Walkthrough Tour – Combo Collectibles - YouTube.

Despite all that, North America does not have as many anime and manga themed establishments as one would think. Let’s go over the list of establishments that we are aware of:

First up, we have the LA Manga Café, which is based in sunny California. It’s a cozy manga bookstore with a wide selection of manga and Japanese snacks.


LA Manga Café in Los Angeles, California, United States. Photo from LA Manga Café’s Google Business Page.

To top it off, the store is owned and run by Lui Sincara, a freaking luchador. Just look at this man, he is truly MC material.

LA Manga Cafe owner and proprietor Lui Sincara. Photo from LA Manga Cafe’s Google Business Page.

Finally, something worth powerscaling over.


Interestingly, there appears to be more anime and manga-themed cafés in Canada than in the United States. Or maybe we just didn’t look into the American market hard enough.

Haruhi’s reaction when she finds out that Canada has more anime/manga-themed cafés than America does.

In Montreal, Quebec, you'll find the Otaku Manga Lounge.  This establishment is a spacious manga bookstore that serves bubble tea and fast food, among other options. The place has a ton of different seating options scattered throughout, including sofas and a bunk bed! One gains access to these along with the manga library (it boasts 15,000 manga!) for a fee. It is also a social club of sorts for French-Canadian Japanophiles, even offering Japanese language lessons on its schedule.

Otaku Manga Lounge in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Photo from Otaku Manga Lounge’s Google Business Page.

In Burnaby, British Columbia, we have the Ki Café, also known as Ki Tea House which really went all-in on the café side of a manga café. It serves up delicious looking waffles, sandwiches, and bubble teas. And yes, it has a selection of manga available to read and anime collectibles to gawk at while you chill (no reading fee from our understanding). It’s even open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, so all you night owls in Burnaby now know where to go to get your ecchi shōnen fix.

Ki Cafe in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Photo from Ki Café’s Google Business Page.

There is one more Canadian manga café we would like to highlight, and that would be the now-defunct Akiba Kissa. This ambitious establishment was based out of Markham, Ontario and billed as Ontario’s first manga café. The place was huge, had an impressive collection of manga, arcade games, slick décor and an evolving line-up of food and drinks available on the menu. Unfortunately, Akiba Kissa closed its doors in 2018. We wish its team the best of luck with their future endeavors.

Akiba Kissa (now closed) in Markham, Ontario, Canada. Photo from Akiba Kissa’s Google Business Page.

Since the closure of Akiba Kissa in 2018, there has not been a similar establishment on the scene. That’s where we come in, as a sort of spiritual successor.

Located on the Toronto, Ontario, Canada, The One-Shot Manga Café will be Toronto’s first and only manga café! We open doors for business in 2024.

We are excited to share the news and developments of this venture with Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area’s anime and manga fandom. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay-up-to-date on all the news and developments as it happens, and sign up for our newsletter down below while you’re at it!

In our next blog post, we highlight our vision for the ideal North American manga café, and how we plan to bring that vision to life! Spoiler: It unfortunately does not include hot springs.


This has been the first of a planned series of blog posts leading up to the grand opening of The One-Shot Manga Café in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Stay tuned for the next post!

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Hey, I’m super excited to hear a Manga cafe is opening up! And wanted to recommend the Coles at Eglinton Square, if you’re in need of more Manga or wanting to check more Manga places nearby. All the best to you all and hope to become a regular when it opens!! :D


It would be a reason to fly back to. Hee hee. When you open let me know. 💕


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