Compensated companionship cafe goes a step beyond pre-programmed VR romance games.
You could argue that the interactions between customers and hostesses at hostess bars in Japan are never exactly “real,” in the sense that the hostesses’ displayed emotions aren’t 100-percent genuine. After all, the whole point of going to a hostess bar, and paying the premium such establishments charge compared to normal bars, is for guys to get their egos stroked as beautiful women listen with rapt attention or girlish laughter as everything the customer says is a mixture of deeply profound and entertainingly clever.
So in a way, maybe the latest project from Tokyo-based media company Ichikara isn’t that crazy. Se, Ichikara is opening a cafe where customers sit and chat with young ladies while sipping drinks or playing games. However, rather than open up shop in Tokyo’s nightlife centers like Roppongi or Shibuya, or the maid cafe epicenter of Akihabara, Ichikara’s cafe will exist in a purely digital space.
The Yumenographia cafe, as seen in the working photo above, provides compensated companionship through the magic of virtual reality. Customers don VR headsets which transport them to the cafe, where they can interact with anime girl avatars.
However, there’s a key difference between Yumenographia and the VR dating simulator video games that Japanese developers have been making for the past few years. The girls that Yumenographia’s customers spend time with aren’t pre-programmed or A.I.-controlled characters. Instead, they’re VR avatars of a Yumenographia employee who’s interacting with the customer in real-time, from a remote location.
The inclusion of games such as rock-paper-scissors on the list of available services makes it seem as though Yumenographia is likely to hew more towards the relatively chaste interactions at maid cafes, as opposed to the often inuendo-laden conversation at full-fledged hostess bars. That would also likely be a better fit with the otaku demographic the idea is likely to attract, which sometimes sees spending time at a traditional hostess bar as a waste of money.
Yumenographia doesn’t have an official launch/open date, but a series of pre-open preview events are scheduled for April 19, 20, 29, and 30 in Tokyo’s Kanda neighborhood. Applications for the event can be made here, but keep in mind that whenever you’re dealing with virtual reality, the avatar might not look anything like the person you’re actually interacting with.