Young People's Cafeteria, Sorezore
The snacks, food, and comfort provided at Sorezore

Young People's Cafeteria, Sorezore


I am going to be quite honest... I was a bit nervous before going to this children's cafeteria.

This blog was created with the purpose to destigmatize children's cafeterias and the idea that only poor children go to them. It would have been hypocritical of me to not attend a children's cafeteria just because of the stigma against its location. The location almost deterred me from going completely, but I’m so glad that I went because going to Sorezore was one of the most enlightening experiences I have ever had.

Nightlife in Kabukicho

The children's cafeteria was located in the outskirts of Kabukicho, an area located in the 23 wards of Tokyo, known for being the hub for hostess/host clubs, one of the largest redlight districts in Asia, and its connection with the Japanese Yakuza. As a young woman, I was a little worried about my safety. Even so, at the end of the day, I was fine because Sorezore was located a little far away from the heart of Kabukicho and I went during the afternoon. The location is actually what made Sorezore so special.

Sorezore is run by an organization called, Success in Life. It was established by Mr. Tanaka, a certified administrative writer, who has faced countless obstacles in his past, including an alcoholic father and a life-altering car accident at a young age. During his days as a student, the teachers’ office after school was his safe haven away from an abusive home life, and in some days, the teachers even allowed him to stay in one of the empty rooms in the dormitories for faculty members. For a long time, he wished to create the same kind of safe haven for children who feel like they have nowhere to go, before those children find themselves in a situation they can't get out of.

Mr. Tanaka's lifelong dream was put on the backburner, like many ambitious goals we set for ourselves... until he met Howl.

The Kabukicho Manji Association and Howl

Howl was the head of an unofficial organization called Kabukicho Manji Association, made up of young people in the city who felt like they had no other place to be. With Howl leading, the organization cleaned the dirty spaces in Kabukicho, handed out warm meals to children who had empty stomachs, and mediated any violent disputes that were happening in the squares. Although he had bleached blonde hair and tattoos all over his body, which would usually limit someone's reputation in Japan to "dangerous" or "scary", Howl exceeded the Japanese public's perceptions of him. He was known by the organization to be a kind-hearted person who was empathetic to those on the streets of Kabukicho and as someone who created a safe space where wandering city youth could call home.

The Manji Association soon fell apart when Howl was convicted of sexual misconduct on a minor, and died due to unknown reasons in his cell. After Howl's death, the open spaces in Kabukicho became more dirty, violent, and unwelcoming for young people in Kabukicho who felt like they had no safe place to go. Mr. Tanaka was impacted by Howl's work and wanted to provide a safe space where the urban youth of Tokyo, without high school education or welcoming families, could stay, eat, and sleep. He wanted young people who felt lost to achieve success in life, hence the name of his organization, and it's why he calls his cafeteria, young people's cafeteria instead of just a children's cafeteria.

While still in its early stages of development, Mr. Tanaka wants to create a space where people, not just children, can stay for a while to just exist. In the near future, he also wants the cafeteria to be a place where he can support young people in their academic and future successes, and even develop his organization into a fully fledged NGO with sponsors.

Young People's Cafeteria, Sorezore

The name of Mr.Tanaka's cafeteria, Sorezore, means "each" or "respectively" in Japanese. The word was originally the group name of the random people Mr. Tanaka would drink with before COVID-19. The group of rolling members consisted of LGBTQ+ members, people dealing with depression, or even hikicomori's, people who never leave their homes due to mental health reasons. They all had their respective reasons as to why they were there and why they wanted to drink and talk with random people. It was up to themselves to decide whether they wanted to talk about what they were dealing with, or just simply stay quiet in the comfort of other people's company. Mr. Tanaka wanted the same type of freedom at his cafeteria.

The napping and gaming space at Sorezore

The "cafeteria" was a rented out apartment from 3:00-9:00PM on set days of the month, where people could talk, eat, and rest however they wanted. There was a small kitchenette, a dining table, and a small room with two large mattresses and a TV where people could play video games and sleep. Although it may seem a little lived-in when you first walk in, it felt homey and just enough for people who needed a place to relax.

There were only a few people the day that I went, so it truly felt like I was just visiting my friend's home and sharing some snacks. There was no pressure to talk about our problems and we just talked about random things we wanted to do in the future or things we had experienced in the past. It was so oddly comforting to just be in the presence of other people. I could tell that everyone had experienced their own hardships and were dealing with their own struggles even though we hadn't explicitly talked about them. It didn't matter what type of background or past you had, as long as you wanted to be there.

The table had some marshmallows and chocolate snacks, and Mr. Tanaka had even prepared some cold noodles for dinner. It felt like I was reliving the Elementary school days where I went to my friend's home after school and was sharing snacks with them at their living room table while finishing up any homework. Nothing but the words, "comforting," and, "safe," can describe the feelings I had that day.

A Place to Simply Be

I think we're all lonely. I think we're all looking for a place where we can find the same kind of comfort we felt when we were younger. Not all of us are blessed with supportive homes, or can rely on them 24/7, and we all hope to find a place to simply exist in the presence of other people.

I make a point to ask every children's cafeteria owner this question, "What is a children's cafeteria to you". Mr. Tanaka answered, "A place to simply be". I think his answer is extremely true. I think places like children's cafeterias are places necessary for people who want a sense of community or a safe place to be. Those places are where people, who were originally complete strangers, can give each other life advice and support when they need it the most, and when their other support systems are not available to them.

We all need a place like Sorezore and I hope that in a world where everyone feels  more isolated from each other, you can find your own Sorezore.

Mr. Tanaka's

Success in Life Website:

Success in life(サクセス イン ライフ)




Facebook: @KoShoku Diaries