Japan’s Cyber Cafe Refugees

BY RIE HARA
Sep 15, 2010

As Japan’s economy continues to head south, more and more of its homeless are turning to Internet cafes for a roof over their heads.

 

The term "Internet cafe refugees" refers to people who don't have a fixed dwelling and constantly live out of Internet cafes.

It began to appear in the media from early 2007, and is now used to highlight one of Japan's social problems.

Internet cafes in Japan are not just a place to connect to the Internet. They also have a massive amount of comic books and magazines, and some are equipped with comfortable reclining chairs, video games, and even shower rooms.

People can enjoy reading comics, netsurfing, playing video games or just relaxing very cheaply, while taking advantage of a wide variety of free drinks. There is even a food menu available.

During the night, charges are especially reasonable: you can use a small cabin all night for only about 10-15 US dollars.

 

Privacy is hardly an issue because there are many "private" cabins.

Privacy is hardly an issue because there are many “private” cabins

 

A convenience store within the Internet café

A convenience store within the Internet café

 

An Internet cafe's food menu

An Internet cafe’s food menu

 

You may be wondering why Internet refugees don't rent a cheap apartment instead.

Actually, renting an apartment in Japan costs a lot.

With all kinds of fees, gratuities and deposits, you usually need the equivalent of six times your monthly rent just to pay for moving.

So it can take some people a long time to save enough money to be added to move.

Besides, people who are staying in Internet cafes can hardly save up money. That’s because they mostly work as daily-waged labourers, and the homeless cannot obtain steady employment. As a result, they always only have only a little money because their income is unstable.

It might not be so bad if it were only young people staying in the Internet cafes temporarily, but among Internet cafe refugees are also people in their 30s, 40s or even 50s and older.

It is said that many of them work part-time, but some don't have a job, while some others have steady jobs and still stay in Internet cafes.

Japan has been known as a "rich" country for a long time, but when you talk about the quality of people's lives, maybe the richness is relative.

 

This post originally appeared on Japan Element Symbols in March 2010.