Japan’s cyber homeless living on the net

BBC’s Matt Frei visits a cyber cafe just outside Tokyo, where some homeless young people are choosing to live in the tiny cubicles. Some take-aways from this short, depressing BCC report:

  • 60 x “coffin-sized” cubicles for rent at around US$500/month in Tokyo
  • No windows to the outside world, except for computer
  • Cubicle residents mostly young, intelligent, retrenched
  • Cubicle neighbors rarely talk to one another, no friendships
  • Sense of sadness and lifelessness. Respectful = silent?

Reviewing similar cyber-drifter reports from other news agencies:

  • Cyber-homeless are nicknamed “freeters” – a compound of “free” and “Arbeiter” (German for “worker”)
  • “Freeters” are a by-product of the economic crisis that hit Japan and its lifelong employment guarantees in the 1990s
  • “Freeters” drift between odd jobs, earning around US$8/hour (1,000 yen)
  • A modest 30 square metre (320 square foot) flat in Tokyo easily cost US$1,250/month
  • Living in such Internet cafes costs $12-$20 a night. Residents get free soft drinks, TV, comics and Internet access. This prices even beat those of Japan’s famous “capsule hotels”, where guests sleep in plastic cells.
  • Living in cybercafes also grants an official registered address to many laid-off contract workers. Critical for job hunting.

I’ve seen similar partitioned cubicles in cybercafes in parts of China, though I must say that the ones in Japan seem to have the most privacy.

I’d appreciate any photos / videos you might have taken or found of cybercafes around the world. I’d like to compare social conditions.

Here are more reports about Japan’s cyber homeless…
Reuters: Japanese find sleep, shelter in cyber cafes (Text / May 7, 2007)
Roadjunky: The Cyber-Homeless of Japan (Video / Dec 22, 2008)
Reuters: Japan’s Internet address (Video / Dec 24, 2008)

Update: BoingBoing mentions the exploitation aspect. Cybercafe owner makes a tidy sum from their plight: 60 cubicles x $500 rent = $30,000. The polar ends of socio-economics, aka the poor get poorer, vice versa. The inescapable, perpetual dilemma.

52 thoughts on “Japan’s cyber homeless living on the net

    1. I spoke and you delivered! Notice a trend in both our videos: The concept of respect/shame go hand in hand in Japan. Here in the States, there's respect, but no shame (think AIG bonuses!) ;P

  1. I spoke and you delivered! Notice a trend in both our videos: The concept of respect/shame go hand in hand in Japan. Here in the States, there's respect, but no shame (think AIG bonuses!) ;P

  2. I spoke and you delivered! Notice a trend in both our videos: The concept of respect/shame go hand in hand in Japan. Here in the States, there's respect, but no shame (think AIG bonuses!) ;P

  3. I spoke and you delivered! Notice a trend in both our videos: The concept of respect/shame go hand in hand in Japan. Here in the States, there's respect, but no shame (think AIG bonuses!) ;P

  4. I spoke and you delivered! Notice a trend in both our videos: The concept of respect/shame go hand in hand in Japan. Here in the States, there's respect, but no shame (think AIG bonuses!) ;P

  5. I spoke and you delivered! Notice a trend in both our videos: The concept of respect/shame go hand in hand in Japan. Here in the States, there's respect, but no shame (think AIG bonuses!) ;P

  6. I spoke and you delivered! Notice a trend in both our videos: The concept of respect/shame go hand in hand in Japan. Here in the States, there's respect, but no shame (think AIG bonuses!) ;P

  7. Thanks for posting this, Kevin. There's many things that could be said from this BBC report. Though I kinda feel the BBC reporter might have some bias, especially the last soundbite where he made it clear that the whole situation is sad. Well, I think it's not the ideal situation for those living in the cubicles but at least they are trying to cope in ways that they can afford.

    1. You're right, probably sensationalistic reporting. This particular phenomena may have been around since 2007 where I found the earliest report. Might be fun actually… if I ever had a chance to spend a month in Tokyo, this would be my preferred means of accommodation 😉

  8. Thanks for posting this, Kevin. There's many things that could be said from this BBC report. Though I kinda feel the BBC reporter might have some bias, especially the last soundbite where he made it clear that the whole situation is sad. Well, I think it's not the ideal situation for those living in the cubicles but at least they are trying to cope in ways that they can afford.

  9. Thanks for posting this, Kevin. There's many things that could be said from this BBC report. Though I kinda feel the BBC reporter might have some bias, especially the last soundbite where he made it clear that the whole situation is sad. Well, I think it's not the ideal situation for those living in the cubicles but at least they are trying to cope in ways that they can afford.

  10. Thanks for posting this, Kevin. There's many things that could be said from this BBC report. Though I kinda feel the BBC reporter might have some bias, especially the last soundbite where he made it clear that the whole situation is sad. Well, I think it's not the ideal situation for those living in the cubicles but at least they are trying to cope in ways that they can afford.

  11. Thanks for posting this, Kevin. There's many things that could be said from this BBC report. Though I kinda feel the BBC reporter might have some bias, especially the last soundbite where he made it clear that the whole situation is sad. Well, I think it's not the ideal situation for those living in the cubicles but at least they are trying to cope in ways that they can afford.

  12. Thanks for posting this, Kevin. There's many things that could be said from this BBC report. Though I kinda feel the BBC reporter might have some bias, especially the last soundbite where he made it clear that the whole situation is sad. Well, I think it's not the ideal situation for those living in the cubicles but at least they are trying to cope in ways that they can afford.

  13. Thanks for posting this, Kevin. There's many things that could be said from this BBC report. Though I kinda feel the BBC reporter might have some bias, especially the last soundbite where he made it clear that the whole situation is sad. Well, I think it's not the ideal situation for those living in the cubicles but at least they are trying to cope in ways that they can afford.

  14. You're right, probably sensationalistic reporting. This particular phenomena may have been around since 2007 where I found the earliest report. Might be fun actually… if I ever had a chance to spend a month in Tokyo, this would be my preferred means of accommodation 😉

  15. You're right, probably sensationalistic reporting. This particular phenomena may have been around since 2007 where I found the earliest report. Might be fun actually… if I ever had a chance to spend a month in Tokyo, this would be my preferred means of accommodation 😉

  16. You're right, probably sensationalistic reporting. This particular phenomena may have been around since 2007 where I found the earliest report. Might be fun actually… if I ever had a chance to spend a month in Tokyo, this would be my preferred means of accommodation 😉

  17. You're right, probably sensationalistic reporting. This particular phenomena may have been around since 2007 where I found the earliest report. Might be fun actually… if I ever had a chance to spend a month in Tokyo, this would be my preferred means of accommodation 😉

  18. You're right, probably sensationalistic reporting. This particular phenomena may have been around since 2007 where I found the earliest report. Might be fun actually… if I ever had a chance to spend a month in Tokyo, this would be my preferred means of accommodation 😉

  19. You're right, probably sensationalistic reporting. This particular phenomena may have been around since 2007 where I found the earliest report. Might be fun actually… if I ever had a chance to spend a month in Tokyo, this would be my preferred means of accommodation 😉

  20. You're right, probably sensationalistic reporting. This particular phenomena may have been around since 2007 where I found the earliest report. Might be fun actually… if I ever had a chance to spend a month in Tokyo, this would be my preferred means of accommodation 😉

  21. Ha! What a smart business model the cyber cafe has. I guess this will only work in countries where the cost of living is really high. In Malaysia, cyber cafes are pretty much empty during weekdays except for weekends when people go there to play DOTA, World of Warcraft, etc. I may be generalizing but I believe in Malaysia those who are educated enough to use the Internet are quite educated and well-off in the sense that they can afford paying rental for proper rooms and housing in the city and hence will not have to resort to living in a cyber cafe. I also doubt that the migrant workers would want to live in cyber cafes as it most probably will serve them little purpose, assuming majority of them are not tech-savvy.

  22. Ha! What a smart business model the cyber cafe has. I guess this will only work in countries where the cost of living is really high. In Malaysia, cyber cafes are pretty much empty during weekdays except for weekends when people go there to play DOTA, World of Warcraft, etc. I may be generalizing but I believe in Malaysia those who are educated enough to use the Internet are quite educated and well-off in the sense that they can afford paying rental for proper rooms and housing in the city and hence will not have to resort to living in a cyber cafe. I also doubt that the migrant workers would want to live in cyber cafes as it most probably will serve them little purpose, assuming majority of them are not tech-savvy.

  23. Ha! What a smart business model the cyber cafe has. I guess this will only work in countries where the cost of living is really high. In Malaysia, cyber cafes are pretty much empty during weekdays except for weekends when people go there to play DOTA, World of Warcraft, etc. I may be generalizing but I believe in Malaysia those who are educated enough to use the Internet are quite educated and well-off in the sense that they can afford paying rental for proper rooms and housing in the city and hence will not have to resort to living in a cyber cafe. I also doubt that the migrant workers would want to live in cyber cafes as it most probably will serve them little purpose, assuming majority of them are not tech-savvy.

  24. Ha! What a smart business model the cyber cafe has. I guess this will only work in countries where the cost of living is really high. In Malaysia, cyber cafes are pretty much empty during weekdays except for weekends when people go there to play DOTA, World of Warcraft, etc. I may be generalizing but I believe in Malaysia those who are educated enough to use the Internet are quite educated and well-off in the sense that they can afford paying rental for proper rooms and housing in the city and hence will not have to resort to living in a cyber cafe. I also doubt that the migrant workers would want to live in cyber cafes as it most probably will serve them little purpose, assuming majority of them are not tech-savvy.

  25. Ha! What a smart business model the cyber cafe has. I guess this will only work in countries where the cost of living is really high. In Malaysia, cyber cafes are pretty much empty during weekdays except for weekends when people go there to play DOTA, World of Warcraft, etc. I may be generalizing but I believe in Malaysia those who are educated enough to use the Internet are quite educated and well-off in the sense that they can afford paying rental for proper rooms and housing in the city and hence will not have to resort to living in a cyber cafe. I also doubt that the migrant workers would want to live in cyber cafes as it most probably will serve them little purpose, assuming majority of them are not tech-savvy.

  26. Ha! What a smart business model the cyber cafe has. I guess this will only work in countries where the cost of living is really high. In Malaysia, cyber cafes are pretty much empty during weekdays except for weekends when people go there to play DOTA, World of Warcraft, etc. I may be generalizing but I believe in Malaysia those who are educated enough to use the Internet are quite educated and well-off in the sense that they can afford paying rental for proper rooms and housing in the city and hence will not have to resort to living in a cyber cafe. I also doubt that the migrant workers would want to live in cyber cafes as it most probably will serve them little purpose, assuming majority of them are not tech-savvy.

  27. Ha! What a smart business model the cyber cafe has. I guess this will only work in countries where the cost of living is really high. In Malaysia, cyber cafes are pretty much empty during weekdays except for weekends when people go there to play DOTA, World of Warcraft, etc. I may be generalizing but I believe in Malaysia those who are educated enough to use the Internet are quite educated and well-off in the sense that they can afford paying rental for proper rooms and housing in the city and hence will not have to resort to living in a cyber cafe. I also doubt that the migrant workers would want to live in cyber cafes as it most probably will serve them little purpose, assuming majority of them are not tech-savvy.

Comments are closed.