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.