The talented Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times published an article recently focusing on a group of Japanese people who have been forced out of their homes and into capsule hotels due to the recession.
For Atsushi Nakanishi, jobless since Christmas, home is a cubicle barely bigger than a coffin — one of dozens of berths stacked two units high in one of central Tokyo’s decrepit “capsule” hotels.
“It’s just a place to crawl into and sleep,” he said, rolling his neck and stroking his black suit — one of just two he owns after discarding the rest of his wardrobe for lack of space. “You get used to it.”
When Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510 opened nearly two decades ago, Japan was just beginning to pull back from its bubble economy, and the hotel’s tiny plastic cubicles offered a night’s refuge to salarymen who had missed the last train home.
Now, Hotel Shinjuku 510’s capsules, no larger than 6 1/2 feet long by 5 feet wide, and not tall enough to stand up in, have become an affordable option for some people with nowhere else to go as Japan endures its worst recession since World War II.
Read “For Some in Japan, Home Is a Tiny Plastic Bunk” [via The New York Times]
This looks to be a continuation of the ‘net cafe refugees‘ that the media picked up on in 2007 and early 2008, before the recession had even hit Japan. It’s undeniable now, walking around places like Shinjuku Station and Ueno Park, that the number of homeless have very apparently increased. During the day, rather normal looking, if not slightly disheveled, middle age and older men can be seen loitering about public spaces, while more and more folded-up cardboard boxes and carts wrapped in tarps — presumably holding belongings — can be spotted in the cracks and crevices between light posts, fences and buildings.
As cited in Tabuchi’s article, Prime Minister Hatoyama published a public service announcement on the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s YouTube channel, calling out for those who have found themselves in precarious living situations over the New Years holiday to call a special hotline to help the jobless make use of Hello Work and social welfare programs.
On the other hand, this trend of living in capsule hotels may be good for the businesses that may be finding themselves with new competition from neighboring love hotels, as the latter begin to strategically push themselves as inexpensive and convenient places to stay for businessmen and tourists.