I Could've Been a Statistic...
On a phone survey conducted between June and July of 2007, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare found about 60,900 people stay over night at Internet Cafes everyday. 5,400 of those people are estimated as homeless people that stay most of the week... Some working and some looking for work.
"There are cases in which people end up in a vicious circle, having no home because they have no work, and not being able to find work because they have no home," a ministry official commenting on the results of the survey said.
More from Mainichi Daily is found here.
In October of last year (2006), while in Kyoto, I saw on TV, one persons story of the growing problem in Japan with people doing what they could to survive.
Staying in Internet or Manga Cafes during the night and joining the work force by day. This one particular person worked construction, and would hop onto a bus/van at the corner of the street and along with many others, he would head off to work.
After work however, while the van drops off the workers, this particular person (depending on the day) would clean up at a public bath, get some cheap fast food and retire to the local Internet/Manga kisaten where he would look for any more job opportunities or retire to sleep.
I remember how sad I felt watching it, how in big cities people can get lost in the shuffle and do what they can to make it through... but to tell the truth, after some dinner and Karaoke with the family... I didn't think much of it... until I found myself in a similar situation when I went back to Suzuka.
After my schooling in SIU (Suzuka International University), I worked at Shintoku, Hokkaido for a few months for several reasons... escape the heat... do some cooking... good food... Of course during those months I had to give up my place in Suzuka.
When I returned to Suzuka I stayed with a "Friend" and took some time for rest... With my "Friend", still in school, it was becoming inconvenient having me around... and that's when I had a brief taste of how life was like for the person in that broadcast... for several days a week I stayed over at US Land
, an Internet / Manga/ Sports/ Market place, which was an hour walk away from my school, which in turn was a forty minute train ride away from my "Friend's" place.
As bad as might sound, it gave me a chance to talk to Ani-Pockers during peak North American times. :P
The standard rate of pay in Japan is on a monthly basis, and many places, you need a residence in order to work... and unfortunately with the high cost of renting an apartment (around 5 times the amount of rent upfront which doesn't count towards rent) it's hard to get a place without work, which is how people get in vicious cycles.
Hotels (Comfort Inn) in Kyoto and Nagoya go for around $100 a day.
Business Hotels (Which are for Business people who's job requires them to travel around) are roughly the same price but the longer you stay the cheaper it usually is. Instead of paying $100 a day and staying for a week, you sign for a week and pay $70 a day... something like that... But you usually have to get those well in advance.
24hr Manga Kisaten usually have night time packages. US Land from 10pm - 10am cost me around $15 - $20 (depending if I bought food and such.) Not only did I have a nice private cubicle to stay in... I also had video games, bowling, soccer, batting cages and even Karaoke!
Another place which is becoming famous for people to stay at (which I found out after missing my flight in Chiba) are 24hr restaurants. Buy a Value meal at McDonalds and stay the whole night... Get a coffee and ice cream at Denny's... and leave in the morning. $5!
Just think, if that survey was taken last year... I could've been among those numbers.
Thanks for keeping me company when I had no place to sleep :) It was rare that I actually went to sleep at US Land, I usually ended up staying awake talking to my Ani-Pocker friends and actually feeling happy... until my long walk to school, where I'd sleep on the benches... But that's another story :P