By Agustina Pasaragua | Translation by Nadia Sol Schneider
Can you picture yourself sleeping in a cybercafé? A computer with free internet, a reclining seat, TV, and even the possibility to take a shower and drink unlimited coffee all night long.
For people in the Western Hemisphere Cybercafés are a place to meet up, rest, or work allowing them to be connected for hours on end in comfortable places. But in Japan, where everything works differently, Cybercafés have become an ever more common form of housing, and not just a place for gamers.
Fumiya is a 26-year-old security guard, who lives in a 24-hour Cybercafé. This has been his home for the last 10 months, a small cubicle in which he can hardly stand up, and resting is almost impossible.
In between shifts, he chains smokes, drinks soda, and orders take-away food and during sleeping hours he covers his head with a blanket to block external lighting. Fumiya is one of the many protagonists in the documentary Net Café Refugees, directed by photojournalist Shiho Fukada1 which shows both the working and economic reality of the country.
These sites are legally rented and it is acceptable for a person to settle in a cubicle. In fact, those who live in this way, contrary to what one might think, are not marginalized from society: they are temporary employees, young people, businessmen, and why not, the workers of these residences themselves.
The reasons seem to be diverse: some due to the costs of having a home, lack of time, and others due to their own decision. In addition, these establishments have all kinds of amenities. Furthermore, Fumiya considers that she is lucky to find a cheap place to live, and believes that the place is «well equipped» because it has showers and laundry facilities.
The Cybercafé’s Refugees appeared first in the 1990s due to the legalization of part-time jobs that have increased during the last decade.
Since then, the short-term hiring of employees rose to 38% according to union representatives, while their earnings are less than half that of full-time workers.
They are used to live in crowded rooms, packing the air with cigarette smoke, eating fast food, and being sleep-deprived. There are those who spend weeks, months, or even years moving from one Cybercafé to another.
The prosperous Japanese economy is one of the most widely recognized in the world. However, the high living costs in these cities make Cybercafés a better alternative to homelessness. Many of us believed that cybercafes had lost prominence as internet access centers, but today in Japan they are places of survival.
1Many of us believed that Net Cafés had lost their role as centers to access the internet, but nowadays in Japan, these are places for survival.
Hello! If you have come this far and you like what we do in Muta, an independent media outlet made in Argentina and Uruguay, you can always support us from the financing platform: buymeacoffee. With a minimum contribution, you help us not only with current expenses but also with the joy and importance of knowing that you are on the other side. Thank you much!