by

Japan’s jobless rate is currently at 5.2%, which is a record high (way better than America’s, but still). There is a 15.7% poverty rate, one of the highest amongst industrialized nations. 15,800 people live on the streets of Japan (according to the government – in reality this number is probably higher with 10,000+ in Tokyo alone). To sum things up, things aren’t all that great, and the recession is hitting Japan pretty hard as well. If you are poor in Japan, however, there are a couple of interesting options for you. Better than living with the monkeys, anyways.

Capsule Hotels

There was a great article NYT article recently on capsule hotel living, but here’s the summary of it. Originally, capsule hotels were created to be a place for drunken  salarymen to sleep if they stay out too long and miss the last train (or just don’t want to go home). It’s a place to sleep, it does the job, and it’s pretty cheap. You only get a small space (i.e. a capsule) that’s around 6.5 feet long and 4-5 feet wide. There are no doors (just screens) and you get a TV, clean sheets, a pillow, and a roof over your head. Certainly not a posh hotel, that’s for sure.

Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510, the capsule hotel showcased in the article, started noticing that people weren’t just staying the night… they were staying weeks, and then months. After realizing this, they gave people discounts for paying for a month at a time, and the government even gave the okay to use these hotels as physical addresses, which helps the jobless living here land interviews.

The capsule hotels do have public areas, lockers to rent, public baths, sinks, and more – so it’s not all that bad. The actual capsule area is mostly for sleeping, plus you get a tv to watch. Here’s the kicker, though. You might get around 30 square feet of space, yet it costs around $640 a month. Ouch. To put things in perspective, my tiny apartment is 550 square feet, exists in San Francisco (one of the most expensive areas to rent in the U.S., behind NY), and costs a little over twice that much, yet I’m getting around 18 times the space, plus my own bathroom, kitchen, washer / dryer, etc. Capsule hotels are not cheap, but they’re still cheaper than renting an actual apartment.

Unfortunately, even with the “reduced” prices that a capsule hotel offers, a lot of jobless people run out of savings and have to hit the streets. I gotta say, though. There are a lot of pretty clever homeless abodes in Japan, which makes it your second available option if you end up homeless in Japan.

Getting Your Very Own Blue Tent

Although it sucks to be on the street, I gotta say, if I was going to be on the street, I want to live in one of these. Although not all of them are blue, when you’re passing various parks in Japan, you will often see Japanese tent-societies, and some of them are actually pretty fancy. I’ve heard of some having internet access, even. In the image above, you can see plants growing, a bicycle, and more. There are homeless societies that work together to make money by growing vegetables / crops, put their money together to buy food in bulk (so they can get more for less yen), and more.

This particular shelter has windows!

Since the 1990s, when the Japanese economy went bad, more and more of these tents have appeared all over the place. Japan’s always had trouble admitting that there is / was a homeless problem (Japan has always been proud of its “classless” society, at least in the past), but now it’s becoming enough of an issue that people are taking notice and doing something about it, which is great. Homeless levels still aren’t anywhere near what we see in America, but it’s good to nip the problem at the bud. The BBC has written up a great “news in pictures” article about the homeless in Japan. Definitely take a look if you have the urge.

Living In a Japanese Internet Cafe

Another trick that’s becoming pretty popular, mostly amongst younger folks, is staying in Manga / Internet cafes. Many are open 24 hours, give out free drinks, have showering facilities, and offer privacy. It’s not like the Internet cafes you see here – many facilities offer people their own individual, private rooms, and for $15-$25 a night, a reclining chair (instead of a bed) ain’t all that bad. Plus, while you’re sitting there wishing you could sleep, you can read manga, surf the net, or watch videos. Eventually you’ll get so tired that you’ll be able to sleep, maybe. Keep those free drinks coming!

So there you have it. If you ever find yourself in Japan for the long-term, and are running out of money (and have no source of income), one of these will probably work out for you. Then again, there are always hostels, which are also pretty darn cheap, but why would you want to stay in a hostel when you could do one of these? There’s always beach-bumming in Okinawa, too, though you’d have to figure out how to get there.

P.S. Which one is your favorite? i.e., if you had to live one of these lifestyles for a month, which would you choose? Personally, I’d go with #2 and live in a tent society. Seems like it would be really interesting to meet all kinds of new people and be a part of a community. The other two are a bit too “separate” for me to really dig. Speaking of Digging something, you should Digg this article! Update: Whoops, Digg sucks now. Thanks Reddit. ;)

P.P.S. You should also follow Tofugu on Twitter.

  • http://senshuu.com/ Sen

    I'd go for the tents, too. I saw them briefly in a program about Tokyo once. The community aspect is really nice.

  • Gmann

    I'd go for the tents, and then maybe if I had no other choice the cafe idea.

  • http://twitter.com/grnqrtr Travis Kilson

    I'd pick the tents too. I'd be shogiing it up with all the old people.

  • http://www.jamaipanese.com Jamaipanese

    I'd go for the manga cafe, who need people when you have manga and the internet? ^^

  • http://knoei.nl/ Galerius

    Living in a blue tent that's along a river isn't really a good idea > http://bit.ly/8PXUqY

    And what about Ueno park in Tokyo? A lot of homeless people are 'living' there…

  • http://www.brisbanegraphicartsmuseum.com/ Dan Ryan

    Having lived near Ueno Park and being really familiar and comfortable with the area, I'd go with a cozy tent in a remote area near the park. Plus, it's near Tokyo University, where there are cheap places to eat.

  • tornadoes28

    The 5.2% jobless rate I have read may be misleading and may be worse than that. It just depends on how the Japanese government compiles the jobless statistics and what they consider to be unemployment. Plus there is the bigger problem of people who have given up looking for a job and have moved back home as well as the well known FREETERS and NEETERS.

  • Edward

    Id go for the Cafe :3

  • Chimiko

    I think I like the Manga Cafe one the most. Seems the most interesting. Either that or the hostels, if I had a job during the day and only need a place to stay.

  • http://twitter.com/ImaginaryJapan Joe Munro

    Capsule Hotel <or> Manga Cafe> Living with the monkeys> Hostels> Blue tents.

  • WOTDsctoo

    I think the cafe would have to be my first choice. It's pretty cheap, and there's lots of entertainment. The blue tents would be good for the long term, if I even had to be in that situation, but I definitely would want to try the capsule hotel once. It's like one of those things that you can say you did later. :P

  • SasugaRIVAL

    Tent Community looks like the bomb – it's only slightly worse than where I'm living now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Artem-Sorokin/100000063505107 Artem Sorokin

    the tents sound like the best way to go, but the cafe is good too.. except its quite expensive to pay that much eeevry day..

  • kanmuri

    Lately the whole homeless thing is a trend in the Japanese show business. With the book and drama “Homeless chuugakusei” the medias have transformed being homeless into a sad poignant story that, nevertheless, ends well. It personally disgusts me to see such a serious problem becoming trivial through Japanese television.

    And to answer your question, I would probably live in a tent, too. In Japan, being part of a group is usually your best option.

  • http://www.kawaiikakkoiisugoi.com/ Adrian

    it's crazy to think that 5.2% is Japan's current jobless rate. Here in the US it's all we hear about, how many people are out of jobs/on the street/in economic duress all the time. This situation going on in Japan is really interesting in comparison.

  • meroigo

    That Internet cafe picture. Haha, that's one in the Shinkyougoku shopping street (Shijou/Kawaramachi/Teramachi area) . I pass there every day. :D

    About capsule hotel. I was checking out their prices before visiting Tokyo some weeks ago, and it's not really good alternatives to live at IF YOU CAN PLAN AHEAD. They were more expensive or similar price to these;
    http://newkoyo.com/
    http://www.myfavorite.bz/azuma
    where you get a muuuuuch nicer living. I tried them both and i recommend any of them to anyone planning to visit Tokyo! :)

    Also, too bad with the homeless situation. Suit up, Japanese government, do more stuff about it! :O

  • eeprofessional

    ah, you guys forgot the closet apartments. Very small apartments (size of a large bloom closet), month to month (500 USD a month)

    I prefer closet apartments, over capsule hotels…

  • Daniel B

    Poverty rate is relative poverty not absolute, right? So it doesn't say that much.

  • Ken Tang

    I'd pick Internet / Manga cafe probably. Free drinks and there's shower too!

  • http://www.bradleyfarless.com/ Brad F.

    I spent quite a bit of time in the US Army, so I'd go for the tents. It would be familiar and comfortable and offer more of a feeling of being my place than any of the others, even if it wasn't really my place. The benefit would be that you have your own dwelling and the money you're saving on rent you can put into savings so that you can eventually get yourself out of your predicament. There's always a PO Box for mail (I think), mobile internet, and public showers! It wouldn't be so bad. The only downside is that if you had something valuable there you'd have to have one physically capable family member around the tent all the time to guard your goods.

  • http://www.bradleyfarless.com/ Brad F.

    Pfft. Just get a mobile data stick and look at manga on the internet for free from your own cot in your nifty blue tent dude.

  • http://rainbowhill.blogspot.com rainbowhill

    I'd go for the tent also, for the feeling of autonomy. There is one place you forgot to mention though, living out of your own car. Manga cafe and capsule hotels are fun, but I imagine the novelty would wear off pretty quickly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ali-Akbar/541408964 Ali Akbar

    I would select the internet cafe as long as i get internet im happy.

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  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    see, operation get jamaipanese to japan won't be all that expensive!

  • http://kanpekijan.blogspot.com/ Björn A

    I'd probably take a tent, as it gives you a community to back you up. Besides, if you're homeless and jobless, even capsule hotels and manga kissa are probably expensive. I'd rather have a home for pretty much no money while having a community and using the money I have for really necessary stuff while trying to find a job.
    And if you need the internet, you can go to a manga kissa or get mobile internet, if you have the money, that is.

    At least, that sounds best to me.

  • Dimitris D

    “take a tent”
    Japan has typhoons every year. I'll prefer a more solid form of house.

  • mandela

    internet cafe all the way. that is the dopest lol

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  • Sean Stalley

    I saw a little shelter that was in between houses (where there is like a little grass alcove) and he had a tree and a tiny yard.

  • http://culturequirk.blogspot.com/ Delphine

    Very interesting article, and those pictures really add to it. I think I'd also want to live in a tent community… although I don't think it'd be worth living in Japan at that point O.o

  • https://www.jobsindubai.com/job_list.asp?lstIndustryID=15 Dubai Hotel Jobs

    Capsule hotels are ingenious. Though they are not as posh as regular hotels, they're very practical compared to the latter. You've gotta hand it to the Japanese for their ingenuity.

  • linyulin101

    sesdsds

  • linyulin101
  • http://landedinjapan.wordpress.com/ Matt Katch

    I've stayed in capsule hotels and internet cafes. I would def take the capsule hotel. There's one in Kobe that has its own onsen and runs about $35 a night. The real plus to capsule hotel over tent is a/c. Weather sucks in Japan — it's basically the midwestern US; except, they don't have the best heating or a/c per se, so having none is a deal breaker for me on the tent-life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.laakso Michael Laakso

    I'd probably go with the capsule hotel, even though I'm 6'2. It's clean, warm, and has outlets so I can plug stuff in.

  • Rose

    Internet and Manga cafe – sounds good :)

  • Sebastian

    about half the time i'd do the tent thing to save money,have my own personal space,and a sense of community. but there would be times i'd like some solid shelter and both the internet cafe and the capsule hotel …. especially during typhoon season.

  • http://www.dailyotaku.com/ dailyotaku

    I'd go with the internet cafe

  • http://www.dailyotaku.com/ dailyotaku

    I'd go with the internet cafe

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  • PHWalsh

    Wise up all of you! This is no joke! People there are desperate and you are all treating it like a 'Whats your favourite colour' game?

    Have some compassion please!

  • http://kennylex.blogspot.com/ kenny_lex

    I did look at the pictures and was surprised of how clean it was around the tent and boxes, in Sweden is it always dirty around homeless people and therefor does almost everyone hate them and try to hunt them away, but in Sweden is 90 % of all the homeless drug addicts or mentally ill.

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  • BookwormArielle

    Hmm Internet Cafe's seem to be my Cuppa, I don't think I would like Tent society.

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    I'd go for the tents, and then maybe if I had no other choice the cafe idea.

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    I'd go for the tents, and then maybe if I had no other choice the cafe idea.

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  • http://twitter.com/azutoame azuma mutea

    i'd love to go manga cafe. such good for an otaku, right?

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PU5PTKCKZWSCFFMA6NICTY76EQ Katie

    Where did the video go, that went with this post?

  • http://www.facebook.com/LukeHero Luke Hero

    Maybe the cafe on those real cold nights.
    But I agree, it would be a bit lonely so Id go for tents majority of the time (^ ^)

  • Racer’s Illusion

    I must say, that lokking for a job here it ain’t gonna be easy, since statistically, you will be finding lees than 0.183% job openings around the country. But if i lose my job for any means neccesary (excluding voluntary self-dismissal) i opt to go for the Capsule Inn until i run out of monetary reserves, then it’s off to go to (what the majority prefer) the tents on the rural countryside, or to the internet cafe, and steall off indiscreetly the signals

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6ICXLAFPSWZCM5R47N6W3VX3PA Sebastian

    i myself would go for the cafe option. i mena whats better than a cheap room if nessesary and free drinks a shower and inter net AND manga! that seems the best! but the tents seems really fun to. it would be a great expirence even though i am a boyscout to im used to it XDDDDD

  • Matt

    I think the internet/manga cafe would be the way to go.

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  • Anonymous

    I once saw a video about homeless japanese living under a certain bridge. they made houses out of wooden boxes with doors, living quarters etc. It’s even fun to be homeless in japan…

  • Popoo

    Tents or internet cafe….I really “dugg” this article when I “Reddit”…. ;)

  • WereTiger

    Ahhh, an article from back when Digg was still relevant :) How nostalgic!

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  • Paco

    Traveled to Japan last year with a college buddy and we somehow forgot to book a hotel the last night. Instead of trying to track one down we decided to spend the night at the 24hr internet cafe. That rocked. Cost like 10 bucks for internet, manga, drinks, and snack food.

  • Paco

    Traveled to Japan last year with a college buddy and we somehow forgot to book a hotel the last night. Instead of trying to track one down we decided to spend the night at the 24hr internet cafe. That rocked. Cost like 10 bucks for internet, manga, drinks, and snack food.

  • Billy

    The U.S. jobless rate is under-reported as well.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/JTWEQCYVVFC2TXDOR22FHC22QQ Anonymous

    In AMerika you get to sleep underneath a bridge…

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/JTWEQCYVVFC2TXDOR22FHC22QQ Anonymous

    Yes, I think the REAL rate is more likely 18-20% unemployment. You have to wonder how much of our society is unemployable…obese, unskilled, war veterans,…we need some of those cheap factory and textile mill jobs back to provide a floor for our unskilled labor pool.

  • TouristMan

    Manga kissa (cafes) often have a pervasive smoky, tobacco smell. Although the cafes are divided into smoking and nonsmoking areas, each private cubicle often doesn’t have its own roof so the smell gets everywhere. This is one thing to consider before settling on a manga cafe for several days, weeks or months.

  • dixy

    i’d go for capsules, net cafe is also interesting :-)

  • dixy

    i’d go for capsules, net cafe is also interesting :-)

  • dixy

    i’d go for capsules, net cafe is also interesting :-)

  • dixy

    i’d go for capsules, net cafe is also interesting :-)

  • Camilo Paulino

    I actually went to tokyo with no sleeping arragements, and ended up doing all three for a night each, i have to say, the most comfortable one was the capsule, but the most interesting one was the homeless tent village. ultimately i found a couple of hostels to stay at which were extremely clean. overall, it was an interesting month

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  • http://heri.madmedia.ca Heri

    I don’t get it, did you actually go in the streets and studied this? because the way you write it, it looks like those are just stories you’ve heard

  • Cowspeajunkjunk

    You missed the best alternative, the 24 hour private room porno places. Usually, from 10pm to 10 am, you pay a set price (3000 yen) for all the porn you can watch! It’s impressive and the private rooms are really very nice with fully reclining chairs etc. Of course, you can watch non-porn too if you like. Great cheap and more PRIVATE place to sleep than the manga/internet cafe.

  • poop-schute

    i’d hang out with ryuichi sakamoto

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I’ve done capsule hotels and manga cafes, haven’t built my own tent
    though…

  • Craigckc

    That is great to see. Thank you for the pics. Japanese set the best precedent for empathy, amongst many other characteristic attributes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Spandy-Andy/100001648283268 Spandy Andy

    Internet Cafe!
    I live on my computer already. :-D

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  • Kona

    The tents have internet? hmm the next japanese thing to do is to make them fold into a briefcase, that way you can explore japan without worrying about your tent!

  • Jamasian

    I’d go for the capsule! and then straight to the cafe. I don’t like too much weather change.

  • Satoru

    I’d probably take the Internet Cafe, instead of a society, because you are a good person and i’m a total lazy ass xD watching youtube till i fall asleep, or anime (or hentai cough cough) so…yeah ><

    Ya can always try swimming to Okinawa :D? or use the horror of the tsunami to surf to okinawa… (i know its bad to joke about that but im not a very inspirational individual, you see… i gotta have something to come by T.T)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y4RDX4W47HDHO6U2735YPQAFPU sandy

    they probably treat there homeless with more respect too ,than in the US, here in Fresno you get evicted from one place to the next

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  • Hippyhorsez

    Internet cafe!!! FREE DRINKS O:<

  • Hippyhorsez

    Internet cafe!!! FREE DRINKS O:<

  • Zacharydurland

    I got stuck in Osaka during the quake and camped out in a basement net cafe that was full of people but quiet, clean, professional, and about 17 US for 5 hours. I write to ensure that this is a viable option for those stuck without hotels or needing to make emergency stops in strange cities. Maybe search near big stations or ask around if your Japanese is good enough. Yeah..keep those free drinks coming!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1372476926 Crystal Eio

    Wow doesn’t seem that bad you can’t even get a sleeping space for $25 in Australia not that I know of I wanna go and try it out

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    There are no doors (just screens) and you get a TV, clean sheets, a pillow, and a roof over your head. Certainly not a posh hotel, that’s for sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1175767891 Mel Shinyama

    Hrm… I don’t know if I would do a tent city until I see one. I’ve never seen a community that is like it so I would check it out. But I love people and need to be social. But probably the capsule hotel would be my biggest bet. It may be cramped but I could do it~

  • Jatin Sharma

    Ofcourse tents option are the best.

  • Person

     That would probably help with obesity a bit.

  • http://twitter.com/strobeicrawr Carin Hua

    oh dood i would totally live in the tent societies too! that would be fun xD it’ll be like camping, but daily! :)

  • Norma Flores

    Terrible… awful…
    I’d rather live in the tents. Could you please write about the housing shortage problem in Japan?

  • Earth Lark

    Couchsurfing of course: http://www.couchsurfing.org

  • Earth Lark

    Couchsurfing of course: http://www.couchsurfing.org

  • Frog28

    Not that many war veterans are “unemployable” unless there happens to be mental problems. Most are regular people who learned skills or got a college education while serving in the military.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a good way for homeless in japan..
    we may have a try..

  • http://www.lacosteoutlet.co lacoste sale

    After realizing this, they gave people discounts for paying for a month at a time, and the government even gave the okay to use these hotels as physical addresses, which helps the jobless living here land interviews.

  • amanduh

    There are a lot of hostels that are used by homeless/day-laborers as well. The ones where I stayed in Osaka were typically something like $20/day. The facilities typically have a public bath and laundry, so they are a popular option. (I accidentally ended up staying in one such hostel.)

  • Adam R. Turner

    Capsule hotels seem like the safest, and you can actually sleep there, and the article suggests you may be able to get a job by looking respectable coming out of a capsule hotel. Tents would have a myriad of problems, from infestations, to water leaks, to lack of oversight. What good’s a community if they all want to rape/murder/take from you, and they’re homeless, which means statistically you’re dealing with more crazy people by far.

  • Ajam_12

    manga cafe is better for me…

  • Hiuh

    Obese people are perfectly employable. There are some resources at http://pigblog.tumblr.com/tagged/fat if you want to learn how concerns about obesity are largely based in unscientific prejudices, and that being fat or obese or not does not dictate health or ability for the most part.

  • Rawr-Rawr

    I’d go for the internet cafe. As an otaku, it would be pretty cool.

  • Guest

    I’d have to say the manga cafes.  Totally.  Hell, I’m spending the night in one right now as I type this just to see what it’s like.  I already have hostels booked for a trip to Tokyo and Kyoto in March, but for Hiroshima and Kyushu I’m totally staying at cafes!  Especially with the cubicles where you can just sprawl out with some headphones on.

  • Umi F

    I came to US for study and while there are certainly homeless back home, they are not usually sleeping in the streets like the US. I was so sad to see people who seem to be actually starving and sick with no tent or any shelter, just sleeping on cold ground. At least Japan has some tent for people. Some of the tent communities in Japan are like a village with people cooperating with not only each other but taking care of the stray cats. I also know that cheaper apato is available if you search the right places. Mine was very cheap and enough room for me and my bf with separate bath and kitchen room.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001737121202 Jamila Surpris

    too bad there options arent in america it may help out the homeless people here~ and it may not~ ut i think it would tho~ but america has higher crime, japan doesnt sooooo hmmmmmmmmmmmm idk

  • Scott Daniel

    I see the last comment was 3 years ago. I wonder if the tent city is still in Tokyo? I might check it out one day.

  • Fat

    It’s different in Japan, your employer is assessed penalties if too many of their employees are obese. Their standards are much stricter too.

    It makes it very difficult for fat people to be hired, even if their skills are identical or better than a competing candidate. They stop being employable when the government intervenes in this way.

  • Lloyd Hall

    Yea WTF people. This is a grim reality for these people. Most likely, they did not choose to be in this situation.
    Taking this on as a tourist experience is disrespectful and insensitive.

  • Lloyd Hall
  • Tristan Duggan

    What? The article is called “If YOU’RE homeless in Japan,” not “If you’re a tourist and want to try living like the homeless for a month.”

  • Janick in Japan

    Thank you for giving a fresh & realistic look on this serious topic. I believe that by sharing concretely what little options the homeless have in Japan, you made the problem more real, closer to people’s hearts.