In a country where a street address is key to getting a job, an Internet cafe near Tokyo is offering the unemployed and homeless more than just a virtual, email address.

In addition to the usual Internet services, comic books and unlimited beverages offered by most Japanese Internet cafes, Cyber @ Cafe offers its residents long-term lodging and an official registered address.

This simple service is vital for the 50 semi-permanent residents of the cafe, many of whom have taken refuge here after being laid off abruptly during the current recession.

Takemitsu Karitachi, a contract worker at a nearby factory, is one of the many people who have been sleeping at the cafe every night for the past two months since he lost his office job and his apartment.

Karitachi, who used to roam the streets and hopped between various Internet cafes for months, says he is now relieved to have found a more permanent home -- even if it’s a cubicle just slightly bigger than the back seat of a car.

“Before I came here, I would sit around on chairs in front of places like supermarkets and eat rice balls during the day. But when I really didn’t have any money or work, I had to sleep on park benches at night,” Karitachi said.

Like Karitachi, many of people who frequent cyber cafes are unemployed and homeless who are looking for shelter, but unlike the residents of Cyber @ Cafe, they can’t call these places home. “Human resources agencies used to hire contract workers like me without an official address, but that has changed,” Karitachi said. “Now you need an official address and a guarantor.”

Paying 1,400 to 2,400 yen ($12-$20/£6-10/EU8.8-14.7)) for a night in a central Internet cafe, each cubicle provides a reclining seat or sofa, a blanket, computer and clothes hanger. Free soft drinks, TV, comics and Internet access are included -- and prices are cheaper than those of Japan's famous "capsule hotels," where guests sleep in plastic cells.

Younger lodgers in their mid-to-late-twenties tend to stay for a couple of months before finding a home and a job, but older and poorer residents, with little chance of finding work, are almost permanent fixtures.

Precarious workers and the cyber-homeless - Mayday march in Japan

Japan cyber cafe offers residential address to unemployed, homeless

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2 Responses
  1. Dorothy L Says:

    Hello...what a nice post of information.
    I cannot even imagine anyone in America being that kind. Yes, we have churches and Salvation Armies but no local business has yet to step up to this degree of helping homeless. It could be that the homeless here are not trusted...our cultures and people differ quite a bit.
    Also being homeless for any length of time tends to make a person somewhat desperate.
    Thank you for this enlightening post!

  2. Sera Melinda Says:

    Hi Dorothy
    Thanks for your comment (i always like your comment :)
    Yup, I guess every country has its own cultures.
    But I still think it's a weird thing that cyber cafe 'accepts' those homeless ppl, dunno....

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