Homeless in Manga Heaven
Manga and Internet cafes are common throughout Japan. Due to their cheap costs, the privacy of their cubicles, the ability to order food, access to the internet, video games and more, manga and internet cafes have become more than just a hangout place for young people with nothing else to do.
From a Japanese blog comes a summary of a news report on the condition of the working poor. The report takes a look at the current condition of the day laborers who spend their nights in manga cafes, and provides interviews with these workers, as well as manga cafe owners:
"The mobile workers" - those who go from place to place based on orders delivered to them by their cell-phones.
Recently a class of young poor people who live in manga cafes and cheap hotels is becoming increasing common in Japan. Most of these day laborers are registered employees of outplacement service companies. These young workers would go anywhere their job requires them to. While their actual life is the same as a daily worker from the last decades, they live their lives in loneliness without any companionship. I (the newspaper reporter) will report the actual daily life of these employment workers.
It's 11 pm in Ohta Ward, Kamata (An industrial district in Tokyo). Several people in suits, a couple and a business man, are entering a manga cafe. A construction worker (38 years old) says: "I can't sleep comfortably here, but it's cheap." He has been working at the construction site for over a year.
The construction worker's wages per day is around 10,000 yen, but his net income is around 7,000 yen excluding tax and other costs. His work isn't guaranteed every day, so he can't afford to stay even in a capsule hotel. He sometimes sleeps in the outdoors during summer.
Around Kamata, the price for staying in manga cafes is especially cheap - 880 to 990 yen for one night with free internet facilities, TV, and free soft drinks. According to the manager of a popular manga cafe says, about 60% of their frequent customers are in their 20's.
A worker (28 years old) who came from Tokyo lived in a manga cafe for three years. Now he can afford cheap hotels usually geared toward foreigners. The worker complained: "I can live here only because I 'm still young." Under such circumstances, a different kind of hotel business appeared. An outplacement working service company started a hotel business with the slogan: "A shelter for part-time jobbers." The new hotel offers rooms to be shared by about a dozen people for 1,700 yen per night. Most of the rooms are previously business buildings, located around construction sites.
A 25 years old man who became a construction worker after graduating from middle school spends his days going back and forth between the construction site and the manga cafes. Later he moved into a shared room. "A dozen men were in a room. There were troubles among them." He left there in March.
"Young part-timers are living like daily workers from the old days," Insisted Shuichoro Sekine, General Secretary of the "dispatch workers union." "Now they are getting jobs trough their cell-phones, so they can't settle down, and won't be able to get to know their co-workers. The communities are already offering help for the homeless people who are living on the streets."
Sekine alerts that "the number of lonely young workers who live on the streets is increasing; Japan's society is going in the wrong direction."
The increase in poor workers is one of the pressing issues Japan is facing today. What does the future hold for these people, who find themselves homeless in the land of manga?
In Japan, outplacement working services admitted a few years ago that they're providing cheap labor force as part of the government's plan to hold out the competitive economical power from China. As a result, the wages of regular workers have been significantly reduced, thus increasing the number of poor people in Japan.
Nowadays, angry, poor Japanese workers are protesting the Abe administration on bulletin boards from manga cafes in the middle of the night instead of protesting on the streets. As a result, the cabinet's approval rating dropped from 67% to 38% over the past six months.