Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cybercafe refugees

Living in an internet café cubicle must not be the most comfortable way of living. The cubicle is fully equipped: a chair, which can be used as a bed to sleep too, a desk, a computer with a bright screen that lights the cubicle at night, and the privacy provided by the walls that surround the cubicle.

Although it sounds like an odd, bizarre option, it's the way of living for many homeless Japanese youngsters with not enough money to pay for another type of accomodation. Most of them get temporary (and underpaid) jobs , which require them to move frequently from one area to another. But 24-hour cybercafés are common all across Japan, and are the spots used by those people to get some shelter during nights. People who have this routine as a way of living are nicknamed "cybercafé refugees".

The reason for which they choose such places is simple: they are easy to afford, way cheaper than, for example, renting a studio. The cost of a cybercafé cubicle is of about 100 yens ($0.82 USD) per hour... or some 900 yens ($7.38 USD) 'per night', plus the pops and snacks that they purchase from the café. Way cheaper than paying about $850 USD per month for renting a place, or even $20 per night in a youth hostel.

Sleeping in cybercafés for homeless Japaese, sought from that point of view, is 'reasonable' (for the lack of a better word). But the problem in Japan doesn't reside exclusively in cybercafés. It is reported that other 24-hour service establishments have a similar situation. For example, it is allegedly possible to find people passing the whole night inside McDonald's restaurants or in public facilities. The problem, say some people in Japan, does not seem to be getting any better.

This kind of phenomenon is perhaps a contemporary blend that we couldn't foresee some years ago: Technology, progress, poverty, and loneliness. The flip side of the highly developed future we expect to have. Now the question would be: Will the disease spread out to other places in the world?


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