Jobless Japanese move to capsule hotels

This is an interesting story published by the NYTimes on the 1st of January. People out of job and unable to afford rents might start to move into capsule hotels in Japan.

For those who do not know what a capsule is, Wikipedia says:The guest space is reduced in size to a modular plastic or fiberglass block roughly 2 m by 1 m by 1.25 m, providing room to sleep.

Here's a picture I found via Google Image:

(NYTimes) TOKYO — For Atsushi Nakanishi, jobless since Christmas, home is a cubicle barely bigger than a coffin — one of dozens of berths stacked two units high in one of central Tokyo’s decrepit “capsule” hotels.

“It’s just a place to crawl into and sleep,” he said, rolling his neck and stroking his black suit — one of just two he owns after discarding the rest of his wardrobe for lack of space. “You get used to it.”

Atsushi Nakanishi has condensed his possessions to two suitcases, which he stores in lockers at the capsule hotel where he lives.

When Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510 opened nearly two decades ago, Japan was just beginning to pull back from its bubble economy, and the hotel’s tiny plastic cubicles offered a night’s refuge to salarymen who had missed the last train home.

Now, Hotel Shinjuku 510’s capsules, no larger than 6 1/2 feet long by 5 feet wide, and not tall enough to stand up in, have become an affordable option for some people with nowhere else to go as Japan endures its worst recession since World War II.
Mr. Nakanishi, 40, moved into the capsule hotel in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district in April to save on rent while he worked night shifts at a delivery company.

Mr. Nakanishi, who studied economics at a regional university, dreams of becoming a lawyer and pores over legal manuals during the day. But with no job since Christmas, he does not know how much longer he can afford a capsule bed.

The rent is surprisingly high for such a small space: 59,000 yen a month, or about $640, for an upper bunk. But with no upfront deposit or extra utility charges, and basic amenities like fresh linens and free use of a communal bath and sauna, the cost is far less than renting an apartment in Tokyo, Mr. Nakanishi says.
The jobless rate, at 5.2 percent, is at a record high, and the number of households on welfare has risen sharply. The country’s 15.7 percent poverty rate is one of the highest among industrialized nations.

These statistics have helped shatter an image, held since the country’s rise as an industrial power in the 1970s, that Japan is a classless society.

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