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Japan: Life out of a Manga Kissa

A report just released by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has found that the much talked about phenomenon of “net cafe refugees“, a controversial term used to refer to people without homes who sleep in Internet cafes or “manga kissa“, is affecting thousands of people across Japan. While previously predicted to be widespread, the report is the first to provide concrete numbers on the phenomenon, estimating that over 5400 people regularly spend their nights in net cafes. As an alternative to more expensive options such as hotels and hostels, Internet cafes offer low-cost private rooms with Internet access, comic books, meals and sometimes even showers. Life out of such places, however, is generally grim, with many caught in a vicious circle struggling to find stable employment. The phenomenon itself may point to deeper problems in the Japanese economy.

Manga Kissa
Desk and computer at a manga kissa (from cava_cavien's flickr page)

Blogger Hamachan outlines the main points of the report:

>1 短期派遣労働者には若年層が多く特に男性においては正社員になることを希望する者も多く見られること

1. Among short-term temporary workers, it was found that there are many young people, and that, particularly among men, there are many people hoping to find permanent full-time employment.

>2 住居を失い寝泊まりのためにネットカフェ等を常連的に利用する住居喪失者は約5,400人と推計されその年齢構成としては20歳代と50歳代に山がみられること

2. It was estimated that there are around 5400 people who have no home and are regularly using net cafes as a place to sleep, and it was found that there are two peaks in the age distribution, one in the 20s [age range] and one in the 50s [age range].

>3 住居喪失者である短期派遣労働者は両調査において一定数見られたが概数調査によれば約600人住居喪失者は短期派遣労働者ばかりでなく、むしろ「短期直用労働者」や「失業(1ヶ月未満の直接雇用契約)者」のほうが多いこと

3. In both surveys, it was found consistently among short-term temporary workers that there is a group — according to the survey with approximate figures estimated at around 600 people — who actually do not work only as temporary workers, but in fact work more in “short-term direct employment” [tanki chokuyou roudousha] or are unemployed (direct hire for a period of less than one month).

kiraku-10, meanwhile, posts a question at a message board pointing out an apparent contradiction:

会社では「労働者」が不足していると言うし、テレビでは「ネットカフェ難民」なんて言っている。
この二者をうまく繋ぐ方法はないものでしょうか。
どちらも何の条件が合わないのでしょうか。
皆仕事をしたいのにー

Companies are saying that there are not enough “workers”, but at the same time on television they are talking about “net cafe refugees”.
Seems to me that there is no good way to connect these two.
Doesn't each of them have conditions that are not compatible?
Even though everybody does want to work —

Some bloggers argued that the numbers from the report were actually probably conservative. Blogger junike explains:

それ以外の場所で過ごしている人もいるだろうから、ネットカフェ常連利用者以外のこうしたライフスタイルを取っている人というのはもう少し多いのかもしれない。

There are probably also people spending their time at other places, and there might actually be more people who are not regulars users of net cafes but who are also living this kind of lifestyle.

Reading manga a manga kissa
Reading manga at a manga kissa (from cava_cavien's flickr page)

At news express, however, another blogger presents a view from outside of the city:

ネットカフェに先日久々に行きました。目的はテレビドラマの再放送でドラゴン桜を見て、原作が読みたくなり、漫画のドラゴン桜を見てきました。
ニュースではネットカフェ難民なる人達がたくさんいて、中高年者もネットカフェ難民が波及しているというけど、田舎なためかまったくネットカフェ難民らしき人は見かけませんでした。

For the first time in a while, I went to a net cafe yesterday. The reason I went was that I had seen Dragon Zakura in a rebroadcasting of a television drama and wanted to read the original, so I went to find the Dragon Zakura manga.
In the news they are saying that there are a lot of people that are becoming net cafe refugees, and that this has even spread to middle aged and elderly people who now are also becoming net cafe refugees. I haven't seen a single person that looks like a net cafe refugee here in the country though.

Many bloggers reflected on the connection between net cafe refugees and Japanese society as a whole. One blogger writes:

確実に格差社会が現実としてあり、
貧しさが犯罪を生むこともあるだろうし。
1日は何も食べなくて我慢しても、
果たして3日我慢することが出来るだろうか。
理性はもつんだろうか。

Certainly the wage-disparity society, as a phenomenon, is here,
and poverty may also give rise to crime.
Even if someone can make it through one day without eating,
can they really make it through three days?
Can these people maintain their rational thinking?

私はそこまでの状態になったことはないし
家もあれば職もある。
ただ、日本にそういう人たちがいる以上
改善しないと、ひずみの中で苦しむ子どもたちがいる。

I've never had the experience of reaching that level [of poverty],
I have a home and I have a job.
However, as long as there are people like this in Japan,
if the situation is not made better, children will suffer under this strain.

Another blogger draws a connection with the Constitution of Japan:

日本の憲法では、「日本国民は健康で文化的な最低限度の生活が出来る」
となっているのは、日本人ならご存知でしょう。

I think that if you are Japanese you realize that, in the Constitution of Japan, it was decided that:
“All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.”

しかし、最近話題のネットカフェ難民は、明かにこれに違反してると思います。
といっても、ネットカフェ難民が悪いのではなくて、彼らにそういう生活を
させている社会のせいだといいたいのです。

However, net cafe refugees, who have become the topic of conversation recently, are clearly having [this right] violated, I think.
Having said that, this is not to say that the net cafe refugees are somehow bad, but rather that these people have to live like this is the fault of society, that is what I want to say.

このネットカフェ難民の人達の可哀想なことは、その生活もそうですが、
社会から驚くほど理解されていないということもあると思うのです。
それは、良く「そういう生活を選んだのは自分なのだから自己責任だ」
という自己責任論を言う人や「住み込みで働けばいいではないか」という
住み込み派のわかってない人の意見。
「努力が足りない・・・」という努力論の根性論の人。
社会全体がわかってない、どうしょうもない人の意見など。

The pitiful story of these net cafe refugees — [the story of] their life as well –
is also I feel misunderstood to a startling degree by society.
There are people who make an argument about self-responsibility: “These people choose that kind of life themselves, so it's their personal responsibility.” And there are people who don't understand the live-in [net cafe refugees] and say: “Wouldn't they be alright if they just get a live-in job?”
“They're not trying hard enough…” — these people believe the theory that if you work hard and have spirit, you can get over any problems.
And there are opinions of people who don't know anything about society as a whole, and so on.

だいたいにおいて事務的な意見しか出てこないのですよね。
それだけ彼らのことを理解していないのでしょう。

In most cases, it is just these business-like views that are expressed.
This shows that those people don't understand anything about the situation [of net cafe refugees].

テレビで放送されても、彼らが働いているところは写らない。
写るのは、ネットカフェでパソコンを前にして寝ている場面の数々。
それを見た人は、「この人達は仕事もしないでパソコンばかりしている」
と思われてしまう。
とんでもない間違いである。

Even when the topic is covered on television, they don't show [the net cafe refugees] working.
What they show is many scenes of people at net cafes sleeping in front of the computer.
Just seeing that, people think: “These people aren't even working, they're always at the computer.”
This is such an outrageous mistake.

彼らは働いている。   それもかなりキツイ仕事をしている。

These people are working. And what's more, they are doing really hard work.

Finally, one blogger in Kobe went so far as to offer a place to stay for people sleeping in net cafes. At the “Net Cafe Refugee Relief Blog“, blogger Higeni writes:

ネットカフェ難民の多さに驚きます。
人が困っているのを見るとほっとけない性格なもんですから…

I was surprised at the large number of net cafe refugees.
I'm the kind of person who feels that they have to help when they see someone in trouble.

何とか救済とまではいかないにしろ手助けする方法はないかと考えてました。
名づけて「ネットカフェ難民救済計画」。ちょっと大袈裟?(笑)

Even if it doesn't go as far as providing relief, I've been wondering if there is any way to help.
[I named this] the “Net Cafe Refugee Relief Project”. A bit of an exaggeration? (LOL)

2 comments

  • […] Japan’s new homeless to poor for workman’s hostels, living out of manga kissas, young, etc. (tags: poverty japan politics youth) […]

  • […] konnte er wohl seine Arbeit wiederbekommen, aber er erlebte trotzdem was es heißt, ein Internet-Café-Flüchtling [en] zu sein. Wie Herr T. berichtet, sind viele junge Frauen in derselben Situation; viele von […]

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