Film Captures Cramped Lives of Japan's ‘Net Cafe Refugees’

internet cafe

Screenshot from “Japan's Disposal Workers: Net Cafe Refugees” (2015)

Shiho Fukada's “Japan's Disposable Workers,” produced in collaboration with MediaStorm and the Pulitzer Centre, documents the life of Internet cafe residents who earn too little to rent their own apartments.

Internet cafes have existed in Japan for over a decade, but in the mid 2000s customers began using these spaces as living quarters. According to the film, at least 38% of Japan's workforce are temporary workers, earning 50% of their salaried counterparts.

The cost of living in Japan's large cities can be expensive, and the cramped semi-private booths of Internet cafes provide a safety net of sorts, one step above living on the street.

The documentary is part of a series of films based on “Japan’s Disposable Workers,” a portrait series by photojournalist Shiho Fukada.

The “Japan’s Disposable Workers” series of documentary film shorts explores the labor issues affecting Japan in three sections, illustrating a larger, ongoing global labor crisis at work.

Previous films in the series based on Fukada's work include “Overworked to Suicide” and “Dumping Ground.” 

Overworked to Suicide” documents working conditions in Japan after the recession of the 1990s, when Japan's white-collar salaried workers would increasingly work arduous hours for fear of losing their jobs, resulting in increased rates of depression and suicide.

Dumping Ground” tells the story of Kamagasaki, Osaka, which used to be a thriving day laborer's town. Today, it is home to approximately 25,000 unemployed and elderly men, many of whom are also homeless. 

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