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

Categories: East Asia, Japan, Citizen Media, Economics & Business, Film, Labor, Media & Journalism, Politics
internet cafe [1]

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

Shiho Fukada's “Japan's Disposable Workers,” produced in collaboration with MediaStorm [2] and the Pulitzer Centre [3], 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 [4],” a portrait series by photojournalist Shiho Fukada [5].

The “Japan’s Disposable Workers [6]” 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 [7]” 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 [8]” 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.