Friday, January 1st, 2010

Japanese capsule hotels become homeless haven


Way back in 1984, William Gibson took the then new phenomenon of the Japanese capsule hotel, a place for salarymen to rest their head when they’d missed the last train home, and turned it on its ear as a last chance saloon for his criminal protagonist. While the capsule hotel hasn’t yet become a den of villainy, it is a new alternative for the many otherwise homeless Japanese desperately looking for work. While the Japanese economy continues to tank, many are turning to the tiny self-contained bunks as their last resort before hitting the streets.

I’ve never been to a capsule hotel, but I have been to Tokyo several times, most recently this October, and the homeless problem is definitely getting worse. What was at first an anomaly is now if not common place than certainly more noticeable. With an aging population and a seemingly intractable economic mess, it’s hard to see how this problem will get solved anytime soon.

Warren Frey is a journalist, freelance writer, podcaster, video producer, and all-around media consultant currently based in Vancouver, Canada. His written work has appeared in such publications as Metro Vancouver, the Westender, Mac | Life and the Japan Times.

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