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Tokyo: Housing For The Financially Challenged

Eric Blair investigated life in Paris, London, and other locations from 1927 to 1931, sleeping in a number of unpleasant locations. Based on his experiences and not wanting to use his own name, Blair published "Down and Out in Paris and London" under the name of George Orwell in 1933. Orwell's story is one of poverty in Paris, London, and elsewhere. Orwell might see little difference in the options Tokyo provides for the financially challenged: capsule hotels, closet houses, manga coffee shops, and Internet cafe couches.

Capsule hotels

Capsule hotels started with the Capsule Inn Osaka, which was designed by renowned architect Kisho Kurokawa. Capsule hotels originally started as economical hotels for businessmen or for people too drunk to make their way home. Each capsule is approximately 2 m by 1 m by 1.25 m, giving just enough room to sleep. These capsules are stacked next to each other, and one on top of each other in two levels, with steps for people on the second level. Guests can store their luggage in a locker. Capsule hotels are economical, costing as little as a few thousand yen per night, but they are certainly not the bottom of the options Tokyo provides for the financially challenged. They are, however, the beginning.

Closet houses

Closet houses are just that, houses where people live in half of a Japanese closet. Japanese closets have a strong shelf going across them that separates them into top and bottom halves. This is approximately a 2.5-square meter room without a window. A shared sliding door opens and closes the way to the room for the people staying in both halves of the closet. Closet rooms are available for as low as 1,500 a night or a discounted rate of 18,000 yen a month. Tokyo has almost nothing for less.

Manga coffee shops

Manga coffee shops are coffee shops where people read manga, which are Japanese comics. The coffee shops have large manga libraries and charge a rate of approximately 400 yen an hour. The rate goes down if you purchase a package for a number of hours. Some people take advantage of these coffee shops to stay for the night, which will probably cost somewhere over 1,000 yen. Some private rooms offer sofas and reclining seats.

Internet cafes

Internet cafes and manga cafes were once completely different, with the Internet cafes offering Internet services and the manga cafes offering manga. Today, many manga cafe offer Internet services and many Internet cafe offer manga. In terms of staying the night, there may be little difference between the two options.

As the Japanese economy continues to stagnate, the homeless and working poor are being squeezed tighter and tighter. Many of the people sleeping in closet houses and cafes do work. The income they earn, however, is not enough. In many ways, little has changed since 1933 when Blair published "Down and Out in Paris and London" under the name of George Orwell.


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