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Survey: 80% of Manga/Internet Cafes Have "Residents"

posted on by Evan Miller
Survey shows a dramatic increase in customers that use cafes as a hotel due to poverty, high rental costs

In recent years, Japan has seen an increase in Internet and Manga Cafes that are open 24 hours. These cafes include conveniences such as unlimited drinks, a large library of manga, private booths for internet and video game use, and (in some locations) showers that customers can use. Although their popularity continues to grow, these cafes are now the focus of what the Japanese government considers to be a serious social problem.

According to a survey conducted by the non-profit group Metro Tokyo Youth Union (Shutoken Seinen Union) has revealed an unusual trend at Manga and Internet Cafes in Japan: more and more of the people who use the cafes are staying there for extended periods of time. The survey results were made public in early Saturday editions of the Mainichi Shinbun and Daily Yomiuri.

The survey was conducted at 34 cafes in 10 different prefectures through interviews with 85 individual cafe customers. The results of the survey underscore growing concern by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare that increased use of the cafes as a place to stay is a sign of increased poverty. The Ministry is planning to conduct their own investigation of the problem as well.

Of the 34 cafes surveyed, 26 cafes located across all 10 prefectures included have young customers that have been staying there for extended periods of time. Some of the cafes surveyed had more than 10 customers that were in a long term stay. Among those surveyed, there were young people without homes as well as people who are renting an apartment of their own. A considerable amount of those surveyed have been using the cafes as cheap lodging when they are working far from home or on business trips.

The surveys revealed that life at the cafes can be difficult. One unnamed 24-year old-male customer interviewed used to work a low wage job at a TV station but quit when the work became too much to handle. Since quitting, he has been making approximately 200,000 yen (about US$1,800) a month but has been unable to pay the fees required for a new apartment. As a result, he has been living in the Manga/Internet Cafe for 2 years. He says that there are 30 people who are also "living" in the cafe.

The cafe can also serve as a refuge: one person interviewed in Nara Prefecture stated that he only makes 80,000 yen a month and is often scolded by his parents at home. As a result, he often stays at the cafe.

Typically, use of a Manga and Internet Cafe for one hour costs 200-300 yen. During that time, the customer can read whatever manga they wish, Many cafes offer nighttime specials, where customers can stay the entire night after a set time for a lower price, typically 1,500 yen. Shin Kawasoe, Secretary General of the Metro Tokyo Youth Union, states, "For young people who do not have a steady income, it is easier for them to live [at a cafe]. Before discussing self-responsibility in cases like these, it is necessary that we develop some kind of administrative support [for them]."

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