When Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510 opened nearly two decades ago, Japan was just beginning to pull back from its bubble economy, and the hotel’s tiny plastic cubicles offered a night’s refuge to salarymen who had missed the last train home.
Now, Hotel Shinjuku 510’s capsules, no larger than 6 1/2 feet long by 5 feet wide, and not tall enough to stand up in, have become an affordable option for some people with nowhere else to go as Japan endures its worst recession since World War II.
Rent is equivalent of 640 US Dollars a month. Expensive enough, but cheaper than other options in Tokyo.
Each capsule is furnished only with a light, a small TV with earphones, coat hooks, a thin blanket and a hard pillow of rice husks.
Most possessions, from shirts to shaving cream, must be kept in lockers. There is a common room with old couches, a dining area and rows of sinks. Cigarette smoke is everywhere, as are security cameras. But the hotel staff does its best to put guests at ease: “Welcome home,” employees say at the entrance.
Unemployment is 5.2%, not terrible by today’s global standards, but a record high for Japan, and the poverty rate is 15.7%, very high for an industrialized country.
…about two years ago, the hotel started to notice that guests were staying weeks, then months, he said. This year, it introduced a reduced rent for dwellers of a month or longer; now, about 100 of the hotel’s 300 capsules are rented out by the month.After requests from its long-term dwellers, the hotel received special government permission to let them register their capsules as their official abode; that made it easier to land job interviews.
Surprising for Tokyo, there are probably 10,000 homeless there, many sleeping in Internet cafe’s and saunas.
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