The New York Times reported on Saturday on the economic crisis in Japan and how small hotel “capsules” are being repurposed as housing for the unemployed. These tiny dwellings are often all that is affordable for Tokyo’s near homeless:
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.
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The rent is surprisingly high for such a small space: 59,000 yen a month, or about $640, for an upper bunk. But with no upfront deposit or extra utility charges, and basic amenities like fresh linens and free use of a communal bath and sauna, the cost is far less than renting an apartment in Tokyo, Mr. [Atsushi] Nakanishi says.
The article describes more of what is included in the $640 per month rent:
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.
The article fascinated me because the tone of the reporter felt negative to me. However, in my opinion, these capsule hotels seem like a humane housing alternative for those truly in need. They are safe (the article mentions a strong security presence), warm, and provide a permanent address. (Not having an address is a huge disadvantage when seeking employment.) Obviously, they’re not the finest or largest dwellings in Tokyo, but they seem better than the streets or an unsafe, poorly maintained apartment building.
What do you think of these small capsules as semi-permanent dwellings for those in need? I’m interested in reading your reactions in the comments.