Economics/Class Relations

Japan: Living in an Internet Cafe

Tadayuki Sakai moved to an Internet cafe in Tokyo shortly after leaving his job at a credit card company, where he worked for 20 years. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.

Shiho Fukada

Story by Brett Roegiers, CNN

Fumiya has learned to sleep with a blanket over his face to block out the fluorescent lights that stay on all night. Unable to afford an apartment in Tokyo, he has been living in an Internet cafe for nearly a year.

At 26, he is part of Japan’s struggling working class. Temporary workers with little job security now make up more than a third of the country’s labor force, according to government statistics.

People like Fumiya, who asked that his last name not be used to protect his privacy, have been hit hard by the recession in Japan.

His story illustrates the economic crisis photographer Shiho Fukada has been covering since 2009. A native of Tokyo, she had been living in New York for 10 years when she started a documentary project with funding from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

“For a long time, Japan has been associated with prosperity and a vast middle class supported by stable lifetime employment,” Fukada said. “That’s the country I knew and grew up in.”

But upon returning, she sensed that employees were becoming increasingly disposable in the world’s third largest economy. Companies looking to cut costs had replaced full-time jobs with low-paid temp positions.

As a result, some of the people without enough money to pay rent have been sleeping in Internet cafes.

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