Sad/fascinating piece from Hiroko Tabuchi in NYT: For some in Japan, Home is a tiny plastic bunk

For Atsushi Nakanishi, jobless since Christmas, home is a cubicle barely bigger than a coffin — one of dozens of berths stacked two units high in one of central Tokyo’s decrepit “capsule” hotels….

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.

Such quarters are surprisingly expensive: $640 per month. About $20 per square foot per month. A 650 square foot one bedroom in a good Manhattan neighborhood — the most expensive rental market in the U.S. I’m sure — probably averages about $2500. Less than $4 per sqft per month.

The comparison is not totally fair. These are technically hotels, not apartments.  Still, I think it’s worth making because the article says many now stay months on end.

Tabuchi doesn’t mention how widespread such hotels are in Japan, though his use of the plural in his opening paragraph suggests this isn’t the only one of its kind. He does mention Japan’s “hidden” homeless, noting that many overnight in internet cafes.

Make sure to see the slideshow attached to the article. The “capsules” may be 6.5 feet long, but sure don’t look 5 feet wide.