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Kilina Elena, Cubicle shelter: new home for Tokyo homeless Печать E-mail
21.12.2012 г.
Elena Kilina
MA, Lund University


If we look on Japan last decades the existence of new public places as spaces of social and cultural interaction is became one of principal reason of self-determination process. In Japanese context are raised and forms of social relations are transformed. In such circumstances the dichotomy of public and private and understanding what is public and private are becoming blurred. The collapse of urban renewal, the bubble economy consequences brought different phenomenon which are only specific for Japanese society. This paper investigates situation with net café refugee or so called "hidden homeless" (NNN document, NTV first presented publicly this term) which helps to operate the new challenge of studied public place- manga Internet café of Tokyo city. Understanding how people start to live in manga café leads to discussion can manga café be called a public place, semipublic place or pseudo-public space with private use? The introduction of concepts of public and private in Japan within the problem of temporal homeless brings an attention to the question of processes of utility and usage of urban public spaces, as conditions of a social reality of daily life.

Nowadays we live in the shadow of globalized cities which are becoming so called mega-slums and products of super fast economic & ethnic migration like Orangi Township in Karachi, Dharavi slum in Mumbai or Hong Kong's Kowloon in the 50-70's. But the locality of certain spaces does still matters. The object of this paper is Japanese public place as manga internet café. Within the recent phenomenon of people staring to live there it became necessary to comprehend what kind of transformation manga café as particular public place experiences. Since 2007 there are constant materials in Japanese newspapers and internet blogs about the problem of "hidden" homeless and their reasons to choose manga café as a place to live. Presence of privacy in cafes which consists of cubicle rooms and at the same time there are public zones inside of café demonstrates controversial character to define boundaries between public and private. According to Yuasa Makoto (Yuasa, interview for Moyai, 2007) and Hiroaki Mizushimi (Mizushimi,2007) social poverty and constant competition with world economic standards challenges Japanese society and makes such phenomenon as "net café refugee" as a permanent reality. Logically the frequency of these guest has been affected the status of manga café about which not owners neither different customers can estimate public or private place it is. Thus, what boundaries of public and private in Japanese manga café as a space faced lately the socio-anthropological changes of contingent? Is there certain dynamic of transformation of the space being public places for private use?

One of the contextual parts of any public place is people. Since the study object is net café refugee and subject is their transformation within the social phenomenon of temporal homeless people, there is a recent tradition about studying "homelessness" in Japan in general. Iwata Masami, Nishizawa, and Tabuchi research homelessness and their demographic and social consequence in Japan, Miki Hasegawa discusses homeless movement in Tokyo that lasted nearly a decade. It shows how homeless people and their external supporters in the city combined their scarce resources to generate and sustain the movement. Professor of the human geography department of Osaka University Toshio Mizuuchi focuses at the problems of urbanization and homeless people in Japan, there are some of their monographs describe situation of urban development in the context of arising of homeless in Japan. Back to the social phenomenon of manga café and how human's factor can change the environment, Alisa Freedman draws attention on "homeless student" phenomena rather more as individual experience in Japanese society than larger social problem( Freedman,2011:392). Yuasa Makoto had been studying the problems of joblessness and poverty in Japan, his article "Reality of poverty need to be known" (Yuasa, 2007) contains some references to those people who don't have homes staying in public spaces. Freedman put marks on current definition of "homelessness" in Japan as a way to seek a place in inexpensive public accommodations such as Internet café or net café refugee. The most dominant image of so called the "average" homeless in these public spaces is male and over 35-50 years old, many with a long history of insecure housing, and cannot afford to rent even the cheapest apartment, which is more than the cost per month to rent an internet booth daily. Survivability of a city scene demands certain degree of human unpredictability.

Japanese manga café and "hidden homeless"

The history of manga café as the place of mini library of manga comics is long but phenomenon of nanmin (people who live in manga café) had been emerged quite recently. According to the owner of one of the manga net café ( manga-kissa in Japanese) in Nerima area of Tokyo city since the Japanese economics had started to get down and there was the class of people who stayed in cafes longer than one week, those previous manga café were tended to be changed. Beginning with the status of unintended zones for leisure and temporal spaces to spend time and get quick access to Internet net café refugee became cubical shelters for Japanese temporal homeless. That is why the English version of name "nanmin" got this controversial version of the word "refugee". According to one of the first report made in 2007 by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare the amount of customers uses manga café only for enjoying manga comics or cheap Internet service is rapidly decreasing instead of those customers for whom cubicle spaces are first of all "home roof". Being as parks, streets, corners, shops another public place manga café in Japan with social and economic pressure on the society has implied new features- public privacy for those who begin to settle (for while normally) in net café refugee. This tendency of misbalance of private and public can be observed in whole Asia like McDonalds in China and Hong Kong where people who stay per night in McDonalds very often are called McRefugees.

JCCA (the Japan Café Complex Association) was giving report manga and Internet café, 235 companies operates the sales companies and almost 2000 shops all over the country. According to JCCA an emergence of such service or permission to live in public place as manga café decreased level of trust among regular guests but at the same demonstrated the option for potential "temporal homeless". In addition, according to JCCA, people in the middle of the night to use an Internet cafe consists that some people have a real work which is difficult for assuming that sometimes in some areas which have a large number. However, JCCA as MHLW assume that gap between society and "net-citizens" (freeters, gamers, losing jobs people and etc.) is growing and net café refugee gain as negative as positive reputation.


Based on analysis of Japanese urban public space, utility of the space involving variety of disciplines such as human-machine interface, human geography and the rise of professional subcultures the focus will be the dynamics of development the certain public space in Japanese cities such as manga café and in terms of recent social changes how public places can be seen transformed into more private zones. It can be important to study because a theme (and field) of the topic contains an opportunity to observe some groups of people' integration in particular layers of public zones, find out the reasons and patterns of their interaction with the space. The question if usage of utility of public space for Japanese new class - "hidden homeless" people can influence cultural and social life of other social categories, what consequences should be expected from their further moving around public places, and also how city experiences changes from deformation of "public place" and existence that social phenomenon of people living in public pl aces can be set as a topic for future research.


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