Twenty years ago, Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510 was a place where Tokyo's businessmen could get a quick night's sleep after a long day at the office. Today its an apartment building for those left unemployed by the devastating recession.
As Japan's jobless rate creeps higher - it is currently 5.2 per cent, the highest its ever been - some Tokyo residents are saving money by moving into hotels. Caspule hotels.
We've looked at capsule hotels before and thought it might be fun to spend a night of deep sleep in a futuristic, high-tech pod. But this report from yesterday's New York Times presents the sobering reality of life in a capsule.
At about $US620 a month, rent's not that cheap, though that does afford you a small in-capsule TV and fresh linens, as well as access to communal areas. The capsules have screens instead of doors, and their thin walls provide little privacy. There is, of course, little space for personal possessions, so most residents keep their things stowed in even smaller lockers on the premises.
The hotel's proprietor estimates about a third of the establishment's 3000 capsules are rented long term, on a month-by-month basis. It is heartening, though, to read that the capsule-dwelling individuals interviewed in this article remain optimistic about what the future holds. You can read their stories and find more photographs at the link. [New York Times via Lisa Katayama's Twitter]