Not having enough money to pay rent each month isn’t their biggest problem is securing permanent housing, though.

In Tokyo, the trains stop running a little after midnight, but that doesn’t mean you have to go home. A number of businesses are happy to let paying customers hang out until morning comes, such as internet cafes, manga cafes, video viewing rooms, saunas, and capsule hotels.

These “all-night businesses” are a convenient option for partiers who’ve missed the last train. They’re less expensive than a taxi ride home or a room in a conventional hotel, and while they’re not as cheap as loitering in a 24-hour fast food joint, the staff won’t kick you out for sleeping. But a study done by housing assistance organization Tokyo Challenge Net reveals that not everyone who’s spending the night in a manga cafe is there because they were having too much fun to get to the station before the last train pulled out.

Tokyo Challenge Net collected data from a total of 222 all-night businesses (156 Internet/manga cafes, three “Internet rooms,” 24 video rooms, and 39 capsule hotels or saunas) over a three-month period starting in November 2016, and has recently released the results of its analysis. Through interviews and phone conversations, researchers found 946 people who were spending the night in one of these all-night businesses, and from the total number of such businesses in the city, calculates that on any given weekday night in Tokyo some 15,300 people are sleeping in an all-night business.

The most commonly given reason was “as part of travel of a business trip,” which was the response from 37.1 percent of respondents. Coming in second, though, at an alarming 25.8 percent, was “I don’t have a home.”

353 of the survey respondents said they have either lost their home or fear losing it, with roughly 90 percent of this group staying in all-night businesses at least three times a week. People in their 30s made up the largest chunk of this group, 38.6 percent, with another 28.9 percent being between 50 and 59 years old. Young adults in their 20s, meanwhile, accounted for less than 15 percent of those homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. Roughly half (46.8 ercent) said their monthly income was between 110,000 and 150,000 yen (US$980-US$1,340), with another 10.7 percent saying they had no income at all.

▼ The fact that many Internet cafes provide free self-serve soft drinks, and sometimes soup or even ice cream, is also probably an attractive point to those who need to stretch every yen.

Even with this dire financial background, though, the most commonly cited problem wasn’t not being able to afford rent. Instead, it’s the hefty upfront fees that renters have to pay in Japan before moving into an apartment, including security deposits, advance rent, and the dreaded gratuity to the landlord known as “key money,” that was the major hurdle, with 62.8 percent saying they can’t afford it. Next on the list was not being able to handle monthly rent payments (33.3 percent), followed by not having anyone to act as guarantor/cosigner on the lease (30.9 percent). Faced with such difficulties, a night in a an Internet cafe, which can cost as little as 1,000 yen for a five-hour stay, is an attractive quick-fix.

It should be noted that while Japan doesn’t have anywhere near the number of homeless shelters as similarly developed countries (which is part of the reason why homeless encampments can often be seen in certain Tokyo parks), the country does have organizations, such as Tokyo Challenge Net, which are doing what they can to help those in need of assistance. And though the study’s data was collected over a year ago, there haven’t been any significant changes to Japan’s economic fortunes or social welfare programs since the survey was conducted, and so it’s likely there are still just as many people staying in all-night businesses because they have nowhere else to sleep.

Related: Tokyo Challenge Net
Source: IT Media, Tokyo Metropolitan Government
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