The practice of using net cafes as permanent or semi-permantent residences has been on the increase in recent years, due to their cheap price, good amenities and central locations. The Japanese government has published figures suggesting that “net cafe refugees”, people who use a net cafe or manga kisa as their sole residence, now number around 5,500.
Some related findings by an NPO involved in the research are slightly surprising: we hear that the usual image of young men in their late teens and early twenties is inaccurate; in fact most of them were 25-35, and a number were even older. Their wages were also higher than might be imagined, though commuting seemed to eat into these and be a factor in their net cafe residence.
It does seem more common for these residents to net cafe inhabitants, rather than refugees, and it may be that the number of those using the cafes out of choice rather than necessity is considerably higher.
I can’t help but caution at this juncture that their sample size for some of their findings, 100 people, is not really something one can justifiably generalise from (though the government figures appear not to be in much doubt), but the findings are at least something, and those conducting the research seem to have plenty of background in the area. Still, scepticism is, as ever, desirable.