Japan cyber cafe offers home address to homeless

Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:10am EST
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By Chika Osaka

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - In a country where an street address is key to getting a job, an Internet cafe near Tokyo is offering the unemployed and homeless more than just a virtual, email address.

In addition to the usual Internet services, comic books and unlimited beverages offered by most Japanese Internet cafes, Cyber @ Cafe offers its residents long-term lodging and an official registered address.

This simple service is vital for the 50 semi-permanent residents of the cafe, many of whom have taken refuge here after being laid off abruptly during the current recession.

Takemitsu Karitachi, a contract worker at a nearby factory, is one of the many people who have been sleeping at the cafe every night for the past two months since he lost his office job and his apartment.

Karitachi, who used to roam the streets and hopped between various Internet cafes for months, says he is now relieved to have found a more permanent home -- even if it's a cubicle just slightly bigger than the back seat of a car.

"Before I came here, I would sit around on chairs in front of places like supermarkets and eat rice balls during the day. But when I really didn't have any money or work, I had to sleep on park benches at night," Karitachi told Reuters.


Like Karitachi, many of people who frequent cyber cafes are unemployed and homeless who are looking for shelter, but unlike the residents of Cyber @ Cafe, they can't call these places home.   Continued...

<p>A homeless man sits on blankets piled up with his belongings on a park bench in Tokyo in a file photo. REUTERS/Eriko Sugita</p>