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People living on ¥1 mil a year: How do they manage?

17 Comments

“Kenta Ochiai” – all the names in this story are pseudonyms – lives in a storage locker. Floor space is 1 ½ tatami mats. There’s no window. The ceiling light bulb is on 24 hours a day. It can’t be turned off. “Without my cell phone, I wouldn’t know if it’s day or night.”

It’s no place for a person to live. In fact, living in it is illegal. But one of the things about living on 1 million yen a year, as Ochiai is doing, is that, having fallen through just about all the cracks in the social system, you pass pretty much unnoticed, for better or for worse.

Spa! (Sept 3) notices – and reminds us – that there are people living at this level of extreme poverty. It doesn’t provide numbers, but warns that Japan’s spreading gap between rich and poor is making the poor more numerous, and more wretched.

Ochiai’s storage space is in a two-story building  in central Tokyo. Rent: 10,000 yen a month. He has no idea what goes on in the 50 or so other rooms in the building, but the footsteps and other sounds that penetrate his thin walls lets him know he’s not alone.

He’s 44, a day laborer – actually a night laborer. He used to do various part-time jobs, but three years ago, for reasons not specified, he lost his hold on the tenuous stability they provided and found himself unemployed. He lived with this friend, with that friend, until after a few months he ran out of friends and hit rock bottom. We’re not told what kind of night labor he does to ward off starvation. He earns roughly 100,000 yen a month. Working nights, he spends his days dozing in a public library or some such venue. He sleeps in the storage space only on nights he’s not working. In midsummer heat – 35 degrees at times – it must be unbearable. It contains, of course, no cooking facilities. He lives on the cheapest convenience store fare, and cools his pillow with cans of ice-cold tea.

“Shinji Yamakita” is an “internet cafe refugee.” It’s a breed said to number some 4,000 in Tokyo alone. It’s better than sleeping rough, presumably, but it’s life stripped to the bone all the same. Spa! meets Yamakita at the cafe. It’s in an 8-floor building. The cafe is on the ground floor. Its sleeping quarters are spread from the 4th to 8th floors – 150 tiny rooms, thinly partitioned, full of people sleeping on plastic sheets on the floor. Privacy -- there is none. The premises smell of sweat, dust and instant noodles. “I’ve been living like this for a month,” Yamakita says. Sleep doesn’t come easily. The mass snoring keeps him awake.

He’s 37, and was in construction, until illness made that kind of work impossible. Like Ochiai, he survives on day labor. He finds it on a website posting the relevant contacts. Currently he’s working at a warehouse, earning 110,000-130,000 yen a month. He hopes the employment will turn steady. He’s had enough of internet cafe life.

“Aika Honma,” for her part, seems content with her lot. She’s 19. Two months ago she ran away from her home in Kanagawa Prefecture and ended up, as many homeless young women do, in Tokyo’s Kabukicho entertainment district. Spa! meets her first thing one morning on the sidewalk outside an “encounter cafe.” It opens at 10. She doesn’t mind waiting an hour if it means being the first one inside and having a choice of tables. “Here they have nail polish and make-up, and it’s free,” she says.

Installing herself, she absorbs herself in her smartphone. Maybe a man will invite her out for a meal; maybe he’ll give her some pocket money. “If I didn’t have to do anything for it,” she smiles, “it would be paradise.” It must be pretty good anyway. “In the two months since I left home I haven’t been out of Kabukicho,” she says.

She’s met girls who earn 30,000 yen a day; she’s happy with 5,000 yen: “There’s nothing I want, just enough to live day by day.” The day’s work done, she retires to a capsule hotel for the night. First thing next morning will find her outside the encounter cafe.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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Many Japanese are working on the very low minimum wage trying to survive. Japan has the lowest minimum wage of all OECD countries surveyed. So much for a country that is regarded as rich by the rest of the world. It is not just young people who are forced to take low wages on contract and non permanent jobs. Many are in the older group of people.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

That's OK. Softbank just reported the highest quarterly profit in the history of Japan-- and paid zero corporate tax in Japan.

The desperate plight of the hard-working class is why economies run by neo-liberal free-traders need a basic income. Failing that, Japan should start constructing an extensive welfare state with public housing, free healthcare and a free pension. If people say Japan can't afford it, then make Softbank and the billionaires pay some damn taxes.

2 ( +11 / -9 )

Those Japanese interviewed are not complaining about political policies, and don't evoke voting. Nothing will happen nor change.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

@JeffLee

Horse Hockey.

Softbank paid 3.7 billion yen just in "back taxes" in 2018, and pays taxes indirectly on everything the buy through consumption takes on purchases of hardware, etc. They also pay 50% of employee pensions and insurance premiums as well. That is not "zero" by any means. Far from it.

Japan already has the biggest welfare state in the world (health care costs alone were ¥41.5 trillion in 2018). Health care is about as free as it can get: a basic doctor visit costs about $5-$10. How can Japan "start constructing an extensive welfare state" when it already has one?

Free income? Why? Encouraging companies to hire people and pay them more so they can live comfortably is the better choice (excluding the disabled and elderly).

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

@Mike James

Japan already has the biggest welfare state in the world

Not it doesn't. Public housing is minuscule compared to western Europe and the qualifications are onerous. Japanese people are billed directly ("out of pocket") for their basic healthcare insurance and for the basic state pension. In my country, Canada, those are free.

"Softbank paid 3.7 billion yen just in "back taxes" in 2018,"

Right, well, those "back taxes" were actually "penalties" for tax evasion. LOL. The 3.7 billion was punishment for trying to conceal.... 94 billion! Sweet deal!

https://www.nippon.com/en/news/yjj2018041800637/softbank-group-fails-to-declare-93-9-b-yen-in-taxable-income.html

See also,

"SoftBank cuts Japan tax bill to zero"

(Nikkei)

https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/SoftBank-cuts-Japan-tax-bill-to-zero-with-Arm-transfer-to-Vision-Fund

4 ( +9 / -5 )

In my country, Canada, those are free.

Nothing is ever free Jeff.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Medical expenses per capita is not even at the level of Ireland...

https://data.oecd.org/healthres/health-spending.htm

So system must be efficient but costs gonna rise much more so Japan will not be able to cope with it. Workers will pay tremendous taxes.

Better leave the country if you are young.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Aika Honma works in an encounter cafe. What is that please ?

I will asks my girls to work in such cafe as it is presented as a very nice and social job with plenty of money to make.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

He lives on the cheapest convenience store fare

There's one problem right there. He should be going to a supermarket after 9pm and buying discounted stuff which is cheaper than convenience store stuff..

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I notice a lot of homeless people around, young and old.

The Big Issue sellers I know by name are constantly changing too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No room to judge, anyone could end up like that after a few falls. Divorce, illness, injury, brush with the law will bring anyone to their knees.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

@Reckless

Wise words. Been heading that way a couple of times myself....

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Mike James

Free income? Why?

Because unlike tools, people need to eat, dress and be kept warm until they are needed by the economy or able again.

And they pay for it via their taxes and national insurances.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Heartbreaking.

Time to legislate raises in minimum hourly/daily/monthly wages. Employers will not raise wages unless forced to. Make increases in small increments over a sustained period of time in order to soften the blow and give time to adjust.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Jonathan Prin

You would have your girls working in an “encounter cafe”? I would not...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Failing that, Japan should start constructing an extensive welfare state with public housing, free healthcare and a free pension. If people say Japan can't afford it, then make Softbank and the billionaires pay some damn taxes.

exactly! Well said Jeff!!

No room to judge, anyone could end up like that after a few falls. Divorce, illness, injury, brush with the law will bring anyone to their knees.

absolutely!

Heartbreaking.

> Time to legislate raises in minimum hourly/daily/monthly wages. Employers will not raise wages unless forced to. Make increases in small increments over a sustained period of time in order to soften the blow and give time to adjust.

That would be the right thing to do seeing how the tax hike is kicking in soon.. But I'm not holding my breath with this train wreck of a political party and PM

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Time to legislate raises in minimum hourly/daily/monthly wages.

This will simply make the problem worse. Legislation almost always does, especially when they try to circumvent basic economics. Japan needs fundamental changes, but that won't happen until the people wake up and vote out the gang of corrupt elites who run things.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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