The New York Times recently ran a story about unemployed Japanese men who sleep in tiny bunks that are stacked on top of each other.
My initial reaction was that sleeping in Japanese capsule hotels is no big deal. Capsules are safe, clean, and centrally located, with traditional Japanese baths and easy access to fast public transport.
I’ve stayed in Japanese capsules a couple of times, though my favorite budget accommodation choice in Japanese cities was always the 24 hour internet cafe with private cubicle.
After all, who needs a full-on hotel room when you just want to sleep for a few hours? You’re in Shinjuku, man!
But there’s a difference between crashing in a capsule for a night, and using one as a home of last resort.
Home – reduced to a tiny locker in a vast, heartless city – is a deeply saddening idea.
The importance of how we look at our homes is the powerful message in The Recess Ends, an excellent new documentary film about the American recession.
The Recess Ends opens with a man talking about homes. He speaks about Americans who’ve stayed inside their big homes for the past decade and are just now starting to emerge, take stock of their communities, and take true ownership over their collective future.
Worldwide, billions of people are losing their jobs, losing their homes and losing their livelihoods. It’s happening in rural Africa, India and China, and now it’s happening in rich countries like America and Japan.
Most Americans and Japanese, though, are still rich enough to barricade themselves in shrinking homes, getting more and more frustrated and alone.
Reflecting on shrinking Japanese homes and The Recess Ends reminds me of one of the most profound lessons of travel – that home is not a building, an apartment, or a bunk.
Home is a community. Home is a refuge. Home is wherever our loved ones live.
What does home mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments!