Called “coffin apartments” (Geki-sema) or capsule hotels/coffin cubicles, they’re Japan’s and China’s solution to cheap housing for the poor and underprivileged citizens. Designed to fit a single bed and not even tall enough to stand up in, these tiny apartments can measure as small as a mere 6 foot long by 3 foot wide with ceilings only 3-4 feet high giving the resident a meager 16 square foot home that are stacked atop each other to maximize space – and profits. Hidden amid the multi-million dollar high-rise apartments in Tokyo and gleaming skyscrapers in Hong Kong, they are not for the claustrophobic. One resident told CNN:
“No one wants to live here, but we need to survive. It’s a step up from being on the streets.”
Residents share a communal toilet, sink, and shower area. Some of the coffin houses are constructed like fame-walled boxes, akin to an enclosed bunk bed or stacked lockers, while others are little more than a wire cage, similar to the rows of cages in an animal rescue shelter. In Tokyo, the coffin-like boxes can run $1,000 per month. In Hong Kong, at $160 per month, poor renters still find it hard to make ends meet.
Why do they exist? The income gap is so large in places like Hong Kong that people who cannot afford real estate prices topping over $10,000 per square foot, are left behind.