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Japan’s impoverished ‘hermit crab women’ scuttle about in search of short-term shack-ups

Jitsuwa Taiho August
Jitsuwa Taiho August
The hermit crab, as is well known, inhabits the shells abandoned by other creatures, moving into successively larger ones as its body size increases.

The physical measurements of the yadokari onna (hermit crab woman), by contrast, do not appear related to her frequent changes of address, which are brought about by impoverished circumstances.

According to the latest economic statistics, the incomes of approximately 30 percent of the single women in Japan fall below the poverty line, which is defined by less than 85,000 yen in disposable monthly income apart from rent.

This, reports Jitsuwa Taiho (August), has led to a growing population of impecunious, transient females who seek out short-term overnight accommodations.

“I’ve had three changes of address this year,” a 27-year-old woman named Kyoko, who works for a welfare facility in Tokyo, tells the magazine. “I can get all my possessions into a single suitcase, so what I mean by ‘moving’ is really just moving in to some guy’s room on a temporary basis.”

Kyoko tells the interviewer that her monthly earnings are a little less than 120,000 yen. “I was paying 45,000 yen a month to live in a tiny apartment with no bath, but even that was too much. So I talked my boyfriend to letting me move into his place and then paying for part of the rent.

But after the two split up, Kyoko was forced to seek out a succession of other men willing to provide shelter.

Shiori, age 24, was just kicked out by her ex-boyfriend. Now she’s effectively homeless.

“Can I stay over at your place?” she implores the reporter. Her suitcase is stashed at a large coin locker at a nearby rail station.

Shiori, a good-looker described as resembling actress Ryoko Hirosue, is a temp-help worker contracted with a worker-dispatch firm. Earning about 140,000 yen per month, she’s been unable to accumulate savings, and therefore lacks enough funds to put down a deposit on a rental.

“Last night I couldn’t find anybody to take me in, so I stayed in a manga kissa (coffee shops that rent out space by the hour with beverage and comics books),” she shrugs. “The night before I solicited an older man who was here on a business trip from Osaka, and he let me sleep in his room. Did he pay me? No, I thanked him. He told me the next time he comes to Tokyo I can stay with him again.

“Since I’m broke, letting him have sex with me is my way of thanking him,” Shiori explains. “And since I don’t have a boyfriend now, it’s a good a way as any to satisfy my own cravings.”

The best places to hunt for a yadokari onna are Internet cafes and manga kissa, establishments normally used by men. (Which, obviously, is why the women go there.)

While an overwhelming percentage of such females are single, on rare occasions, it’s also possible to find married women.

“I’m living apart from my husband,” says Asami (age 34). “We split up because of my playing around, but he says he doesn’t want to divorce me. I seldom see him, I hunt for partners via bulletin boards on the Web.”

The inability of Asami’s husband to satisfy her physical cravings — he’s eight years older than her and already showing premature signs of ED — is the main reason for this strange arrangement.

“The sex has been great,” she tells the magazine. “Nothing turns me on like hitting the streets in search for a bed, especially one with a virile man in it!” (K.S.)

Source: “Hinkon joshi yadokari seikatsu,” Jitsuwa Taiho (August, page 62)

Note: Brief extracts from Japanese vernacular media in the public domain that appear here were translated and summarized under the principle of “fair use.” Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the translations. However, we are not responsible for the veracity of their contents. The activities of individuals described herein should not be construed as “typical” behavior of Japanese people nor reflect the intention to portray the country in a negative manner. Our sole aim is to provide examples of various types of reading matter enjoyed by Japanese.