LWIF X EP6: Visible Homeless in Tokyo, Japan

Join me as I go on a walk around Shinjuku, a major government and business district in Tokyo, exploring the living conditions of the visible homeless.

Disclaimer: Everything presented is simply my observations and some anecdotes I’ve heard. This is the start of my investigation into the homeless issues that Japan faces, so take what I say as uninformed opinion, not fact. This is very early on in my research, but I wanted to share what I’ve seen so far.

What prompted me to investigate homelessness, is that the visible homeless in Tokyo seem quite different than the visible homeless I encountered in Vancouver, Canada or in San Francisco, United States. In Vancouver, you can see many homeless that suffer from mental illness, have drug and drinking addictions, and are survivors of abuse. In San Francisco, the homeless I encountered were more visible in the well-trafficked areas and were vocal in their begging. In Tokyo, the homeless seem to be quiet, respectful of others, and organized (in that they kept their belonging relatively tidy). They also didn’t appear to suffer from apparent mental issues. They seemed to have their act together enough that I figure they would be able to make use of the social safety net and not have to live on the streets. So why are they on the streets?

In the video, and even in writing this, I’m very worried about the terminology that I’ve used. The homeless are marginalized and I don’t want to marginalize them even more. So I’m struggling with coming up with the right way to phrase things, and I’m afraid I haven’t done the best of jobs. So if it’s not apparent, here’s my stance. I think we live in wealthy societies and that poorest and unfortunate should be able to live in peace and comfort, as well as given opportunities to ameliorate their situation. How this is achieved, I don’t think we quite know yet, otherwise homelessness wouldn’t be an issue.

I didn’t ask this in the video, but what kind of questions around homeless in Tokyo/Japan do you think I should investigating. And as I did ask in the video, what does the visible homeless (and the non-visible as well) look like where you’re from?