Perhaps you have the image that Japan does not have poverty, but there is and there are hundreds of homeless people in Tokyo, the country’s capital.
And homelessness happens a lot in the Japanese capital. However, they are not given the attention they deserve. And people are often kicked out of where they are so that they are not as visible.
No wonder, rarely a tourist will see someone homeless in Tokyo. And this does not mean that they are few, but that they are moved all the time so that no one sees them.
Learn more about this harsh Japanese reality here.
Homeless in Tokyo
According reported the Japanese newspaper Mainichi, and according to figures published by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there were only 770 homeless people in Tokyo in January 2022. In a city of about 14 million people, that number seems hard to believe. Possibly this number is much higher, but the government itself does not disclose them or does research that is already biased.
Although the Japanese government has carried out studies and tried to help, this is simply not enough. Independent groups like Tokyo Spring Homeless Patrol (Tokyo Spring Homeless Patrol – TSHP) play an important role in supporting these people. Based on TSHP interviews, many homeless people don’t even know about available social assistance programs. Also, those claiming the application process are overly specific and detailed.
Tokyo’s homeless and the help they receive
Tokyo Spring leader Sulejman Brkic, originally from Bosnia, has been helping the homeless in Tokyo for over 15 years and says that since the pandemic, there are now more homeless people on the streets.
“TWe have to distribute more food, that’s how we know,” Brkic said in an interview with Metropolis. “We noticed some younger faces and more women than before the pandemic.”
According to Brkic, when the coronavirus arrived, they didn’t know what it was or what to do, so they suspended their patrols for a few weeks.
“But even [suspender os serviços por] just two weeks didn’t feel right,” says Brkic. “The only word I can think of to describe my feelings is, well, embarrassing. Then that’s it? I thought. Shit hits the fan, fuck everybody, run for safety, save your own ass… No, that’s not right, solidarity is not that.
“We actually decided to ask the homeless what they wanted after explaining to them that we were at risk of infecting us. They wanted us back. I clearly remember a homeless lady who was very angry. She said everyone stopped coming and no one was getting anything around JR Shinjuku’s west exit. We come back with masks and gloves – and masks for them too.”
Solidarity is important to the spirit of Tokyo Spring, which is not simply a charity, but a left-wing, anti-capitalist direct action group.
“We took sides. We do this because the Japanese government and the Japanese population in general don’t care. Everyone involved in this group is making a difference,” says Brkic.
Source: Mainichi.JP and Metropolis.