The Blue Shield
The one-man shelters that many of Japan’s homeless construct from heavy blue tarpaulins can be found in parks, under bridges, and along river banks.
An April 2007 Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare report shows there are 4,213 homeless in Tokyo’s 23 wards, and about 18,500 homeless nationwide. The country has a population of 127 million people. The average age of homeless in Japan is 57.5 years.
The numbers of homeless living in these locations:
Urban parks: 5,702
River bank: 5,653
Other Facilities: 3,189
The Washington Post details how the homeless can get back into the system, and states that compared to US standards of homelessness, being homeless in Japan is “not a bad gig”.
Sometimes the homeless in Japan lose their sturdy do-it-yourself shelters, due to the cops, or the weather. The stories below reveal how some homeless people have opted for improved conditions.
Apartment Food Shortage
As food mysteriously disappeared from the home of a man living alone, a hidden camera eventually led the man to the May 2008 discovery of a woman living in a closet in his home. After installing the camera, movements in the house were detected while the owner was away. Cops in Kasuya, Fukuoka prefecture, then found a 58-year-old woman hiding in the top compartment (tenbukuro) of the man’s closet. She had moved a mattress into the space too. The woman told police she had been homeless and had been living in the house since about May 2007. The police said the woman had also taken showers, and called the woman “neat and clean.”
Three Day Feast With Gusto
After being allowed to stay in a restaurant for three days, a homeless man was arrested for not paying his bill. The unemployed man, who was a regular at a Hitachi city Gusto restaurant, ate hamburger steak, fried chicken, and other dishes, worth about 6,500 yen. When arrested, he had only 58 yen. The 51-year-old manager of the outlet said the man had always paid after previous visits. The manager did not explain why the man was allowed to stay in the restaurant for three consecutive days. (Hitachi Gusto Yahoo Gourmet rating 3.33 out of 5 stars)
Surf Shower Shave
About 60,900 people stay overnight at Internet cafes in Japan every day, according to a September 2007 MHLW report. These “net cafe refugees”, are people without steady employment, such as day laborers and temporary workers. An estimated 5,400 homeless people also sleep with the computers at night.
Though low-priced, many Japanese net cafes offer showers, food, and other amenities.
Virtual Back to Reality
Tokyo Challenge Net, a support center offering help to the virtually homeless, opened in Shinjuku, Tokyo, in April 2008. Operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the center advises people prone to sleeping in cyber cafes on how to get a lifestyle.
The office provides loans of up to 200,000 yen for living expenses and 400,000 for rent. It also gives advice on how to save money and the basics of finding and renting an apartment. Similar support centers have opened in Osaka and Aichi prefectures. full story
Tokyo challenge net; i-cafe; ladies shower ; Gusto restaurant
Hamburg steak recipe
Luxury gap: how Japan turned into a nation of the haves and the have-nots