Tokyo's greatest shame.
By, Uwe Paschen.
Tokyo is one of the greatest cities on this planet with some of the best museums, parks and attraction one can imagine, it also has one of the World best universities; an impressive infrastructure and maybe even the best public transport system one could desire.
However, it does also have a great shame that it tries to hide by simply ignoring it.
Today, Tokyo is counting over 5000 homeless according to the NGO's, the government believes them to be between 4000 to 5000 though. A number that has been on the rise since the late 70th and that is increasing at an alarming rate since the World’s latest financial fiasco that started with the Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy in New York.
Japan has been ruled for over two generations almost continuusly since WWII by the LDP or Jimintō (自民党), wish is a conservative party that was last lead by Taro Aso.
Aso and his party where deffeted last August 30th with a land slide by the Democratic Party or 民主党 Minshutō wish is a Social Democratic Party lead by Yukio Hatoyama, our new Prime Minister.
Yukio Hatoyama has addressed a great number of problems that Japan is confronted with and promised reforms in his election campaign, those, he seems to carry out so far. Never the less, there is one issue he is avoiding with as much determination as did Taro Aso and all their predecessors, wish would be the questions of the Homeless and Unemployed that Japan is being faced with.
Those ever increasing numbers of Homeless and unemployed are only slowed down by the high Suicide rate that Japan knows.
Not unlike in other countries of the industrial world, in Japan, being Unemployed or Homeless is a great shame. One that no one wants to be confronted with for it would mean disgrace and categorize one as lazy and worth in the eyes of Japan’s society and even with once own family and friends. Only in Japan a homeless person is truly ignored by the masses at large.
Why, the homeless are left on their own with out help from the government or the public at large. Few are those that volunteer to help those in need and organize soup kitchens for them or closing. We have about 20 NGO working with the Homeless and the unemployed here in Tokyo and surrounding areas, trying to provide meals and shelters. Those NGO's receive about 90 per cent of their revenue in form of donations from abroad. The aid given by the NGO's is often undermined by the “Guardian Angels”, a paramilitary group of sorts, that is closed in combat pants, boots and military like beret. They are patrolling the streets to keep order and cleanliness on behalf of the "good" citizens and businesses that support them. Those “Guardians” give the NGO’s much grief at times, for they do not want to see those NGO's setting up in their part of town to help the homeless. Ironically, the NGO’s best ally against the "Guardians" are the Yakuza’s also known as gokudō (極道), they do provide a social function along their better know other activities. Of course one does try to stay away from the Yakuza, still every now and then they are the only thing that stands between being able to help the homeless or being hindered by the "Guardians" to do so.
Other groups helping the homeless are off course religious institutions, such as the Christian or Muslim organizations. Those however, have some strings attached to their help, and this in the form of prayers and/or converting to their books, wish does not go over to well in a predominately Buddhist country. Never the less, many driven by hunger and despair will put up with it and temporary convert or recite a prayer for the sake of a meal.
The benefit of the NGO’s is that they do not ask anyone to convert, nor plead once legion to them or their cause. Maybe, why those are better liked and more credible.
The question on many minds is whether or not the new government will come to the aid of the homeless and the unemployed as well as the temp workers that live from one short term contract to the next and in constant fear that they may end up having to live on the streets them self sooner or latter.
Once cough in the vicious cycle it is next to impossible to get back out again, especially as a male. Woman are still helped by their families and friends and are not seen as failures or lazy if they end up in trouble as their male counterparts are. Over 98 percent of homeless are men, making Woman rather the rare exception of the homeless in Tokyo.
In Japan, one needs to have an address in order to seek employment. The trouble is that in order to have an address one needs employment, since any apartment does need to be paid for and rent is far from affordable in Tokyo, a single room/flat, with no more then 20 scare metre, starts at 50,000.00 Yen per month and that would be cheep and only available in the periphery of Tokyo. Once the utilities paid, it usually ends up being more like 70,000.00 yen per month wish equates to $850.00.
Politics and populace do hardly notice the homeless though and this may be part of their trouble. Japan’s homeless are rather quiet and deeply ashamed of them self and their condition, they try desperately to hide their struggle and do what ever they can to appear “normal”, well closed, clean shaved and you will never see any of them beg or ask for help.
They are the shame of Tokyo and they are ignored by all including them self.
The only thing that gives them away is the bag and the blue tarp that they never let go off and carry with them wherever they may go.
In recent years the only once that did protest this condition and tried to organize in order to change It, where the Freitar (See link bellow). Japans, 15 to 45 year old that are mainly temp workers. The Freitars being the temp workers, the unemployed or even those living on the verge of being homeless. Still holding on though, by taking refuge in the Internet Cafés, those cafes offers them a mattress, some resources and access to a computer for networking. All this for 1,000.00 yen per 24 hour ($12.00), this is their last chance to get out before ending up on the streets of Tokyo and facing the Guardians or the Police telling them to vacate the area.
Japans elite and Government are deeply concerned with birth rates, especially in light of having an aging population that by 2015 will translate into 25 percent of people being over 65 years old and by 2050 Japan will be left with 90 Million Citizen from the 127 millions it counts today. A disaster in the making that even new immigration policies wont be able to counter any longer.
The dilemma of the low birth rates is directly related to the homeless crises, wish is being ignored with so much determination.
A lack of social housing, a lack of support and a lack organizations, to help those in need to get back on their feet. Translating into a population that can not afford to have children, since they have no stable employment, this in spite of being highly qualified in many cases. Nor can they afford the existing rates for apartments in Tokyo and even food is extremely expensive to the point that many cannot eat more then a boll of plane rice even though they have a job. Many walls will have to fall before they may be any hope for Japans homeless and its youth. So far even our Social Democratic government has not addressed those issues nor made the connection between all those troubles we are being faced with here in the land of rising Sun.