Why Japan's Homeless are Different from North America's (Part 1)

One day while walking around Shinjuku, a major hub for government and business in Tokyo, Japan, I noticed a shelter built by a homeless man. It looked semi-permanent, but more importantly, had solar panels on it. I thought this was very different than the homeless I encountered in my former city of Vancouver, Canada, so I started to investigate homelessness in Japan.

I was lucky enough to interview Professor Tom Gill, who has researched homelessness and other societal issues in Japan for many years.

This is part 1 of a series of videos I’m making about the homeless in Japan. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave in the comments. Thanks for watching.


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→ UN Drug Use and Health Consequences Data –
→ Yakuza by apes_abroad – CC BY-SA 2.0,
→ Horse Racing – By Guilhem Vellut from Tokyo, Japan – Horse racing @ Tokyo Race Course @ Fuchu, CC BY 2.0,
→ Pachinko By Tischbeinahe – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
→ U.S. Marine Corps By Sgt. Christopher R. Rye – Public Domain,
→ Deinstitutialisation –
→ Care in the Community –

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  1. Japan is too rigid, incomplete, and empty, to me… That is how I feel about it.. While there is a certain truth to there being perfection in simplicity, simplicity, in my opinion, also indicates a lack of growth, or unwillingness or inability to try new things.

    I think Japan tries to APPEAR as if they are open, by adopting so many things from outside cultures.. But it feels like an attempt to hide a xenophobic and rigid personality to outsiders.

    It really shows in how they don't even really have a view on begging because they've never even come close to situations where they have to touch on the subject of sharing.

    It really shows in the top comment, as well.. There you see the perfection in simplicity, in that theft is so small, but it's like that because order implies a lack of general action amongst the populous. A clean area is usually clean because there is so little traffic.. For it to be that way while under a stream of traffic like Japan's..

    It can't all be personally DESIRED order within each individual.. It's too unlike humanity under Earthly conditions.. I'm more inclined to believe that it's because of a crushing authority of some sort.

    When you look at the case of the Hikikomori, one begins to see that the authority I'm noticing might just be a socially ingrained one.

    Japan will always be the last location on my list of places to visit. Lol.

  2. When I was in Japan, I didn't see any homeless for the first week. Eventually I saw some and they were being moved away from high traffic (tourist) areas by the police. I went to the zoo and spent all day walking around. Later that night I came across about 20 homeless people just outside the zoo, spread out across the walkway and green areas beside it.

    I figured that Japan just hides their homeless, kinda like how they lie about their crime rate. It is a very very safe country but there is a culture of pretending things are better than they seem. It is a wonderful culture but collectivism does have its downsides. To say they have a Conservative view of mental health is an understatement. A friend of mine who has lived over there for 10 years, was told by his doctor to "try being happy" when he was depressed.

    The culture of family honour means that adopting or fostering children is very rare. The vast majority of kids who are taken in by the state, grow up in care and never get placed with a family. This coupled with an aging population, a tendency to have 1 or 2 kids and strict emigration policies means that Japan is actually f**cked in the future unless drastic changes are made.

    Working overtime is promoted so much that pretending you are doing something for 20 extra hours is valued more than actually being productive. And you generally don't get paid over time unless you work over 20 hours of it.

    While I was there I made friends with a couple in their 50s. They were amazed I could take a month off work to travel. The husband compared Japanese workers to slaves. If you have ever been on a Japanese train, the peace and quiet is nice. But, it easy to spot why it's so quiet apart from the cultural norms. The locals use the short commutes to sleep.

    Japan is a wonderful place and I wish more countries could emulate a lot of what they do so well. But, I would never want to live there, that's for sure.

  3. I try to be understanding, but the trash left on corners and the camps built on the neutral ground are disgusting. I live in new orleans, the bus and streets car stop by my house looks like trash. There's trash cans, ppl just refuse to use them.

  4. I visited japan on late 80s. I was there for about six weeks. Nagoya, then tokyo. Saw homeless, mostly elderly, extremely clean just a handful of cardboard tents. I can imagine how that's change. I got into a tado about disrespecting them with coworker. They through a candy wrapper in one. I was livid. Blessing to those without.

  5. Contra la especulación inmobiliaria mano dura o muy dura, penas de internamiento hospitalario y carcelario, basta ya de abusar de la ciudadanía un delito de corrupción que tiene que para en la milla de oro latina de Santander el precio de la vivienda oscila entre los 9 y 12 euros el alquiler y los 12 y 24 euros, un crimen que tiene que atajarse por no respetar los decretos ley y el valor añadido en la primera adquisición, la barbarie contempla años de cárcel, la silla eléctrica y la horca, contra la masiva adopción global más sanciones y mano dura contra el crimen organizado

  6. In Americans things are different because people are very no know how! The street are messed up!

  7. She hiding everyone are hiding or either dead like horishima bomb and freaking Godzilla and tsunami

  8. The problem in America its all about being about yourself. People are selfish and less likely to help each other its all about self and not selfless

  9. No respect for homelessness in this report. They expect you to be part of the materialistc consuming society.

  10. I don't know if it's the same all over Japan, but when we went to Tokyo and encountered some homeless people there, none of them beg. We were initially wary because we thought they might beg for money and back home, we would give food instead of money and very often they are ungrateful and would insist on money so at the back of our minds, we were worried Tokyo homeless would be the same and we wouldn't know how to react. But we were worried about nothing, the homeless in Tokyo mainly just kept to themselves and never begged. If we did not see them emerging from the makeshift tents in the park, we'd assume they are just elders in retirement enjoying a walk in the city streets. there's something kind of dignified about the Japanese homeless compared to what we often see at our home country.

  11. Japan has standards that the whole country seems to abide by;whereas in America nobody agrees, and everyone has their own standards, which are usually no standards or morals. Every behavior is accepted or tolerated here. No shame in any actions that people do. That's why the two countries are so different.

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