Japan’s Invisible People

A shirtless woman sits at the top of the stairs at Shimbashi Station during the heart of winter.

Homelessness is on the rise in Japan, as not seen since WWII. Blue tarp communities are springing up all over the country, yet the Japanese go about their daily lives as if these people don’t exist.

Being homeless in Japan has to be much worse than in western nations like the U.S. The level of despair, and hopelessness is far greater because there’s a  social stigma attached to it, like none I’ve ever seen. Simply, the Japanese not only don’t, but absolutely refuse to help those who are down on their luck. This is a perplexing dichotomy considering Japan’s teaches the importance of the community over that of the individual. Sadly, a great gulf is fixed between reality, and philosophy in this seemingly buddhist nation.

In America, there exists welfare programs implemented by employment departments that are designed to help those who genuinely want to get back on their feet. Those services offer much more than an unemployment check. They also provide educational funding as part of the unemployment benefits package that is available to those that are out of work. Most U.S. citizens aren’t even aware that these programs exist. People who do participate in these programs receive skills necessary to aid them in their search for new employment opportunities.

Giving educational opportunities to the unemployed not only helps to get them off the streets, but it also helps them to become productive members of society. It’s a simple concept actually; when a government program pays for people to obtain the skills needed to become employed, over the lifetime, that employed person will pay much more in taxes than the government paid out in the initial educational investment. The result is obvious, the unemployed ends up with a new skill, and as a result of their employment, they end up living a healthier, and better quality life.

Japan’s invisible people gallery.

How tragic it is to have no place to go, no money to support yourself, and to have calloused officials heap an even greater indignity by taping a notice that your property will be destroyed if you don’t find another place to take it.

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