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There are 'rich' homeless and 'poor' homeless

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If times are hard for the working and domiciled population, imagine how pinched the homeless are.

"In the old days,” Weekly Playboy (Sept 8) hears from a homeless man sifting trash bins near Tokyo’s Ueno Park, “there was all the thrown-away fast food a man could eat. Sashimi leavings and tuna heads too. Now,” he sighs, “it’s nothing but garbage.”

That’s only to be expected. With food prices rising and ecological awareness growing, fast food outlets and convenience stores are throwing away less, shrinking a key food source for the homeless.

“There were always good pickings of leftover sushi around here,” says a homeless man in his 50s in Tsukiji. “Now I’m lucky if I find some rice.”

But Weekly Playboy makes an interesting discovery. The often noted “kakusa shakai” -- the widening gap between rich and poor -- is as apparent among the homeless as among those with fixed addresses. In short, relatively speaking, there are rich homeless and poor homeless.

In 2004 Metro Tokyo decided to get tough with the homeless. Their free and easy days of living in tents in city parks were declared over. A two-year program was instituted to “clean up” the city and get the homeless into publicly-supported low-rent apartments. But life between four walls is not for everyone. The trickle back to the streets has been steady. With park tents still banned, the available options amount to very rough living indeed.

Worse, day jobs are less available. “Lately,” says a homeless man receiving a handout of boiled rice in Sumida Park, “young people registered with big job placement agencies are bagging all the day jobs. Same with collecting aluminum cans. The price has gone up, so companies are getting in on the act. It’s very hard.”

It’s much the same over in the Takadanobaba neighborhood. “If the day-labor recruiter doesn’t know you, you’re out of luck,” laments a man who evidently speaks from experience.

“Crisis? What crisis?” grins a man in his 60s sunbathing in Yoyogi Park. Contentedly he pats his protruding belly. “The guys who are having trouble are the ones who don’t know the ropes, that’s all. Us old-timers are doing fine.”

Weekly Playboy finds others in the same happy boat.

“I don’t eat garbage,” declares another man in his 60s. His territory is around the Ameyoko market near Ueno Park, and tough times or not, he seems to do well enough at the neighborhood fruit stalls.

“Just today,” he says, “I got hold of four slightly damaged grapefruits and a pack of grapes. And there are guys who manage to get their hands on bread. We trade with them. No free boiled rice handouts for us. I couldn’t eat that stuff, it’s awful.”

Some homeless are positively moneyed. One, a man in his 70s, collects a 140,000 yen-a-month pension. If he lives on the streets, it’s not because he has to. He enjoys it. “Over the past 10 years,” he says, “I’ve traveled all over Japan. A while ago, through connections I have with a support group, I got a free public transportation pass. I go all over Tokyo, wherever they’re handing out free rice. It’s my hobby. You just don’t have this kind of freedom when you’re living in a house!”

In short, sums up Weekly Playboy, “you can’t simply lump all the homeless into one category and call them ‘the weak members of society.’”

At a suburban train station, one of the magazine’s reporters spots a man sprawled on a bench.

“I come here in the morning and stay here until night, lounging at my ease” he says. “You’re not so fortunate, now, are you, young man?”

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

22 Comments
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This story is terrible. It makes being homeless sound like some kind of lifestyle choice. When in reality for most homeless people it is not a choice but a fact of life they cannot escape.

Any 1st level nation with a significant population of homeless people should be deeply ashamed. There is simply no excuse for a society to tolerate having people live on the streets. We need better social welfare safety nets and better solutions to get people back into reasonable lives.

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Unfortunately that's a line I've heard from several people here - "they choose to live like that" or "they're just lazy".

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This mag is talking BS. I saw so many homeless in Osaka, collecting cardboard or cans for a few hundred Yen a day.

I used to buy a few of the guys Mcd`s when i went to my weekly trips to Namba and Ebisushu. They were desperate to doi better, but all they got from the authotities was a crappy deal. They made their shelters , and were forced to move, threatened with arrest and treated like scum.

It wqs very sad, and these peoples suffering should not be glamourised to sell a few copies of a dumbass mag.

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there are places for them live but they choose not to live there. they build semi-permanent shelters on prime public land, denying public use and enjoyment of the land, but paying no taxes or rents. they only work when they need money for booze or cigarettes but are not willing to put their nose to the grindstone and save for the future. i'm sorry but i have no sympathy for that.

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fds; maybe one day you or one of your family will be in their shoes. You won`t be so smug then.

I have seen many that work whenever they can. As they get older the laboring jobs dry up, and they have to collect cans or paper and cardboard instead.

The homeless i have seen in Japan were never drunk, and sometimes had pets, whcih were treated on the whole a demn sight better than your average Japanese pet.

Research things before you jump to conclusions and put down thousands of unfortunants.

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I pass everyday through Ueno park, since it's in my way to work. from morning those guys drink booze, lay in the sun, and feed their cats with rice. after a 4 hours sleep and before the beginning of a 14 hours work day, sometimes I envy them

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timeon; Why don`t you join them with their relaxing boozing whil feeding their cats.

Dont you wonder where the mony comes from to do that? They dont beg, because Japanese are the most tight, uncharitable people i have ever met, and i`ve travelled extensively.

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A tiny but insignificant minority of the homeless might choose that lifestyle but the majority are forced into it. BS article.

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I agree withcow76. I saw on Newsnight, that over 65% of homeless in Britain was mentally ill, probably the same in all countries, why else would they be like that?

I help at the jumble sale every year at St Mary`s that helps homeless people in the daytime, with a shelter.

I think we should all try to help the homeless, im lucky ive got a house and MIldred to look after me.

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i thought japan had no homeless? :p

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The article said that the tent cities have all disappeared, but there's a big one right in the middle of Ueno park and I've seen them all over Toyko.

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I worked my a$$ of in the US for a year for very little money until one day I passed a homeless guy enjoying a light chablis in the empty lot near my home. The main difference between him and me was he had money in his pocket. So I came to Japan.

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I worked my a$$ of in the US for a year for very little money until one day I passed a homeless guy enjoying a light chablis in the empty lot near my home. The main difference between him and me was he had money in his pocket. So I came to Japan.

Sounds like a "movie of the week" on lifetime. The difference between you and him was YOU HAD A HOME! You are the first poster I have seen trying to work his way DOWN the foodchain. You are telling me you were envious of a homeless wino because he had a few bucks?

Way to qualify a post. I can use it as a comparison for all future posts, and I have truly re-evaluted my life. Last year I made 59,000 usd, but after my house payment, vacations, rounds of golf, and dinners out with my wife, I had precious little money to sit in vacant lots and dring pinoit grigio (i hate chablis). What a wasted life i live!

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About 30 years ago, when the U.S. had 9 economic classes, Japan had only 3. It's good to see they're full blown capitalistic now.

When the capitalist billionaires and crooked elite politicians find another planet with oxygen and a temperate zone how will the rest of society get along without them?

There'll be no beautiful chryptomeria trees to sleep under. They'll be dead from acid rain. Field won't grow grain for ramen. Fish will belly-up. Cows will all be Mad from having their teats pulled twice a day but getting bred only once a year. Mad cows everywhere.

What a future in store. Shameful. I think I'll just go quietly into that dark night.

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Part of these guys are mental cases but alot of them have choosen this life to escape daily responsibility or as those of us who have accepted daily responsibility call it "REALITY".

Am still waiting for the day when the Govt. (and that's ANY country) decides to kill two birds with one stone and start using the Homeless to test out to Bio Weapons on.

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That's lovely Ogiedoggie. Even if you believe homeless people are homeless because they choose to be, why would you advocate them being murdered? That's just sick, I'm afraid.

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Why thank you cow76...but as usual you miss the point. I did not advocate anything am trying to warn people that someday the Govt. (and that is any country's Government) will start testing a way to get rid of the Undesirables of their society and they will probably start with these people...have you ever read SOYLENT GREEN?

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Ebisu is not a bad area. The homeless come here because they don't get hassled by anyone here.

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A tiny but insignificant minority of the homeless might choose that lifestyle but the majority are forced into it.

Actually, in Japan, the majority of the homeless are homeless by choice. They are men that came to Tokyo to work or find work, and ended up unemployed. They choose to stay in Tokyo, homeless, rather than admit failure and return to their families and home towns. There's even an ordinance that requires local governments to buy them a train or bus ticket home, and a stipend for meals, upon request.

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The most FANTASTIC thing about reading an article about the homeless is that it allows you to really IMAGINE what it must have been like before you learned how easily you can HELP PEOPLE whenever you seem to be worried about the future, which only used to happen NOW, right?

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"They dont beg, because Japanese are the most tight, uncharitable people i have ever met, and i`ve travelled extensively."

Funny to see what lengths people will go to to imply that begging for money is a good thing. I guess you must love it in Mexico, India, China or Korea where there are people begging for money every 3 feet you walk.

Really weird how some people here actually think that getting robbed and pick pocketed is a good thing. I personally prefer and appreciate greatly that Japanese homeless do not beg for money and bother others. It's also very intersting to see how you think that giving out money to homeless and encouraging laziness is "charitable". What a joke. Not giving them anything is the best thing you could ever do for them.

Seems people here absolutely hate it when they hear about how the homeless in Japan have more self pride and respect for others than the annoying, drug addicted, selfish, money begging, pickpocketers they will find in those other countries mentioned.

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This is an unreliable article. It is based largely on anecdotes, which may be half-true or fiction. We do not know. Given the source, the Weekly Playboy, you have take the above with a very large grain of salt. This is most likely not done by a trained researcher and it is obvious that this is in no way an in-depth study. The title of this piece is light-headed and sensationalistic. No doubt there are homeless people who survive better than others but to called them "rich," even with the qualifying quotation marks, is a travesty.

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