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Japan ranked worst country in world for helping strangers

42 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

People in Japan are well known for their kindness, so it may come as a surprise to hear that it actually ranks as the worst country in the world when it comes to helping strangers.

The revelation came to light in the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) World Giving Index for 2023, which ranks 142 countries in three different categories: donating money to charity, helping a stranger, and volunteering time.

In the “Helped a Stranger” category, Japan ranked last, in 142nd position out of 142 countries, with responses indicating that 21 percent of the population had helped someone they didn’t know in the past month. That’s compared to 83 percent of the population in the top-ranking country, Jamaica.

▼ Top 10 on the left, Bottom 10 on the right.

Screenshot-2024-05-31-at-12.14.08.png

Japan didn’t fare much better in the two other categories, with 16 percent of the population having donated money and 17 percent having volunteered in the past month, but it was enough to keep the country out of the bottom 10.

Screenshot-2024-05-31-at-12.14.17.png

Screenshot-2024-05-31-at-12.14.26.png

However, in terms of the overall World Giving Index, which takes all three categories into account, Japan ranked fourth last, coming in at 139th place with an index of 18, tying it with Greece in 138th place, Yemen in 140th place and Croatia in second-last place, with Poland ranking at the bottom with an index of 15.

While Japan’s rankings leave a lot to be desired, it’s worth noting that the annual report uses data gathered by Gallup, which measures responses in terms of a country’s population size. With latest figures putting Japan’s population at 124,352,000, that means in terms of numbers, 21 percent of the population who’ve helped a stranger in the past month equates to around 26 million people, which is considerably more than Jamaica’s entire population of 2.83 million.

▼ Putting these stats in terms of actual numbers presents a happier picture.

Screenshot-2024-05-31-at-12.14.34.png

Still, there’s no doubt that Japan can do a lot better, although online comments from local Japanese reflected a variety of views.

“If you consider friendliness to be kindness, then yes, it’s at the bottom.”

“This makes sense. A while ago, when an old man fell while trying to get on a train, a young man of Western descent who appeared to be a tourist was the first to run and help him up. Japanese people, like myself, just watched from the sidelines.”

“From my experience living in America, Americans often ask people for directions and time. The conversation begins before you know it so it’s easy to help or ask for help.”

“Most of us can’t speak English so when it comes to helping foreigners we’re introverted.”

“Maybe we have a different view on what a donation is — I throw money in the box at a shrine but wouldn’t count that as a donation.”

“In times of disasters, I think we’re very good at providing help.”

It’s true that in 2011, when the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami occurred, Japan’s rankings rose in the Index. However, this year’s data reveals that there are other factors that influence generosity — countries with high happiness levels, large numbers of immigrants, and strong religious beliefs that emphasise the importance of donations all have a higher overall Giving Index score.

That doesn’t bode well for Japan, but it’s not all gloom and doom if we look at the bigger picture. As anyone who’s lived in or visited Japan will know, most of the locals are more than happy to help if asked, and perhaps that’s the point — people in Japan may be less inclined to ask for help than people in other countries, and this cultural difference is a factor that the survey doesn’t take into account. Plus, there are traditions and formal business practices that might be viewed as helpful to strangers in other countries, but here are simply considered the norm.

So although Japan definitely has room to improve in the rankings, don’t let the findings dissuade you from asking for help in Japan. People will go out of their way to help you.

Source: CAF World Giving Index 2024 via Jin

Insert images: CAF World Giving Index 2024

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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-- Data shows Fukui Prefecture may be the best place to live in Japan, but survey results differ

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

42 Comments
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My first experiences as a totally lost gaijin were that I was helped all the time. Probably the Japanese took pity on an out-of-it foreigner; flummoxed, clumsy, and ignorant. That's just my experience, others might have had a worse time.

13 ( +19 / -6 )

That’s a skewed survey. As a traveler I know that Japan is a country which despite language barriers, tourists will encounter few of really negative parts of travel. For example, unwelcoming and invasive immigration officers at the airport, pirate taxis, pickpockets, gypsy scams, money exchange scams, homeless begging, etc. Japanese may not go out of their way to help strangers but they don’t target them to ripoff either.

15 ( +23 / -8 )

We've been there on extended stays many times and found the people of Japan most helpful.

A few times we've been in a town or at a platform trying to get our bearings and someone will invariably ask us if we need assistance.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

Very strange! I've been to Japan 9 times. Every time I've needed help with something everyone went out of their way to help me.

12 ( +17 / -5 )

If you approach someone in Japan for directions you'll likely get some form of help, and many times they will go above and beyond by taking you there despite going off their original path. However, if you do not ask for help and you fall down in the middle of a train station, people will either ignore or watch you from afar. This is likely do to the introverted mindset of many who won't bring up the courage to be the first one to take action. When one person goes to help someone, then you will see others follow suit.

Also keep in mind that Japan has many sagi (scams) where people will take advantage of kind Japanese people. You see this sometimes at train stations where college kids walk up to random people and ask for train ticket money. These types of incidents lose trust in the general public, and most Japanese citizens just want to mind their own business throughout the day and enjoy the peace and serenity of having the same daily routine with no sudden changes. That is why they tend to not want to get involved in situations involving helping others because they do not want to either get scammed, or have to go to the police station.

As for the lack of volunteering, I'm sure many Japanese would love to do volunteer work, it's just that they don't have time to take care of themselves so how would they have time to volunteer?

13 ( +16 / -3 )

I would dispute this. I've been helped out by complete strangers every time I've been in Japan.

9 ( +15 / -6 )

I remember right after 9/11, and there were millions of Japanese cops on the streets around the US embassy building in Tokyo. I saw a woman on a motor-scooter collide with a car on a street lined with cops. She was knocked off her vehicle and landed on the middle of the busy road.

I thought "She picked a good time and place for an accident." But none of the cops came to an immediate rescue. A few seconds lapsed where they looked at each other uncomfortably just standing there before a couple of them finally decided to act.

I've seen similar in the past. When an elderly person falls down in a crowded spot, like a train, there's a hesitation at first for a few seconds before someone steps in. Helping strangers doesn't seem to be a reflex in Japan, like in other countries.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

A survey will only ever be taken at face value if it gives a positive representation of Japan. A negative one will always elicit all kinds of "cultural" excuses and contrary data points of one.

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

In the 50 years I've lived in Japan, I've found Japanese people to be extremely friendly and helpful.

6 ( +15 / -9 )

I have to agree with Bertie. I have been surprised how many strangers have greatly helped me.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

I think this survey is based on "strangers" rather than on foreigners, and the survey would show vastly different results if it was based on helping foreigners.

Japan as a country has really changed in the 50 years since I first visited. There was a sense of community that existed then that has largely fallen out of favor now, and the newer privacy laws and breakdown of this sence of community are evident in most metropolitian areas. The concepts of kankeinai or betsuni have replaced the sense of community and unity. Japanese are not really keen on helping other Japanese outside their circles unless the Japanese are working as police, at information desks, or in similar service positions.

While people often stop to help foreigners in Japan, the same courtesy is less often extended to other Japanese who are looking lost while walking around unfamiliar places. The good samaritian story fits perfectly in today's Japan.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Basically what this survey is trying to say is: we ain't giving up enough of our hard earn money for charity, taking enough days off from work to do free labor for events and lastly isn't helping the random strangers too much.

First off, most of us here distrust charity events. As too many scams happen and we never even knows if our money truly goes to the needed people or just being wasted. Language barrier is also a huge problem. Way too many scandals had happen here. Communities prefer to aid their own area instead of just blindly trusting these so called charity events. Secondly considering the work culture here, good luck finding people with free time on their hands. Life is hard enough as it is. Lastly about helping strangers, this is why we have koban station literally everywhere here. So you can actually ask for help from someone who actually can truly help you.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

UAfanToday 08:48 am JST

taiwanisnotchina

where are you?

wondering about your opinion.

Clearly shows the US on top in the categories surveyed. Why do you need to think about me? I don't think about you.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Look at that: Ukraine ranked in two categories, a testament to the high level of civilization there compared to its horde neighbor.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

I wonder if most of the above posters read the article before posting. Is not about helping "foreigners", is about helping "strangers". Strangers include Japanese people also.

-3 ( +10 / -13 )

Japanese are more likely to help foreign tourists than help other Japanese! My husband is the exception though. He is always helping out others! Jumpstarting peoples' cars, taking our elderly neighbor who doesn't drive anymore to the convenience store, helping people stuck in the snow etc! One thing I don't like about Japan though is that people always feel they have to repay you for your kindness by giving you a gift or money! It turns simple kindness into a transaction!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Without any kind of control for variables the conclusions taken from the survey are terribly forced. One reason that could explain the low percentage of people helping a stranger could be that in Japan there is no need for most people to do it. Anybody having usual problems can ask for help whose job includes doing it, from bus drivers to Station clerks or even the police (that enjoy a relatively positive image in Japan).

If people are used to ask for help from these sources it could be understandable that they don't feel the need to importunate a random passerby, so the passerby never has the chance to help even if he was willing to do it.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

All the apologists come rushing out. Helped a stranger and helped a foreigner aren't the same thing.

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

Jamaica nice but people will just point to a crime RATE and say it's impossible for the survey to be correct, especially with so many African countries on it, too. I've found the hospitality of people in poorer countries to be way better than that of people in rich ones. People attach niceness and charity to wealth and privilege.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) is a UK-based organisation. They survive off a percentage of donations.

https://www.cafonline.org/about-us

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

What Clown Shoe conducted this survey? The Japanese are nothing but helpful. I stand witness to this during 18 solid years in Tokyo.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

I got helped out of my wallet at gunpoint in Jamaica

0 ( +8 / -8 )

Japan today is nothing like Japan pre 2019, with a remarkable Change since Fall 2022. Not nearly as hospitable or maybe I just look like I know what I’m doing. But in my 5 visits in the last year, the hospitality has dropped remarkably. This report is no surprise

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The only negative experience I ever had was in an eatery last year, where the staff ignored me and served those behind me. Walked out... very rude

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I have been to Japan multiple times, the last being in April and May this year. I met and communicated with many Japanese people both for asking directions, recommendations and lifestyle questions and simply connecting with people in general. I have never encountered a rude or unhelpful person in Japan. The people I have met immediately helped when we were a little lost, when we struggled with train lines, when we were looking for certain products, even directing us to other outlets.

I am not Japanese and has been mentioned this is article uses the term 'strangers' But I wonder what's stranger than a foreigner?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

People in Japan are well known for their kindness

That is a typical outsider view. They only see how staff are paid to 'act' in front of customers.

Those who have lived here for long enough know this is true

People in Japan are well known for their 'fake / robotic' kindness

In my 24 year experience of living and working in Japan

Most Japanese are cautiously friendly (to strangers). But they would much prefer to be left alone and not bothered.

Most Japanese do not donate to charities and/or volunteer.

Other than that, most Japanese are just like every nation. Some are nice when you get to know them, some are miserable even after you get to know them :)

5 ( +6 / -1 )

As one person already pointed out, the concept of service is very high in Japan, especially compared with many other countries I've visited. There is less need to get help from a stranger. When you rent a car, someone takes you to the car, goes over ALL the controls with how to turn on the A/C, etc. When I rented a car in the States, the girl gave me a key and pointed to a car, "That one!" Store staff will take time to help you find what they need. Drop a wallet and it's sure to come back to you - intact! As far as I can see the famous Japanese service isn't only for gaijins, it's the same for naijins too! I stand by what I've said. I've met a lot of very kind and helpful people in Japan.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

BertieWooster: "As one person already pointed out, the concept of service is very high in Japan, especially compared with many other countries I've visited. There is less need to get help from a stranger. "

Hogwash. I helped no less than 10 people in the 24 hours I was visiting Sendai last week and there was an international event. People COULD NOT find a place to get cash. ATMs that had the Visa sign wouldn't give cash advances unless the Visa was a Japanese Visa card. Other machines had an English button that would provide only ONE option in English, if any at all. Restaurants that had a Visa sign would not accept foreign cards, etc. People were frantic. So, I would see the frantic people, as if they're okay, and send them to a 7-holdings ATM and if possible show them how to use it to get money out. One guy, whose family was waiting inside the restaurant where he couldn't pay, almost cried in thanks because the staff didn't know what to do at all and he was frantic.

That was just one day, and I've helped people out very often since. The signs in different languages is only a somewhat recent (but very welcome) thing, implemented so they could get the Tokyo Olympcs after the lack of English information and services lost them Osaka in 2008.

Services are no better than anywhere else when they go wrong, and they are far worse.

Now, I will say this... Japanese will help out IF ASKED. I've been in trouble a couple of times and had people guide me by the hand to where I needed to go. Still, though, if not asked, they will often WANT to help (as I've heard many say), but won't. I could name quite a few crimes that have occurred domestically where people watching just pretended to be asleep or what have you, but you get my drift.

(from article)

"“Maybe we have a different view on what a donation is — I throw money in the box at a shrine but wouldn’t count that as a donation.”

Because it's not -- at least, it's not a donation to anything but that shrine, which they probably don't need given the fact they don't pay taxes and get government subsidies.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

Tourists have a different view of Japan and its people, than the ones that actually live and work here.

Let me just plain tell you this: In the work office, the most unhelpful and most introverts are the Japanese people. And I don't mean with just the foreign staff. No, with everybody. The most help you get, if needed, in a work place, is ONLY from the foreigners. I can confirm this on multiple places I have worked, even Japanese or Foreign companies. Also, they rat you as soon as they get the chance for any minor thing in the office.

Yes, they are helpful with tourists, but if you work and live with them, that's a completelly different story.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

If asked, "Are Japanese people unkind?" I think many people would say, "No!"

Most people who come to Japan as tourists will be able to talk to Japanese people and get some help, as long as it's not difficult.

For foreigners living in Japan, as long as they can speak Japanese, there's no problem.

Very few Japanese people donate money. This is because fundraising scams are rampant, and many people don't know whether their donations will reach the correct victims.

If you still think Japan is unkind, then there's nothing you can do about it. It's because it's not likely to improve any further.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

30 years ago, I moved to Japan, and I will tell you this is so UNTRUE until this very day.

Japanese people are very kind, very helpful, very generous and very giving and in their own way very loving people.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I'd venture to say most who state "Japanese have been very helpful!" are not Asian. Being an obvious non=

Japanese makes people far more likely to offer help, or agree to help.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hopefully, Japan can work on bettering their standing in the 3 categories . . . . Making a small monetary donation, or volunteering time should be easy to achieve . . . . Perhaps offering "how to help a stranger" could be a community-based course offering?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

One of the most self-centered cultures I've come across.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

It's funny. Some here think Japan is bad because of their culture. I worked in the US for more decades than I can recall and there were plenty of the problems mentioned here. And that was with all American workers. When I worked in Japan I studied Japanese and hung out with my Japanese pals (who wanted to speak English for practice, alas) who nevertheless helped me learn. Find a globe and spin it around then put your finger on it to stop it. Where your finger is there are problems communicating at work.

Expecting the Japanese to learn English is a silly idea. 1.) The foreign worker might be from France. 2.) To what level of English do you expect in a foreign country? and 3.) The communication problem (as mentioned in the article) often isn't always one of language but of cultural differences.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

People in Japan are well known for their kindness

Really? I thought well known for politeness.

In my experience, Japanese people tend to be socially awkward and have problems approaching strangers even if there is no language barrier. They aren’t natural or comfortable communicators on the whole.

Not surprised to see the US in the top 10 for helping strangers. The best I’ve come across.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

> BertieWoosterJune 3 05:33 pm JST

As one person already pointed out, the concept of service is very high in Japan, especially compared with many other countries I've visited. There is less need to get help from a stranger. When you rent a car, someone takes you to the car, goes over ALL the controls with how to turn on the A/C, etc. When I rented a car in the States, the girl gave me a key and pointed to a car, "That one!" Store staff will take time to help you find what they need. Drop a wallet and it's sure to come back to you - intact! As far as I can see the famous Japanese service isn't only for gaijins, it's the same for naijins too! I stand by what I've said. I've met a lot of very kind and helpful people in Japan.

I've never had that happen to me and I've rented cars in America at least 25 times in the past few decades. I think you are and have always been, anti-American and your posts show it. America is a place where we expect people to not need to be led by the nose. The staff at some places tell to go out the door to your right, etc and expect you to understand. Japan has over- service which takes time. You don't need to ask 5 questions, I can just tell you: I want a large latte to go. No need for all the questions. That is America. Service quickly without the phony fluff.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Refreshing to see that many of the people who normally complain about Japan have mostly positive things to say.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

As a tourist. Helpful.

As a resident. You're on your own.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japanese people are very much more reserved and polite than people from most other nations, and the language barrier does not help.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I travel to Tokyo regularly on business. My experience of Japanese people has been nothing but positive. Very courteous, polite and friendly. Most shops and outlets I visit try hard to assist you, even if their English language is limited. And I have never been in any other country where I have been offered so much unsolicited assistance on the street.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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