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Magazine helping to deal with the big issue of homelessness in Japan

22 Comments
By Reito Kaneko

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Even though I do not fully understand the stories in Japanese, I always buy a few copies of the Big Issue from venders, and encourage others to do so rather than walk by. The donation is only the price of a coffee.

The Big Issue is a wonderful initiative which helps the people maintain their dignity. I like how the organization clearly states the amount of profits which go to the venders. (50%)

12 ( +12 / -0 )

@Osaka_Doug

I completely agree. Most issues have at least one article in English, and the Japanese articles, plus the magazine itself, is a good way to introduce the subjects of the magazine, or of homelessness, to other Japanese people. I've explained that, as long as the seller has a Big Issue ID card, they are official sellers, meaning they are sobre, not on drugs and are usually making money to improve their lives. It's a safe and legit way to help homeless people.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

In some countries the Issue can be paid for by using a smartphone. How will the virus effect their sales?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And for those in prefectures which do not have venders, you can subscribe on the web site--but only on the Japanese language part of the site. https://www.bigissue.jp/

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yes, if you see a Big Issue seller, please buy a copy. It is interesting, and has plenty of value for the little money it costs anyway. The support you offer a seller by stopping, smiling, buying, and having a chat, is immense.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The number of homeless in Japan was 25,296 in 2003, and it has since declined to about 4,555 as of January 2019, according to Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare data.

I find it hard to believe that the numbers dropped this much, curious how they manage to collect the data as I can not imagine that anyone from the Ministry is actually going to put their feet on the ground and take a census!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Compared with America, 500,000 homeless people. Crisis.

To become a vendor, one must be homeless or almost homeless, vulnerably housed or marginalised in some way.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

The number of homeless in Japan was 25,296 in 2003, and it has since declined to about 4,555 as of January 2019,

That *is curious. A lot of them, middle-aged victims of the bubble, will simply have died where they lay.

Many may just be hidden away in places like internet cafes, or avoiding the homeless shelters which are terribly restrictive, but which are surely the main way the govt. gathers its info?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The number of homeless in Japan was 25,296 in 2003, and it has since declined to about 4,555 as of January 2019, according to Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare data.

The ministry of health, labor and welfare? Would anybody actually believe anything these mullets state? They reckon there are less than 5,000 homeless people in Japan. I can count more than that on the riverbanks at Asakusa and in Harujuku park alone. That is just two areas in Tokyo. I'm quite sure that, even the original 25,000 people figure was fudged.

The reality is, there have been no significant changes made to public housing, increases in shelters or increases in welfare support since 2003, which makes it impossible for these numbers to be correct.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Under 5,000? Japan has far, far fewer homeless than western countries, thanks to Japan's zero-tolerance on narcotics use and relatively affordable housing, thanks to its slow-growth population.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

and relatively affordable housing, 

That does not work out. Months of rent just to move in, key money and gifts, letting company fee, fire insurance, rent protection insurance, rent guarantor required.

There are working homeless who have a job but can't afford to rent a place. 

But actually rents are better than most western cities. Brother in New York pays $4,000/month.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Its seems like an admirable idea but this is a fundamentally broken way of helping the homeless.

Vendors, which on average sell 20 copies per day, are not employed by Big Issue Japan but are retailers, and thus, are responsible for managing their own finances.

That means that the average daily income of a vendor is 3600 Yen (20 times their 180 Yen take). And of course classifying them as independent retailers means the company is not responsible to them at all in terms of providing things that by law they would have to provide to employees.

In other words the average vendor would be way better off by simply walking into almost any convenience store in the country and accepting a minimum wage job (of which there are plenty) than they would be selling the Big Issue. Minimum wage in Tokyo is a little over 1,000 Yen, so in four hours work at a Conbini they would make more, and have the benefits of protection by the Labor Standards Act and other legislation, which they lack as independent vendors.

This just seems like a horrible way to help them.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

@rainyday -

the average vendor would be way better off by simply walking into almost any convenience store in the country and accepting a minimum wage job

What decent company will hire someone without an address or bank account? How do you propose they get a job that makes enough money to afford a place to live so that they have a fixed address which enables them to get a job...?

Read up on The Big Issue's history, to see how many people it has helped in the UK, and in what ways. They are the ones it has directly affected.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"Big Issue mate"?

What's the Japanese?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I buy the Big Issue wherever in the world I see it on sale.  Always try to have a chat with the seller as well.  But I was in Melbourne late last year and was quite taken back to be told it was $9.00 a copy.  I thought maybe the seller was trying it on with me.  But the next seller I came across confirmed it was indeed $9.00 (or could have been $12.00).  Anyway, just reaching into the price bracket where I had to think twice about it.  Brought it anyway.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What decent company will hire someone without an address or bank account? How do you propose they get a job that makes enough money to afford a place to live so that they have a fixed address which enables them to get a job...?

> Read up on The Big Issue's history, to see how many people it has helped in the UK, and in what ways. They are the ones it has directly affected.

Just to be clear, I've been buying copies of the Big Issue on and off since they debuted in Japan in 2003 so I'm not unfamiliar with their history.

BUT I really have to question the usefulness of it in terms of its stated mission of getting people out of homelessness. The best way to do that would be to offer a path towards a sustainable livelihood. But the Big Issue model is incapable of doing that. The actual business that they give to their vendors is not enough to get them off the street, nor does it provide a viable path to achieving that. Its just a dead end, its little more than make-work and the "business" that the vendors are creating isn't something they can grow or expand and they can't live off of what they actually make (at least, they can't make it out of homelessness on it).

I do applaud the effort, but they need to move beyond this selling magazines on street corners idea, its a total dead end for the homeless.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Finland solved their homelessness problem by giving everyone a home to live in. Is that too radical?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As nippon.com points out in an article from 2018, the ministry's annual survey is far from comprehensive as it fails to include homeless individuals living out of net cafes. Another group the study overlooks comprises those forced to live out of their vehicles.

https://www.nippon.com/ja/features/h00221/

Results of the 2019 Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare:

https://www.mhlw.go.jp/content/12003000/000505478.pdf

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Anyone know where it is sold in Tokyo? Never seen it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Big Issue Japan

https://www.bigissue.jp/english/company.html

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@afewtoomany - JR Yamanote Stations generally - Tokyo Station sometimes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@zichi & all those who are keenly supporting the project - good on you!

Yes this is a great project to Support the Homeless - even if only 50% of the money you pay goes back to them - that 50%, is for them hard-earned, respectful money, not simply a handout - so please don't think like you're giving that person a donation - you are "buying a product" from someone who has decided that they need to fight their way out of a bad situation, and they need all the encouragement that they can receive to continue upon that path until they find their way. Who knows, some may realize a hidden potential to become eventually someone we hear of, everyday as a leader in Business or some other activity !

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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