picture of the day

Taking it easy

66 Comments

A homeless man sleeps on a bench at a park in Tokyo on Tuesday.

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66 Comments
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Must have some strong neck muscles to sleep like that.

I also like the "Matrix" dude.

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contrast with the salary man walking past

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I like the way that even if you are homeless, you have to show manners by removing your shoes before you sleep on a park bench.

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classic photo... not much separates these dudes except the times- for all we know the guy kickin it has more in one way or another and the guy walking is headed to the tracks... in 2010 , you simply do not know with this knew lot. Japan today is nuts.

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So that's how you get around the little middle partition in the middle of those benches for some shuteye.

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The homeless guys shoes look in better shape than the salarymander.

BTW, those benches are made to PREVENT people from sleeping on them. Fail!

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These two are actually a couple. The suit is just heading to work now.

"Don't get up. I'll be back at 10pm. Ittekimasu ♪"

"Have a nice day. We're having pond carp for dinner just the way you like it. Itterasshai ☆"

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How can they survive this cold always amazes me.

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There are a ton of homeless here. I offer food sometimes, but often told they do not eat what I am offering.

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There is no need to be homeless in Japan - there are plenty of jobs available if people are prepared to get off their backsides and high horses and do 'em.

No sympathy from me.

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To be homeless is to pay zero income taxes, zero property taxes, zero rent, zero nenkin payments...a nice incentive.

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there are plenty of jobs available if people are prepared to get off their backsides and high horses and do 'em.

There are more reasons for being homeless than simply being lazy, you know. I wouldn't be so quick to judge.

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trulymadlyfukai; Many of these people have/are suffering from severe mental disabilities. In the UK the estimation is that over 40% are in this category. A further 20% plus were from very bad homes and had failed to enjoy stability in their childhood or a satisfactory education. It is not so simple for most of these people to simply get a job. There is a lot pf prejudice against them and the employer will in most cases insist on a home address.

The more that we can understand the problem the sooner we can fix it. Having no sympathy while sitting in the warm behind your keyboard is yout choice, but many of us do have sympathy and do even very small things to try and help.

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Japan's near future. A small rich class and a growing poor class.

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goddog. And just what do you know about that? Have you been 100% broke before in Japan? Do you lack education or skills? Do you suffer from a mental illness or drug addiction? Do you lack facilities to clean yourself up for trying to get a job? Do you lack clothing that would be appropriate to wear to a job interview.

Comfortable middle class people can easily judge people from the comfort of their PC chair. But few of you would know what to do if confronted with real poverty or the many life altering causes that lead to homelessness. So try showing a little empathy and charity rather than prudish middleclass nose thumbing.

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There are more reasons for being homeless than simply being lazy, you know. I wouldn't be so quick to judge.

There are plenty of reasons for being lazy too.

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There are plenty of reasons for being lazy too.

I'm certainly not disagreeing with that, but tkoind2 and stevecpfc explained it well. With the collapse of the financial system in America, Japan's homeless situation became even worse: thousands of factory workers were laid off and kicked out of company housing, rendering them jobless and homeless all at once. And many of these homeless are middle-aged and older men with no specific set of skills a.k.a. the very people nobody is hiring right now. Their situation is a lot worse than mere laziness.

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Japan's near future. A small rich class and a growing poor class.

It won't only be Japan's near future.

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Maybe he's not homeless. Maybe he got fired and can't face the music at home yet. He left the house one morning telling his wife he's going on a business trip for a week but he's actually spending the time in the park.

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And many of these homeless are middle-aged and older men with no specific set of skills a.k.a. the very people nobody is hiring right now. Their situation is a lot worse than mere laziness.

Yeah I know, I'm only joking. That guy in the picture looks like he's been homeless for a while though. You wouldn't get a job in Japan with a beard like that.

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It doesn't take long for someone to go from well kempt salaryman to this guy on the bench. Once there is no money, the fall is precipitous. A week without laudry and shower and you will be filthy and smelly. Two without a shave and you will be very scruffy. Three or four without a haircut and you start to look quite bad.

People need to learn to empathize. No human being in a modern society should be living homelessly unless that person, in clear mind and forethought, wishes to do so.

Too many people can't get work and have no family net to fall back on. The global economy does not care about the individual and states are not prepared to support the legions of people falling through the cracks.

This future is darker than you may realize yet. The day is not far off when we see more and more people living in abject poverty in so called first world nations. Wealth is not trickling down, it is being hoarded above. And the results will be more and more telling.

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As the great Seinfeld once said : "You don't see any handsome homeless."

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I will say this for the Japanese homeless - they seem (relatively) harmless compared to the ones in Australia or the UK - who often menace people in and around train stations and parks to get money for their next fix of smack or ice. The worst I've ever had from a Japanese homeless man was being pstered to buy some of his shochu in a park in Tokyo!

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Probably he is just chilling out at Yamashita koen or some place like that. I guess trying to stay away from the noisy wifey at home, something very common here. (^_~)

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second thought... he actually could be on a wife vacation.

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I have been meeting and talking to homeless people in Japan for the last eleven years. I am not making special claims for homeless people - they are usually just ordinary people with the qualities, good and bad, that we all have, but to suggest that they are merely lazy is absurdly inaccurate. Here are a few reasons why:

Most Japanese homeless people are constantly seeking work, and some actually have jobs, but the pay is too low, and employment too temporary to afford settled accommodation. Rent is high relative to income, and bond or key money is often not returned by landlords. If you have had the carelessness to have your family die, then it is very difficult to find a guarantor for either work or accommodation - and there are unscrupulous companies that exploit poor people by extracting fees in return for finding a guarantor, then failing to provide one. If they can't find a job, they are usually involved in gathering materials for recycling (cardboard, cans, or manga), but this involves walking many miles every day, often with a health problem. Collecting cardboard all day, for example, might get you about ¥800, barely enough to eat, let alone for rent.

Anyone who thinks that sleeping rough is in any way an easy option should try it for a year, including the winter. It involves walking huge distances for work and food, severe health risks (especially chest problems and infections), social isolation, loneliness and stigma which destroys mental health and self esteem. The death rate for Japanese rough sleepers is quite high, and quite a few have also been killed by groups of young people. They too understand nothing about the situation but are vulnerable enough to need someone to feel better than.

The reason both for them keeping up standards, for example removing their shoes, and for refusing food on occasion, is their sense of pride. Keeping clean and neat are basic parts of being Japanese. The appearance of the man in the photo, whose permission was hopefully sought, is the exception in my experience. I know nothing about the circumstances of the man in the photo, but speaking generally, there are usually complicating mental health factors when Japanese people let their appearance go.

Japanese homeless people are relatively well organised, and may not be hungry at the specific time you approach them - but the probable reason for refusing food is more a sense of shame. If you want to help, it is important to take the time first to make relationships, as you would wish yourself, and to build trust and mutual respect.

It's often best to do this in association with a support group. Anyone interested in getting involved in Tokyo can google Moyai.

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The photo is titled "Taking it easy"

A bit of poor taste, no? The man is sleeping on a bench because he is homeless, not because he decided to chill out for a few minutes.

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Very well written and nice sentiments, Multipath. Sleeping rough in winter in Japan is something I would never be able to do. Good luck with your good work in Tokyo.

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WTF. I did not sign a release form for this picture. how did they catch me sleeping agian!?

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Cheers Multipath for a wonderful post. I sincerely wish more people took time to understand the plight of the poor as you have clearly done. Hats off to you.

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Comfortable middle class people can easily judge people from the comfort of their PC chair

Spot on!

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Multipath, thanks for your contribution and insight.

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What a sad state of affairs to see fellow humans in clear need, and then having self-righteous middle class twits "tut-tut" them from the comfort of their ivory towers. Thank you for the lovely and well articulated post Multipath, I admire your heart and spirit of compassion very much.

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Nonsense! He7s homeless because he CHOOSES to be so. He could have chosen to get a job, a shave, a change of clothes, a shower etc. but he didn't . He chose this lifestyle. So why should I feel sorry for him?!

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trulymadlyfukai..... and you could have chosen to be a compassionate and intelligent individual, but!!!!

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trulymadlyfukai; How about educating yourself on the reasons for homelessness. I mentioned before that almost every job in Japan requires a home address to start with. Most homeless have severe mental handicaps that prevent them from being able to live a "normal" life. Many can be helped but even then only can live in regimented hostels as they do not have the ability to cope.

Also trulymadlyfukai, don't think anyone asked you to feel sorry, but to call it a lifestyle choice shows extreme ignorance and inexperience in the matter.

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In Japan, once you get fired and get kicked out of your apartment cause you can't afford the rent, it's very hard to climb back up. The main reason : you need a permanent address to get a job. If you have no family, the only way to get money is "hiyatoi." If you're too old you won't even find that. To rent an apartment (even a cheap one) you usually need around 200,000 yen in fees. The cheap hotels run around 2500 yen a night, so not exactly cheap. Some may have chosen this lifestyle. Some others got screwed by their company and have no way of escaping this lifestyle.

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i understand that there are homeless shelters in and around tokyo but the homeless don't want to live there cause they are inconvenient, out of the way and have rules about what you can can't do, etc. so they go back to using prime public land for their personal living space without paying any rents or taxes (unless you count taxes included in the price liquor and tobacco) and scaring away or inconveniencing other people's use of such space. there is also welfare that pays even more than social security. why don't they apply for that? i can only guess that they are either too selfish, lazy or not smart enough or some combination of the above to use the government and other services available. if they are not smart enough, then they should at be educated but if they just don't want to jump through all the hoops then why should i feel sorry?

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Well said fds. As usual, the liberal hand-wringers are trying to excuse the inexcusable.

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My bench, my home! Keep walking and find some other place to sit in this public park.

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In response to fds, I have never found Japanese homeless to be selfish, lazy or not smart, nor do I suspect they want your pity. It is true, that they don't pay rent, but they certainly don't scare or inconvenience me. The choice that they have made is simply that being homeless is better than the next best choice available - perhaps the shelters you mentioned.

Back to the photo - his appearance doesn't look that much different to mine. Am I out of touch with normal standards of dress and grooming?

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Obviously photo-shopped, I have it on reliable authority (the obaa-chan next door) that Japan has NO homeless people! ... sorry, I forgot to check the sarcasm at the door.

I think it's step in the right direction that this sort of picture is making it into the newspapers, even if the caption is a little off-colour.

I have found the Japanese homeless to be the least objectionable in the world, however there are still a lot of them who are in dire need of clinical help, and I'm disgusted that Japan's "solution" to mental illness is to either have their family lock them away at home or if they lack a family to let them become homeless.

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Ah, the good life. Crisp autumn day, lovely trees in the background, shoes on the ground. And you can do crunches in that position for your abs.

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Well it's obvious you can duck responsibility after the age of 18.

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According to the Torah, Bible, and Quran, if we can't do anything to help him, we are supposed to at the very least pray for him. Helping a homeless person is akin to helping God, and not helping is akin to going against God. That's why there is a Day of Judgement, to thresh out the chaff from the wheat.

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What a sad state of affairs to see fellow humans in clear need, and then having self-righteous middle class twits "tut-tut" them from the comfort of their ivory towers.

You're right, and sadly that is what 99.9% of Japanese people do. Either that - or outright deny that any homeless people exist in Japan.

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As some posters above said not all are homeless by choice but once you fall outside the system it is very hard to get back in again and work your way up again. And it don't take much to fall out of the system today.

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@shaolin7 Love your compassion, but if I gave out money to every homeless man that comes to me with a card written in English asking for change I would soon be on the bench with them. I think its better to volunteer since you know you're actually helping instead of handing out money when you have no idea what they are really going to spend it on.

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Society is and can be harsh on people

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@jhk, see that would be fine if praying actually made any kind of difference. Unfortunately it solves nothing in the modern world and is simply a waste of the prayer's time.

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Maybe he is just testing Honda's new proto-type invisible F-1 car.

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These people are not homeless by choice..no-one would.if you see a homeless person did you ever imagine what happened in their lives to bring them to where they are now.by the sounds of it most people just think about how much of an inconvenience they might be..not paying any taxes,using public space etc...there are many people around us on the bread line,these guys have dropped below that and cant get back.theyve been through more hardship than most of us will have..have some sympathy!

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I agree with Judderman. And who among us can honestly say they have not walked by a homeless person and just kept going...

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The dude isn't sleeping, who sleeps with their left arm suspended in the air? He isn't resting it on anything so the photographer or sub editor is telling porkies.

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I buy them drinks from vending machines. Its better than giving money.

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Reminds me of the many homeless US military veterans....

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I wonder which man has a better life.

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I buy them drinks from vending machines. Its better than giving money.

Good man - those beers are probably a damn site more welcoming to their stomachs than the dirt cheap 1-cup-sake they sadly can usually only afford.

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Vending machine drinks...good idea. I think the worst problem with homelessness would be the incredible boredom. OK, lots of problems, but maybe not. I wish I could talk to them and hear their stories.

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What a society indeed that has so much leisure and numbers to speculate on the mental problems and poor, sad histories of those that can no longer chew the leather. Our race is indeed a virus on this planet when we are so overpopulated that even the naturally unselected can lay about while the Knights of the keyboards have such full bellies and nothing better to do than lament the useless masses' poor predicaments. Everything that happens in your life, everything that you are and have done is one hundred percent your responsibility. It is one hundred percent tied to choices you made.

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BurakuminDes I never buy them alcohol only green tea.

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Japans cynical reluctance to admit that homelessness exists and its miserly reluctance to do any more than the bare minimum to ameliorate their conditions has its analogue in attitudes towards suicide. In both cases those charged with having to deal with the consequences simply *shirankao* it out of existence by flatly denying that the problem exists or being so niggardly that one cant help but recognise the unstated assumptions that inaction is excused on account of there being nothing that can be done to assist the vulnerable and distressed and that public apathy is ultimately not the corrosive and undermining negative force we intuitively know it is.

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Japan is facing a huge problem right now, they could ignore it so far(to their own detriment) but it has come back to bite them in the butt(same for many other nations).

Talking from personal experience, goverment right now is frantic on how to deal with things. Nothing to do with suicide and similar rubbish sprouted here often.

Japans problems are the SAME as everywhere. Some countries like the USA are getting a taste too.

There are no easy solutions.

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I don't know about Japan, but a lot of the homeless in the US have mental issues or addictions and aren't necessarily interested in a shelter because of the issues it presents to them. The people who were homeless due to economic circumstances would probably accept help but I expect they would rather have a job instead of or in addition too, given what you get paid for menial labor....there are people who work and still can't afford the price of housing.

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Mental problems, etc are common everywhere. Most shelters are NOT easy as they have many rules, requirements(time limits, etc) and a single violation = you are out. Not easy sharing a room with a total stranger, etc. Also many people are told to find a job ASAP but are not given other guidance, support etc.

So it is hard for someone that been knocked down again and again. There is a LOT of pressure on those people and little help, encouragement and mental support.

Add to that, Japan like in many other societies it is WHO you know not WHAT you know.

Even social welfare in Japan(open to citizens and PR-holders) can be cancelled quickly if your "officer" feels you don't put in the "expected" effort.

Gets tougher if you got additional responsibilities like someone you need to support, being foreign, etc.

Don't think people can understand unless they been there or know someone that has been.

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It's a policeman !!!! I've seen homeless people with mobile phones. In Bakurocho- I've seen some incredible apartments made from Cardboard with electricity. And a special cardboard room for their pet !!!! truly cool.

Japanese homeless live in style- They are so modern !!!! Alot of homeless speak English to me. And hold a serious conversation about life & the pursuit of happiness. If they can speak 2 languages I think they are smart.

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