Homelessness in Japan

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A homeless man in Tokyo.

As of 2009, Homelessness in Japan increased sharply due to the rise in unemployment.[1] As of 2014, the number of homeless people in Tokyo reached a record low, only about 1,697 people or one person for every 10,000 city inhabitants.[2]


At the beginning of the 1990s, the homeless in Japan were viewed as a nuisance. The government tried to get rid of the street people "because the environment there needed beautification".[3] Due to endless bureaucratic obstacles, it was quite hard for the homeless to obtain benefits that they might have been eligible to receive. Only in 1997 did Tokyo at last acknowledge the existence of the homeless and start negotiating.

In 1998 officials claimed there were around 3,700 homeless in Tokyo alone. Homeless support groups estimated the number to be close to 5,000 and indicated that this number was rapidly increasing.[4]

In 2001, the government reported there were approximately 25,000 homeless people in Japan.[5]

Homelessness has grown noticeably more widespread in Japanese society since the collapse of the Japanese asset price bubble across the 1990s, and the resulting "Lost decade" of economic stagnation. This has resulted in higher unemployment, a contributing factor towards potential homelessness.

Specific aspects[edit]

Some specific aspects of Japanese homelessness are due to the social structure of Japanese society. Historically, men were the sole providers for their families. Japanese companies believe that married men work better than unmarried ones do because the former feel more obligations and responsibilities toward their families. Hence, not only elderly men, who face ageism and cannot find employment, but unmarried men over 35 years old have difficulties in finding employment. It does not cause poorer men on average, but rather a greater variance, with increased number of both considerably rich and considerably poor men, in effect producing a greater number of homeless men than homeless women in Japan.[6] Furthermore, families usually provide more support for women than they do for men.[7]

Internet cafés and homeless[edit]

A tiny Tokyo apartment rents for around ¥100,000 per month. As of 2011, Japan is continuing to experience economic recession. Finding even low-paid jobs is not easy. For ¥1,500 to ¥2,000 per night homeless people have been staying in Internet cafés or capsule hotels,[8] where they get an individual room and a shower, television, soft drinks and Internet access.[9]

Koala incident[edit]

In 2009 Osaka Zoo, which is publicly funded, bought six koalas from Australia which cost a combined ¥120 million per year to feed. Osaka has the highest population of homeless people in Japan, and the decision to spend tax yen on the zoo, instead of on the homeless, angered some of the homeless and others in Osaka.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Japan's homeless BBC News, accessed June 1, 2009
  2. ^ http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/10/27/3583324/tokyo-homeless/
  3. ^ [1] share-international.org, accessed January 28, 2011
  4. ^ Homelessness in Japan share-international.org, accessed June 1, 2009
  5. ^ Levinson, David, Encyclopedia of Homelessness, v.1, 2004. Cf. article on Japan, especially p.326
  6. ^ Japan's homeless face ageism csmonitor.com, accessed June 1, 2009
  7. ^ Asia: The Big Issue Japan
  8. ^ Justin McCurry (28 September 2007). "Tokyo dreaming". Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2017. 
  9. ^ Internet Cafés and homeless inventorspot.com, accessed June 1, 2009
  10. ^ Costly koalas annoy Japan's homeless by Mark Willacy ABC News, accessed June 1, 2009

External links[edit]