Why Japan’s Homeless are Different from North America’s (Part 1)


This. This is the image that has been stuck in my mind for years. Here I was below the massive towers of the Tokyo metropolitan government building and I came across this blue tarp with solar panels on it. This was quite a scene for me. That’s because back in Vancouver, where I lived most of my adult life, I was used to seeing scenes like this. Why were the visible homeless I encountered in Tokyo so different? Thus started my search into understanding why the homeless in Japan are different than the homeless in North America. Where I started to find answers was in the research work of professor Tom Gill. My name is Tom Gill, I’m from England. But I’ve lived in Japan for about 25 years and I’m a professor of Social Anthropology here at Meiji Gakuin University, Yokohama Campus. There are a number of things about Japanese society which makes it a lot easier to deal with homelessness than in other industrialized countries. For a start, the level of drug abuse is much lower in Japan than a lot of other countries. It’s pretty difficult to get hold of hard drugs in Japan unless you know a Yakuza, a gangster who will supply you. And for the most part guys who become homeless in Japan don’t do drugs other than tobacco and alcohol. Yes, there are a substantial number of alcoholics in the Japanese homeless population. There are also a considerable number of compulsive gamblers and of course, even if you are getting Livelihood Protection Money, if you spend it all on alcohol or horse racing in the first couple of days of the month, you can still end up on the street. Another important factor is that Japan has a very conservative approach To treatment of mentally ill people, who are generally institutionalized. If you look at statistics for mental health in Japan, you are much more likely to be put away in an institution if you have a mental health problem. We never went through the processes that were called “mainstreaming” in America and “care in the community” in Britain which are both kind of code words for shutting down mental Hospitals and Letting mentally ill people out into society and Which might have seemed like a good idea and something- some liberal people did support that move but unfortunately there wasn’t the backup to follow what happened to these people after they were let out and a certain number of them ended up being on the streets, and that’s one of the reasons why you have a lot of people with mental health issues in the homeless population in many Industrialized countries. Then a third factor is that Japan has managed to keep out of wars and conflicts since the end of World War II. So as a result, traumatized war veterans, which are another large component particularly of the American homeless population- we don’t have that in Japan either. Where are homeless people? Urban parks, riverbanks, streets, station buildings, and other buildings. So the kind of archetypal situation where you’re walking along the street and you encounter a homeless person is a lot less likely to happen in Japan because a lot of them are not in that part of the urban space. Most of them do try to keep clean. One of the reasons why they tend to gather in parks is because they generally have public toilets and washrooms there which helps you to maintain a basic level of hygiene. On the question of begging: it’s true that very few homeless people in Japan beg. Far more likely, as a way of making a bit of money, is can recycling, and sometimes newspaper and magazine recycling, but that’s the main way for putting together a little bit of cash. Why they don’t beg? I think there are push factors and pull factors. Japanese are disinclined to beg. They’re also disinclined to give to beggars, and these two things go hand in hand. In countries with a strong Christian tradition, or indeed a strong Muslim, or Hindu tradition, giving to the Poor is deeply ingrained in the religion and the culture. There’s nothing quite like that in in Japan so People are less likely to give money to beggars. I mean, they’re not used to being begged off. It’s a “chicken-and-egg” situation, really. The fact that you know, it’s shameful to beg and you don’t want people to know that you’re homeless you don’t want people to know that you’re unable to look after yourself. Pride, shame. Yeah, these are also factors I’m sure you have many questions about homelessness in Japan and I did as well. It’s a very complex topic that touches on many parts of society. As such, this is just a single video as part of a bigger series about homelessness in Japan that I’ll be making, so stay tuned for that. I have to give special thanks to professor Tom Gill, who’s so knowledgeable and so generous with his time, so thank you for that! And a shout out to my patreon supporters who make It possible for me to make videos like this; videos that aren’t necessarily so popular and videos that do take time to research, so thank you for that and as always: Thanks for Watching! See you next time, Bye!

100 comments on “Why Japan’s Homeless are Different from North America’s (Part 1)”

  1. uckBay Nguyen says:

    Does not matter the background, every homeless individuals deserve dignity

  2. nasir music says:

    simple answer: Japanese have dignity and self-respect and live by principles and codes ! These factors are unfortunately missing in the west, and does not carry the same weight in principle.

  3. misterjag says:

    In the U.S., the Carter Administration responded to deinstitutionalization by funding the establishment of drop-in community mental heath centers. But the Reagan Administration promptly de-funded the scheme.

  4. Irish Daisy says:

    You see many countries out there actually have worse living environtment than the US. Dirty, unsafe, bad air, high criminal rate, high rape rate, dirty water blah blah you name it. But funny thing is I rarely found them commenting on post like this, mostly post about east asian country and whining or complaining blah blah blah about where they live, how they live, how sucks it is. They just maybe keep living their life with no time to complain cause it wont get them anywhere. But you guys i dont even know if you trully from the US or just tried to make the west looks worse. Cause ive been there many times and its actually great. Not perfect, yeah but to me each and every country has its own disadvantage and worse part. Why would they show it or be transparent about it ? Funny that people always commenting about the US so much but they still have the most visitors to the country every year. Even people from my country wanna go there cause they've been there and enjoyed it. You guys that keep commenting about the US and insult US must be have no job. Japan is not that perfect like you think cause I am Asian too and I think people tend to think highly of other countries rather where they came from. Cause i did it too, i like west people honesty, straight-forwardness and much more. Surely many people from the West will reply something like "oh its not that great here" SAME if you talk too highly of my country i would do the same. Not because i didnt love my country, but cause i was born and raised here, so i spent my whole life here and its kinda like love and hate relationship.

  5. Tadayuki Shirono says:

    A shallow research. Did he interview to just one Japanese homeless? Do you speak Japanese? No? Then the research ended up to be just your own delusion.

  6. Matthew Arnold says:

    Id rather live in a tent then pay Tokyo rent prices.

  7. Alkaline says:

    One word: drugs.

  8. Nayaan D says:

    Okay, so in other countries, the homeless people does work hard to live, but in India, it's different story

  9. Trebor Ironwolfe says:

    Ţяэßş ŢдќєŞ™ Here's my attempt to make some tasty lemonade from many of the sour fruits and perceptions traded and consumed by many societies over the millennia: Instead of forcefully outcasting the socalled "leeches of our society" to some remote island (or planet), as many of our grandparents or great-grandparents would have suggested, why not instead establish a non-profit venture group that work together with volunteers to reclaim lost marshlands or re fertilize desolate open areas in/on which the mentally/emotionally/socially disabled may discover a new spark of life or passion to aspire for/to? The act of instilling newfound purpose and meaning into a person can offer even greater healing effects than as when injecting a snake bitten patient with antivenom.

  10. Ruby Engelstein says:

    Anh noi rat hay! Cam on anh rat nhieu!

  11. Bronze tier grammar says:

    dont do drugs, kid

  12. imam fikri says:

    here in indonesia, we used to call them 'Pemulung'

  13. This Ashley Dabbles says:

    I love that all of your videos have actual subtitles not that automated crap.

  14. LosDosFancyPants says:

    I lived in Japan for 3 years and saw how homeless people were treated. I volunteered to feed homeless people in Tokyo and the majority of people would not appear to look what we consider homeless. Although the people who did look “homeless” were ignored and my japanese friends told me their parents taught them to not make eye contact with the homeless. Also this glosses over the fact that there is violence against homeless people in Japan as well. I’ve seen people (particularly drunk men) going out of their way to bully homeless people and no one did anything.

  15. GC Durnin says:

    Goodness, ppl in the US not only DON'T give to the homeless, they usually are not even kind enough to just ignore them. Several yrs ago in Orlando FL ppl were arrested for t he "crime" of feeding the hungry in public.

  16. J.M. Adams says:

    I don't understand why so many downvotes on this video….

  17. J.M. Adams says:

    There is also MUCH MORE cheap housing in Japanese cities than in the US, where very restrictive zoning and building laws discourage cheap housing. In the Tokyo area, there are lots of rooms available for $300/month

  18. V. Chin says:

    Not all homeless is poor in japan!!Some homeless are company owner that failed in some cases!!or some did a crime and never come back to family for a shameful things he does and they want to prove it that he regrets on what he did!Some homeless a lot of stress in job and want to become homeless free from stressful work and lifestyle!!If you gave money to some homeless they will get angry to you so do not under estimate some of them because not all of them are really poor!!There is a reason why they wanted to be a homeless!!A pride for any reasons on their lives not about a money is a problem!!I bring a homeless man to my house give them a job a room to stay,his job is clean my business place he have daily salary!He left after 2days!!I think he have a peace of mind living alone and stay in park!!We found out that he is a company owner before but his wife was died in cancer and because he is a busy person he don’t have time on his family and his son left him and he don’t know of whereabout!He left all what he have in life and being his is best choice!!

  19. arlene thompson says:

    Pray for America! We need help!

  20. D Marrenal says:

    Very, very interesting…thank you.

  21. Devis says:

    Because San is happynes!🙏

  22. You Mom is Green says:

    Wow… Japanese have most famous mafia gang the yakuza…but they not taking part too much on drug…

  23. jean cul says:

    Wow, nice japan public toilets ! In Europe or US they destroy all ! We are barbarians !

  24. Dorian Philotheates says:

    I was homeless years ago for about 6 months because of high university tuition fees. Basically, I was faced with the dilemma of paying for tuition or rent. I chose the former. Not an easy life…

  25. saukndn56 says:

    Keeping illegal drugs out of your country and therefore away from those who would abuse them goes a long way toward solving a society's ills. The demand for narcotics in America is simply overwhelming. It appears that it is something that we will just have to live with, unfortunately.

  26. Tomoko in 4k says:

    Tom gil has two first names

  27. NikolitaNiko says:

    I'm also from the Vancouver area and the difference between the two societies interests me too.

  28. tol tu says:

    When I visited Tokyo I tried to give money to a elderly paper collecting lady (she was homeless for sure) she said "arrigato" but and refused to take it…

  29. Danny Groening says:

    Some homeless in USA sleep in they car

  30. Heathercliff says:

    Vice creates homelessness, leading to drug addiction, then mental illness in capitalists countries.

  31. Cathrine Heartman says:

    Not to sound like a racist but I do know Asians do like their gambling. Whereas in America they want their drugs and their alcohol

  32. Долаана Ооржак says:

    boooring video

  33. Jeremy says:

    In Japan, even homeless people are industrious, resourceful, and have pride

  34. Brandon A. English says:

    During my first trip to Japan, a homeless man actually spoke in English to me and my friend as we were looking for something. He was actually able to tell us how to get to where we wanted to go, and then without being aggressive, appeared hopeful that we would give him something in return for his help. Of course, we did, and it was one of the first times of many that I have been amazed in Japan.

  35. Dennis McIntyre says:

    Another aspect of homelessness in Japan that is different is the number of professional workers that do not have a permanent residence like an apartment but otherwise live like most other people. They don't make enough to pay the really high cost of living in one.
    There are 24hr cyber cafes where one could get a cubicle with a computer, cheap food for about ~25 dollars a night and access to a common shower which is a fraction of what it would cost to have an apartment in the Tokyo metro area.

  36. acrobatsutr says:

    but bringing mentally ill people to these institutions is good because then they dont live on the streets… perhaps other countries should follow what japan does and keep its people off the streets by opening up the mental institutions.

  37. KingdomCome says:

    The increase for woman in canada being homeless are due to the courts that reduce support after divorce, non equitable awards, orders that awards court costs to the men while the stay at home mom is too old to find a job and those that are qualified and able are prevented through the a targeting campaign. Potential employers are advised against hiring as the exes have money and a vengeance to destroy the mother. Why to ensure the children don't know the dad was behind the heinous actions the child witnessed after the court agreement for split custody. The child having no connection to them, their ego hurt, their narcissism and control and manipulation are ignored by the system which is suppose to serve and protect have no concern for the safety of the child. Courts and all agencies of the government are in fact corporations looking to profit and protect themselves and theirs. Most leave the abuse to protect the children but the truth is societal agencies only paint a picture of that doesn't represent the cold hard truth. It is a mans world and through greed and corruption society has always used and abused both woman and children. Courts operate on a level that is accountable to no one! A Ponzi scheme that only enriches the system. Parental alienation that is supported by all the societal agencies to create as much suffering to perpetuate a need by traumatizing the youth to increase budgets and enforcements to sustain the economy. Manufacturing jobs in sectors of the breakdown of children, families!

  38. Dawn break says:

    Why do so many Asian people gamble? I live near Atlantic city and I swear its thanks to them the casinos are still open

  39. Sterling Price says:

    The Japanese government seems pretty cold hearted. Their drug laws are archaic. Although the Government of Japan seems strict and self righteous, we know that pornography is rampant there.

  40. 幽霊, T O G E T H E R! says:

    I thought Jemaine Clement was doing a bit.

  41. Arcadia Occult Curio Shop Autumn Storm Hp says:

    Bla bla bla bla…

  42. leo yama says:

    Begging is prohibited in Japan, it is illegal

  43. micheal pratt says:

    They might not do drugs but they like to gamble which is also an addiction. Gamblers spend money faster than a crackhead.

  44. yesca jasta says:

    there polite ! for the most they are not there because of mental problems there are there because of money problem ! and they know that they need to have some order about how they go about there daily survival !

  45. Kaeben says:

    Japanese politicians aren't corrupt in the same way USA politicians are.

  46. AomiN says:

    one reason why they don't beg is probably because people don't carry cash anymore especially in hi-tech japanese cities

  47. 55 ostar says:

    Japan governor mayor city council members shame on you all for allowing these people to live this way

  48. jogga singh teidy says:

    that statement can be applied to all other governments. in england, government benefit system casues homelessnes.

  49. jogga singh teidy says:

    in west, job losses, drug addiction, criminal system government benfit systems r casues of homelesness, do what caises homelessness in japan?

  50. Nicholas Jordan says:

    Japanese have profoundly different situation from most countries and have developed social norms that allow for this to happen yet as in any of this many untoward difficulties are not that far off the screen; I have survived home-less-ness for some decades now with frequent short-stays at rentals interspersed with staying in the car; sleeping in campgrounds and the 1 Reliable Safe Zone roadside rest areas; I actually wrote Corps of Engineers to find lakes to sleep at; Showering & Nutrition are critical infrastructure to staying straight homeless; Here the local library posted a sign on male BR no bathing in the sink nor pissing in the sink nor shaving; Food at facilities is often not sufficient to survive and now presentation of state-issued ID is required; Get behind on it and street-sweeps to clean up have persons becoming disappeared; You do not show up on the posters at Wall Mart you get into a systemic which is down-only

  51. Abba Dabba says:

    Every Nation readily finds Billions for Armies and Wars but the weak and sick are so easily just swept aside. The measure of a Nation must be its Charity to those that have fallen and struggle to re engage. Hope continues the beat – loss of all hope is death.

  52. Torr HTHC says:

    Japan is better in everything.

  53. Jamie Ward says:

    Canabis not in same cat.As other drugs.

  54. Qweq Qweq says:

    The biggest factor isn't anything mentioned here. It's that they don't have nearly the amount of immigration and jobs lost overseas like in USA.

  55. Joyce Chapman says:

    A lot of the homeless in America are drug addicts or mentally ill, or both. They do not take care of what little bit they do have. They live in filth and trash. They go to the toilet wherever they want, on the streets, on the sidewalks. It is disgusting. They live worse than animals. They are destroying our beautiful country. I think the government needs to intervene and get them the help they need. They need to outlaw living the way they do and throw all that trash away! Yes, they need to put them in jail or in a mental institute, they should not be allowed to live the way they live. It is dangerous for society. Some cities are allowing them to take over. I saw a video about Seattle and the police are working their butts off to arrest them and get them off the street, but, the courts release them back again. They are not doing them any favors. They are definitely not doing America any favors. The court systems are part of the problem. Our government is a huge part of the problem here in America. Democrats are fighting to help illegals while ignoring our homeless that need help. If they devoted all that time and money to helping our homeless population we wouldn't have any problems like we have now. I do blame them because in my mind they are responsible for all of it!!! Every single city that is being destroyed by the homeless that live in filth are in the Democratic cities and states! I was homeless for 6 months, but, I never lived like that. I lived in a tent in a camp ground. They talked to me about payment and I told them I didn't have the money to pay them. I was fighting for my ssdi at the time. Our courts do not want to give people help. I qualified for ssdi because i am disabled, proven 100 percent by specialist. I had back surgery one week before my home was foreclosed on!! I lived clean even though I was homeless. I picked up around me. I washed my clothes in the shower and hung them out to dry. I cooked on an open camp fire with wood I picked up around the park. They were very nice to me. But, I live in a primarily conservative, Republican state in the Midwest. When I got my ssdi I offered to pay them for the time I had stayed there and they refused to take it. Being poor, being homeless, doesn't mean you have to be a drug addict or live in filth!! But, the disability courts are a huge part of the problem. There is no way I should have had to fight 5 years to receive my disability! Many of our homeless are mentally ill and have denied disability in the courts. It is mean and it is cruel to deny someone help when they qualify to get it!!

  56. Jaden Claws. says:

    Not only that they are also polite.

  57. Panzer Blitz says:

    I don't care what happens to Japanese. Once they started commercially attacking our world's whales, they should be considered a terrorist nation.

  58. 40ozREAPER says:

    almost every homeless person I've come in contact with is always holding a bottle of booze. And when they ask me for money so they can get more I tell them that alcohol is probably the reason why you're homeless in the first place

  59. zenubi says:

    Drugs.. .

  60. Dora Neko says:

    Most homeless people in Japan refuse to support the administration with their own will.

  61. Outgarth Loki says:

    The cultural aspect is inescapable. The Western Liberalism model values the individual over the whole of society. americans have no understanding of subordinating their emotions, or actions for the betterment of society.

  62. ART MCPHARLIN says:

    Mainstreaming is a DEM. idea to hurt and disable those who need special help. It is still followed in most educational systems and continues to be a failure like every thing DEMS. control.

  63. Angelina Omalay says:

    hi can you do a video about the child welfare facilities in japan?

  64. terry ferguson says:

    Likely no difference.Daniel 9 and Psalm 106 kjv.For their sins,God scattered Israel,to the 4 corners of the earth.They intermixed with the nations around them.Isaiah 51 KJV.Witches are taking out people`s souls and demons control the masses.See these videos by Win Worley,The Fragmented soul,Loosing spirits of God,his mass deliverance videos.See the video ROuting demons by JOhn EChardt.See the video The book of Enoch.See Trey Smith`s video on the Nephilim.Read the book of Acts,KJV.The real word of God(the KIng James bible) has been replaced with fake NWO bibles in most churches.See the video The Testament of Solomon.See the video The Genesis 6 Conspiracy.

  65. MrWalker1000 says:

    I think We are looking up to Japan as too special. Japan has homeless and poverty just like any other developed nation. But they love to hide it

  66. MrAlvatroz says:

    Thank you for sharing all your knowledge of japan, a country that really fascinates me!

  67. Richard Curren says:

    There's not much difference between alcohol and heroin addiction.

  68. V Fran says:

    Appreciate your videos!

  69. Yan Dzivinskiy says:

    Still better than the Spartan way of getting rid of damaged goods

  70. Jasmine Wang says:

    God bless them

  71. Screw The Net says:

    I do hope people also realize the differences in these internationally numbers of statistics is also highly effected by the size and population of countries. Like the " drug use" in america being so much more…theres way more people, and even if the mind sets were not as they have been here, theres still waaaay more people. And to say nobody in japan uses cocaine…because that graph doesnt say homeless people, it just says people. And no opioids, even over the counter prescription medicine? THats a lie too. *smfh *

  72. Screw The Net says:

    P{Lus japan obviously has military and special forces, so that article from ww2 is both inaccurate in a big way and obviously not realistic. Why was germany not held to such a standard after ww2? They clearly have an army.

  73. lucifer says:

    for the most part, if i try to help a homeless person out or do a small act of kindness, they will try to steal something off of me or are generally really ungrateful. i don't let these few have any effect on whether or not i help people in the future, but the amount that leave a bad taste in my mouth is staggering

  74. lucifer says:

    for the most part, if i try to help a homeless person out or do a small act of kindness, they will try to steal something off of me or are generally really ungrateful. i don't let these few have any effect on whether or not i help people in the future, but the amount that leave a bad taste in my mouth is staggering

  75. Rick Uyeda says:

    He still doesn't understand Japanese culture. Japanese have a strong feeling of obligation which is why they don't beg. They have no way to repay the obligation so they can't do it.

  76. SandyQuinn50 says:

    The problem with USA is the illegals get all the benefits and housing while the our Vets and Americans sleep on the streets, our President is trying to put a stop to that, we need to put our own first..

  77. kam shaft says:

    because asians have higher iq than their distant acrestors

  78. Dave Scheer says:

    Just kinda wondering ,they say there are a lot of abandoned homes and even little towns in the country side ,can these homeless move in and start farming ?

  79. John Pettibone says:

    Dont have pandering rip off lieing democrats. or a lieing fake news covering it up.

  80. feylights says:

    When I was in Japan in 2004, I only saw a few homeless.

  81. Feedback4Utoday says:

    Good insights… To add to ur insight most vets r not homeless due to trauma.. but due to deficient but military gave a job that kept em off street for a while.. or not buying in to 'work' model..

  82. Terry Lee says:

    Big difference….no democrats

  83. l3st4ri Ns says:

    Those solar panels are so fancy

  84. M Cuch says:

    In Ueno I noticed homeless they were in the park…. they didn’t inundate the public and where clean… Bowing with same respect & seemed to be mostly males mid age-

  85. Bernd blabla says:

    Less drugs in Japan thats the difference

  86. Teriqua Jones says:

    Wow! Even their homeless people are tidy.

  87. phoenixman8569 says:

    I agree closing mental hospitals was a mistake, I live in b.c Canada Vancouver island only a ferry ride away from the old Riverview building and I've heard the old hospital is being renovated into a drug treatment Centre, but i question how to get them to go there, some homeless are so hopelessly addicted they refuse treatment so in cases like that, bringing  back institutionalizing people is the only way..

  88. chipu fu says:

    wow they still maintain the cleanliness,, unlike other county informal settlers is burden to the government when it comes to environment problems

  89. James Diamond says:

    Generous with his time means having his ego stroked.

  90. Andrew says:

    we could solve the problem if every billionaire got together and donated the money. jeff bezos alone could give every homeless person in america a home for 12 of his 150 billion dollars

  91. Mike Schiavoni says:

    The older I get the more things just seem like common sense, especially scholar knowledge.

  92. Chuck Ross says:

    Look how spotlessly clean steets are….we should be ashamed of ourselves

  93. But We says:

    Very interesting. Thanks

  94. Bush Camping Tools says:

    Yeah great video. I lived in Tokyo for a bit and certainly noticed that the situation is quite different to the rest of the world.

  95. irish twin life amen says:

    Wow . Best of luck to you raising views. Please check us out. Irish twin life amen. Our videos are quite different.

  96. irish twin life amen says:

    Never would have thought of Japan as gamblers.

  97. theodore vonderhorst says:

    homeless in every other country are litter bugs / trash all around there short or long team living site / and also thieves / also drug use / i am in albuquerque N.M. homeless all about / its the filthiest place in the world i have every bin / and being a vet i have bin around / its sad how they careless / making me also careless about them / other than to get ride of them

  98. Lori Wyoming says:

    A little more "diversity" will fix that problem for you.

  99. Theresa Love says:

    Dose Americans qualify for TANIF if a single adult? Or is it only for FAMILIES?

  100. kebebasan 1 says:

    People money in bank for one dollar or one yen to make all this view look good, ganja need future for stability situations and job for life any view for heart and mental healthy, not all drug make this situations and need "kajian akibat dadah dan sebagainya untuk dikenal pasti keatas gambaran perubahannya", dan penanam ganja disetiap negara perlu dihujudkan.

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