Tokyo skin and bone

It’s probably fair to say that for the most part the Japanese are seen as wealthy, and generally speaking that’s relatively true. Or at least it was. As, for a growing number of people, they are anything but.

Decades of economic stagnation and a rapidly changing job market have arguably changed the country forever. The former security of a job for life has now disappeared for many, and has instead been replaced by an already large and continually growing number of part-time or temporary positions. Factors that have had a huge impact on countless millions of lives, making the former mantra of ‘we are all middle-class’ ring even more hollow.

However, it’s not just the amount of working poor on the rise, but the utterly destitute too. Figures show that the number of homeless in Tokyo is increasing, but in many ways such reports are unnecessary, as it’s painfully clear to see the growth in the city’s parks, near its train stations and under its bridges.

Isolated figures who may well get the full attention of the sun, but precious little from the society they were once a part of.

Tokyo homeless

Comments

  1. David says

    Actually I get a bit annoyed when I see the police messing with these men and women. Every so often I see it during my morning commute and I want to say leave them alone. Then there are the occasional purges of the cardboard villages that pop up. It is bad enough that they are ignored as far as life needs go but to be harassed on top of it shows how unconscionable society has become.

  2. says

    This may be one of the most impactful photos you have taken. It’s disturbing to take in the boy spine, the caked in dirt, the sores covering his back.

    But I cannot drag my eyes away and wonder what his story is, what his life was, and where he is going with such purpose.

    • says

      Thanks. It’s a photograph I’m happy with. Not because of the subject of course, but the feelings that it arouses, and, like you say, the questions it asks.

      To make matters worse, the umbrella was basically being used as a walking stick. He kept up a slow, steady pace, but it was clearly a struggle. Poor fella…

  3. says

    Very little is indeed being done for these people from the side of the government and bureaucratic obstacle make it difficult for them to get the benefits they are entitled to. In 2010 there was a 16% poverty rate in Japan which seems high, and when I visited in 2012 it seemed to have gone up.
    From what I can see of the friends of my wife, things might explode in 10-20 years time, Most her friends are single and are having temporary jobs which allow them to live okay, but hardly any money is saved and a few of them skip health insurance payments, etc. They have no idea what to do when they are meant to retire.

    • says

      Yes, Japan could well be a very different country in the not too distant future. I think the figures are also skewed by the amount of people who still live with their parents. A setup that allows them to live on their part-time/temporary pay without the burden of rent or a mortgage. Such options aren’t going to last forever though, and what happens when they cease to? Then like you say, there’s the skipping of health insurance, no hope of savings/pension etc. Things could be very rough for an awful lot of people.

      And yet considering the man above, they are the lucky ones…

      • says

        Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. For example my brother in law is still living at home and nothing can persuade him to move out; they tried several times finding jobs and apartments for him away from the home town, but each time after two or three days he is back at home in his room. (Way too much pressure on the boy when he was a kid and he must have had a burn out, or so my wife tells me.)
        My parents in law are getting on in age and nobody knows what will happen when they are not around any more. He will inherit everything but probably blow it on pachinko in a year and we are living abroad, and cannot claim him as a “dependant” for visa or such.

  4. Jeffrey says

    ” Figures show that the number of homeless in Tokyo is increasing, but in many ways such reports are unnecessary, as it’s painfully clear to see the growth in the city’s parks, near its train stations and under its bridges.”

    It’s okay! The Olympics will fix, er, ah . . . Never mind.

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