The Hidden Face of Homelessness in Japan

Lap Lap
4 min readOct 4, 2023
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

In the global discourse surrounding homelessness, Japan stands out as a beacon, boasting almost a 0% rate. It’s an impressive statistic that inevitably draws comparisons, particularly with countries like the U.S., which faces an escalating homelessness crisis. However, like many issues, there is more to Japan’s success than meets the eye.

The Proud Statistic

Japan, with its population of over 125 million, reports that only about 0.003% of its residents are homeless. This figure sets it miles ahead of countries such as the United States and even nations like Switzerland, known for their low homeless populations. But what drives such an exceptionally low rate?

Cultural Perspectives and Stigmatization

The fabric of Japanese society is woven with strong threads of honor, respect, and societal roles. Within this tapestry, homelessness carries a profound stigma. The cultural nuance deepens when we consider that a significant portion of the homeless in Japan are men. In a society where men are traditionally expected to be self-reliant and providers, failure to achieve this expected role isn’t just a personal embarrassment. It’s a societal one.

However, the narrative doesn’t end at societal perceptions. The Japanese government, aware of the image they wish to portray, has set barriers making it challenging to be homeless. Cities like Tokyo are rife with “anti-homeless” or “hostile” architecture. Parks lock their gates at night, and benches are designed to prevent sleeping or prolonged sitting. Any form of begging in public spaces is illegal. In essence, the physical and societal landscape of Japan pushes the homeless out of sight, reinforcing the low official numbers.

Drugs, Health, and Housing

Diving further into the analysis, Japan’s hard stance on drugs, except alcohol, results in a negligible drug addiction rate. This approach contrasts starkly with countries like the U.S., where drug addiction often intersects with homelessness.

Further, Japan’s healthcare system is commendably robust. Where mental health challenges might push individuals into homelessness in countries like the U.S., in Japan, those with severe mental…

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Lap Lap

I am a writer for one reasons. It’s what I’m meant to do with my life: create worlds, characters who breathe and live off the page with me.