Over 90% of Japanese people are considered middle class. With an estimated 5,000 people homeless and living in the parks of Tokyo tourists are more than a little surprised to see a problem that the local’s often ignore and the international press rarely talk about. Homelessness is endemic through the first, second and third world’s its as simple as that. Japanese courts have defended homeless rights on several occasions with courts ruling that homeless tents on public land can’t be arbitrarily dismantled by police. Police must follow the same due process as an eviction from a regular rental apartment.
The vast majority of Japanese homeless are men over the age of 40 in part because there’s a fair amount of age discrimination in Japan’s labour market. As in other countries, some Japanese homeless have mental health or alcohol problems. A homeless man sifting rubbish bins near Tokyo’s Ueno Park, “there was all the thrown away fast food a man could eat. Sashimi and tuna heads too. Now,” he sighs, “it’s nothing but garbage.”
That’s only to be expected with food prices rising and ecological awareness growing, fast food outlets and convenience stores are throwing away less, shrinking a key food source for the homeless. In addition to the homeless there are a considerable number of Japanese teenagers who are living on the edge, sleeping in internet cafes and working temporary or part-time jobs. It’s in the culture to feel ashamed in front of their families, and prefer to live on their own rather than depending on their relatives’ money.
The true number of homeless in Tokyo alone is impossible to say, but there are a lot. Not as many as some cities, of course, but probably more than many people would imagine. “Kakusa shakai”, the widening gap between rich and poor is as apparent among the homeless as among those with fixed addresses. In short, relatively speaking there are rich homeless and poor homeless.
We kill people more efficiently, we travel faster and further, the wealthy are wealthier and the poorest are as poor as they ever have been. The Earth is being raped for the financial benefit of the few, to satisfy the masses because the masses have been taught to want today what they can’t really afford. Nature is being modified because ‘we can’ and our arrogance will possibly be our future undoing.
Christmas has become nothing more than an exercise in consumerism or rather an end of year blow out not for our benefit, but for the multi nationals who rely on a few weeks of sales to make a profit. I like every other person grudgingly accepts this and yet does nothing about it. However, I want the idea of Christmas to change to where it should be… and its not for the benefit of any company. Real compassion and love for each other and nature and it should last the whole year (and a day) and not just for Christmas. Does anybody actually think beyond what they will get for Christmas and whether the Turkey will taste good?
Whilst there are many good things today they don’t outweigh what is fundamentally wrong. People have no real power to change anything that the minority decides is ‘best’ for us all. Religions corrupted hundreds of years ago through greed of power and people turned against people in the name of their God and 2,012 years later I can’t imagine that Jesus is very happy.
© Stewart Weir 2012
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas”. Calvin Coolidge