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. Squiddy BoB says:

    I have beggars in my own home….. Shiddd

  2. John Newman says:

    Homogenous is the reason
    Very simple
    Very clear

  3. sundiii99OWS says:

    All problems can be eliminated by ending capitalism, wage slavery. When all people own all things worldwide, then we can eliminate money so no one will be homeless. Most money is just numbers in computers which makes it easy to do. But then all nations will need to quickly start building only Tower Cities connected to maglev Trains worldwide because that’s the only way we’ll be able to save the Earth.

  4. Q Co says:

    A woman came in the store and kicked me. French!

  5. Q Co says:

    We want English!!! Not French. Violent Beggar.

  6. ArcticoFolf says:

    West Hastings clearly shows the drug abuse in Vancouver’s homeless population.

  7. Friend of Tellus says:

    Another planet, obviously.

  8. YouTube says:

    The homeless in America are there to put pubic money in private pockets, through real estate scams and other bogus programs to "help".

  9. reddyornot says:

    In Florida FPL would fine you!

  10. Mr Peco says:

    Everything is simply just better in Japan.
    Even the homeless are better 🤣

  11. JAMKR K says:

    interpretation. Can tell you just by looking at their homeless space that they are cleaner.

  12. Rosalia Wijaya says:

    Why Goverment not take care them ?😭😭😭

  13. Wendy Bond says:

    Very informative

  14. Captcha Neon says:

    People see the mental illness, the drug use and the drinking and they assume people are homeless for that reason and what you don’t understand or take into consideration is that even the most normal person can fall victim to any or all of those things after being on the street. It wears on you to be out in the elements, sleeping on unbearable materials and having no out. Also, most homeless do NOT have to spend any money they get on drugs especially because usually someone or multiple people are doing it with them.

  15. Lynda Compton says:

    My guess would be most American homeless are drug addicts and the Japanese are not

  16. Marcus Engel says:

    Interesting video, and surprising to hear input from an academic that wasn't charged with political language

  17. Simon Shaninga says:

    The Government in Japan takes care of its people.

  18. piere de waaier says:

    I was hanging near asakusa bridge homeless people. We talked and hand some drinks. One guy even showed me his camera collection. Good dudes. Sleep in shopping arcades at night.

  19. tmnsoon says:

    They never had communists dismantle their mental healthcare system in Japan, unlike the U.S. and most western countries.

  20. VRStuff says:

    Knew before I started it the main difference is institutionalization. Our homeless problem In American became extremely serious when we shut down the mental asylums. We need them back, just done with more oversight and proper care.

  21. Thunder Bird says:

    They are much better than people who forced to move Fukushima area without clean up nuclear waste . They are under radiation sickness …

    I feel sorry for those who doesn’t have choices

    Japanese government ( especially Abe ) is biggest lair in Japan

  22. timothy chung says:

    This is advance homelessness.

  23. Robert Emerson says:

    My deep respect for Japanese people and their culture made it very difficult to envision homeless people in Japan. They're such proud people but this professor touched around that topic by saying they're too proud to ask for help and others don't give money. That made a lot more sense to me.

  24. Warrior says:

    Japan locks up most of their mental illness we used to do that here in the states then we realized that they were being treated bad so we let them all go on the streets lol. Do we want to go back to locking them up?

  25. Sunshine says:

    Japan kept out of wars since world war two ,is because United states has a security agreement with Japan, which the United states does the fighting, same thing with south Korea. Which I think countries should fight their own wars keep the United states out of it. They are in violation of the constitution which says we are not to have a standing army only in times of war, which is on our turf not a foreign country.

  26. Toon Link says:

    Closing down institutions for the mentally ill was a horrible mistake. Just because horrible places like Willowbrook existed doesn't mean they were all like that.

  27. Icy Blade says:

    Less drugs, less homeless?

  28. noooddle says:

    I wouldn't call having a lower rate of dumping crazies on the street as "being behind".

  29. Boofer T. Washington says:

    Japan has no black gangs selling dope.

  30. Pedro Ramos says:

    They are smarter

  31. John Joseph says:

    I live in Vancouver haha hope it’s Vancouver CANADA

  32. Kelly K•for privacy says:

    Cleaning up one's own trash and not being a thief might have something to do with it.

  33. ora et labora says:

    Never trust any professor regardless of origin, their all self absorbed lunatics with knowledge that is virtually useless.

  34. Ahmad Izzat Shahmier Alhamdulillah says:

    This human must develop their own self, if not they still in trouble conditions and situations in this temporary world.

  35. Chef Calvin says:

    Not popular and takes a lot of time to research. Try making it more interesting to view and follow for the viewers. More visual graphics perhaps. And a different way of getting the information to the viewer in more than one way ie not just what the professor says. Try looking at it from just more than one angle. I agree with you, it's a bit too dry. Hope this helps better improve your future videos.

  36. Rowan Sadasivan says:

    there's something wrong with the guy filming these videos…… he always gets some British dude to explain japan

  37. officeaddict33 says:

    Great reason NOT to enlist in the military. They won't take care of you when you come back damaged.

  38. Stratius Rex says:

    You did a good job on this video

  39. Cornelius Corker says:

    Japan should not exist…death to the emperor

  40. ME. Zhia Glasgow says:

    How do europeans get authority n status in evry open society nda world???🤔… Sick.

  41. MickeyGreenEyes213 says:

    I found it interesting they make their money by collecting litter and recycling it. Why don't we have these machines in America? Seems like a 2 birds, 1 stone situation to me.

  42. ed p says:

    I recently visited Viet Nam. I did not see ANY homeless encampments there. I was looking for it. I traveled in the cities, the countryside, in the mountains. None. I suspect the reasons are similar. I got the impression that if you could work, you do. If you are mentally ill or are otherwise failing to take basic care of yourself, you are institutionalized.

  43. Frank Lyons says:

    Reason #433 : no negroes in Japan 🇯🇵

  44. Seth Leoric says:

    To be honest for me it's really weird seeing homeless people who aren't children and/or a mother with children

  45. John Does says:

    Okay the mental health hospitals or institutions were closed because lawyers in bad people were committing people that weren't crazy and using that institution to lock them up so they can get whatever they wanted they had power over land or money they had him locked up called crazy so they can take what they had it was a form of theft and the government's realize this was going on more and more so they decided to get rid of them discover witness season murder and lawyer for the killer cause of witness crazy and then he has a team of people go out and commit him to a mental hospital so his client could get off of murder is why they closed it down also the money issue above

  46. Beautiful Disaster says:

    Unnecessary talk

  47. Justin Keely says:

    I always find it funny how Canadian's will always call out USA problems. When Canada has issues its always North America, the collective "we". It's okay Canada you can have issues, everyone does.

  48. YoBro says:

    75% of homeless women have mental illness, while among women in homes the stat is 98%. Maybe more.

  49. Dragon Slayer says:

    Hold on just a freaking second! Theres homeless in Canada? All my news sources tell me its socialist Utopia!!!!!

  50. Anarchist Zero says:

    Homelessness is an industry in the USA: this land has tens of thousands of empty federal buildings and millions of empty houses. — nationalhomeless.org & planet.squat.net & #AdversePossession .

  51. Charmaine Eaton says:

    Jesus is the way the Truth and the life,Jesus is coming back very soon,dont be left behind,give your life to him now.

  52. Ben Sama says:

    Homeless people are usually vagrants so not many people in N. America want to interact with them

  53. Super VolcanoExpert27 says:

    Probably because there is less drug addiction.

  54. NITISH S says:

    I wish the Japanese system worked in India.

  55. Kay Sav says:

    I live in San Diego and most of the homeless here and terrible. They wash their privates in drinking fountains at public parks. They sleep infront of anywhere because they’re so strung out. I live in poverty so I see it everyday and I’m not blaming them for the way they’re trying to survive but cmon man… there’s no respect just a junkie mentality..

  56. I don’t have a name says:

    I’m a Japanese person living in San Francisco. I was surprised how homeless here is so different from homeless in Japan. I was never scared of being near homeless person in Japan. In fact I rarely found homeless people in Japan. In San Francisco, so many homeless people are using drugs on trains and on street. Quite scary.

  57. alberto cassinelli says:

    They are richer!

  58. missy rabbit says:

    we were in Japan and saw 2 elderly ladies tending to a garden under a bridge. My friend told me they were homeless, no living family. However, everything at their site was neat and clean, and the garden was thriving

  59. Celeste Brusciano says:

    I'm also from Vancouver!

  60. Tom Meyers says:

    Why Japan's Homeless are Different from North America's
    "They have high IQs. They are not there due to low IQ"

  61. Michael Gray says:

    Yeah it's monolithic people help people who look like them

  62. fordie 58 says:

    You enlightened me.  Japan and Homeless sounded like an oxymoron to me.  Please keep teaching us.  Thank you.

  63. John Doe says:

    Go look at how bad California is getting with many issues, but specificly homelessness. Its because California is ran by a cesspool of liberal democrat morons, LOL. 😂😂😂 Those politicians are a joke, corrupt, and unAmerican P.O.S. They don't give a crap about anyone but themselves, and many people buy into their lies.

  64. yes man says:

    What..you mean a liberal solution actually made the problem worse? No, it's not possible.

  65. fire5479 says:

    The tents and bicycles are all made in America where as in America tents and bicycles are made in China.

  66. Joy Santiago says:

    I wonder why japan's government dont let the homeless people to live in stigmatised apartment building?

  67. Old Gringo says:

    I was in Japan in 1985 and i saw no homeless at all back then, but that was in their economic BOOM time.

  68. Pablo Pablo says:

    I think is that they not in drugs

  69. philboytano says:

    Japanese people are not really humans they are descendant of the Alien race from Mars.

  70. Rei gee says:

    There are homeless people in the US who meet all the criteria of "homeless japanese." They don't do drugs, keep clean, etc. We just don't know how to identify them because we're so used to what a homeless person should look and act like, that when we meet a more well rounded homeless person, we don't suspect they're homeless. I've met a small handful of people like that. And the only reason why I found out they were homeless was because 1. They either told me or 2. I "found out" about it through observations (I found one woman I had known for a while washing up in a public library and one man I found out was living in a man's shelter at a church). They all had jobs too. So yes, we have this homeless population too, but unlike in japan, we have the other homeless populations piling on top of them.

  71. Pappa Whiskey says:

    Brother, I know I'm late to this video, as it only just came up in my feed after viewing a half dozen or so other videos of yours in recent times. I wanted to tell you that I appreciate the broad variety of topics you cover, both positive and negative, about life in Japan. You often get some very interesting "guests", and offer some really great insights into Japan's current and historical culture. You also enunciate very well. Thank you for your efforts. I'm Australian, and I plan to visit Japan next year, 2020, for the first time. You, and a number of other youtube content makers, are helping me to map out a greater understanding of the Japanese, and will help me to arrive with a greater appreciation and understanding of their customs and traditions.

  72. Baron Karza says:

    No blacks to make things dangerous.

  73. Jackamomo says:

    1:17 So opiods and cocain have 0 negative health effects. Cannabis looks safer than tobacco too. Interesting…! So why do junkies always look like sh*t? Have we been lied to about drugs being dangerous?

  74. Crazy Bunimama says:

    Dignity and pride

  75. Alexander Chambord says:

    This is good content.

  76. Rui Takeda says:

    I had lived in Japan for 15 years, I could say that people are very friendly there, also dogs and cats are not afraid of humans

  77. Annie Aviles says:

    Yes, but Japan’s suicide rates are almost identical to the United States.

  78. cahyowl says:

    That's the tidiest garbage I have ever seen

  79. Tu Dao Khue says:

    I really apprecite your video, but sometimes i have trouble with language- no eng subtile :((( i hard to entirely understand

  80. Vans Dy says:

    Hmmm.. if I see homeless people I would prefer giving them a hot meal and water. Hopefully if I go to Japan, they won't be offended.

  81. Bhaskar Param says:

    Wow

  82. Pantyhose Experience says:

    I was hoping he was going to say, my name is Tom Gill and I live in the blue tarp shelter with the solar panels 0:44

    That would have been great 🔥

  83. gg Play a carry next time says:

    Imagine organized crackheads

  84. john says:

    The difference between homeless in the USA especially in California and other countries is that the politicians who make policies worsen the situation. Homeless will go to jail in Japan if they pee or poop in the public.

  85. Mona Jones says:

    A “social anthropologist” lmao!!! Seriously? 😂😂😂😂

  86. Hotsauce is Lethal says:

    I would like to see US governments take notice of this video and begin to implement some of the lessons:

    They need to bring back state funded institutions for mentally ill rather than allowing them to just roam the streets with no sort of guidance or help. They fall between the cracks and are forgotten until they die sadly.

    There needs to be a multi-prong approach that tackles the main pillars of the problem. Addiction, mental health, labor, housing and nutrition should be addresses equally and simultaneously. Too little too late has always been the strategy instead, when there is no shortage of money OR resources in this country! It is absolutely a shame.

  87. j batter Wayne workshop says:

    Is this guy f**** kidding just because they have solar panels they're still living under a cart tarp unless underneath that car tarp is like some underground facility

  88. John Powell says:

    If you've ever worked with Japanese people (i did it for a whole 2 years) you can understand why…and it's 2 things…Pride and Work ethic…

    These cats give everything they do, 1000% and never ask you for anything…

    It's admirable, to be honest….

  89. Hitech says:

    See that Nancy
    You keep giving and they will keep taking. Shut down the Demicrats and the homeless problem goes away.

  90. BROOKIE BROOKE says:

    I dont know why he keeps continuing to compare to America? England had hard drugs & really bad neighborhood. So dont forget where u come from…hes not Japanese.

  91. youxkio says:

    Here in Taiwan is very similar to that in the video. I only saw one person begging in 9 years, here in Taiwan.

  92. Melvin Dorkus says:

    Don't ask…..but honestly pigs raise pigs

  93. Karen Hargis says:

    People who are homeless are not heartless…..

  94. Ladymadonna007 says:

    I hope you are still clean.

  95. QuiltingCrow says:

    It would do Western society good in general if we still had the ability to feel things like pride, shame etc.

  96. Itsjust_ My_lifestyle says:

    Atleast the professor acknowledged that cigarettes & alcohol are drugs

  97. midori says:

    As a Japanese living in Los Angeles, it is true. I don’t want to give my money to beggars on the streets. I was raised this way by my parents back at Yokohama. I have no answer to why I don’t give money. I just follow what I was told growing up. Mind your own business, let them do what they want. Not a big deal.

  98. Sky Ryder says:

    If you haven't lost pride you've truly never been homeless.

  99. Will Walker says:

    They did shut down hospitals in the u.s. not all states but most states or cities have stopped years ago with treatment of mentally ill persons..most of the time mentally ill persons end up in the prison system instead of receiving the proper treatment they need.

  100. Margo Hannah says:

    Japan does not abandon the mentally ill to alleys like they do in Canada and the USA.

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