The increase in the number of homeless people living rough in Japan's major cities dates from the 1990's and the beginning of the "Lost Decade" as Japan's economy began to contract after the collapse of the assets and property bubble of the 1970's and 1980's.
Hard figures for the exact number of homeless people in Japan are hard to come by.
Government statistics quote a number of around 25,000 people as officially homeless in Japan.
In Nagoya alone, the city authority says around 100-200 people are living on the streets. Caritas, a Catholic social welfare group, dedicated to helping disadvantaged people, believes the figure is much higher at approximately 2000-3500 people. These figures are supported by such organizations as Oasis in the UK.
The years 1999-2008 saw an explosion in the number of people rendered homeless in Nagoya due to the downturn in the fortunes of small, subsidiary companies related to the area's biggest employer, Toyota Motor Corporation.
Low-tier workers, predominately older males, began to fall through the societal cracks at this time as employment dried up. Industrial injuries, family break-ups, poverty and pure bad luck meant that many older men with few qualifications and skills were forced on to the streets.
Traditionally in Japan, when the main bread-winner (mostly male) lost their jobs, the wife would decamp with any children to the wife's family, leaving the man to cope as best he could.
Partial relief came in 2005 with the hosting of Aichi Expo 2005 in Nagoya, when the global spotlight forced Nagoya city to act and set up a shelter for its homeless community.
However, the budget was time limited and soon after the Expo ended, the shelter was closed and the homeless had no option but to return to the streets.
Since then, various NPO's and churches in Nagoya have been trying on an ad hoc and uncoordinated basis to aid the city's homeless community. These efforts include food handouts and opportunities for the homeless to bathe and seek medical attention.
Unlike in cities such as London in the UK, the churches in Nagoya have not yet come together to formulate a centralized plan to seek to get the needy off the streets by pressurizing the city to open drop-in centers or shelters, where the homeless can obtain an address, gain or replace ID documents, apply for jobs or state welfare and open bank accounts.
The homeless in Japan's cities are open to abuse by gangs of youth who may terrorize them at night, beating them up and destroying their tarpaulin shelters or by Japan's mob, the yakuza, who set up vulnerable individuals in shoddy, inadequate apartments to scam the welfare system, taking the lion's share of any benefits from the state they may receive under threat of violence.
What the homeless need in Nagoya and in Japan's other major cities is a government funded system to provide a long-term shelter where they can get off the streets at night, obtain a legitimate address and hope to reintegrate in to society.
Over the coming year, JapanVisitor will be following the work of the Rev. Daniel Rea in Nagoya, an American Puritan, experienced and committed to finding practical solutions to the homelessness problem in Nagoya, after his previous work with the disadvantaged in Houston, Texas.
Rev. Daniel Rea has produced a comprehensive plan for a homeless day care center in Nagoya with costings and a needs analysis of the current homelessness problems of the city.
We ask you to join us as we seek together to end the scourge of homelessness in Nagoya by setting up a day center in the city.
Over the next weeks and months we will detail the people living rough on the streets of Nagoya, their lives and stories, and the attempt to set up a Day Center to help them.
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