Sleeping Rough in Tokyo
In April of 2010 I arrived in Japan with nothing arranged other than a place to leave my suitcase. I vividly recall the daunting feeling of stepping out into the street knowing that from that moment on I was effectively homeless.
The next few days were the some of most challenging that I've had to face in my life. Firstly, it was unexpectedly cold in Tokyo and each night was a struggle for warmth. The second challenge was to muster up the courage to approach and converse with other homeless people in a foreign language, not to mention a very different and complex culture.
Those that I did interact with were every part as human as you or I. Some were very reserved yet others couldn't stop talking. I found incredible generosity where I least expected to find it and often encountered great warmth and acceptance, even as a foreigner. Every single one of them had a story and I began to realise that this is simply where they are in life at this current time. The vast majority were over 60 and many of them had lengthy careers. I find it such a shame that many people see the homeless as a lazy bunch of freeloaders.
To worsen matters it seems as though the homeless are invisible to the public eye. In Ueno Park (well known for its homeless population) hundreds of tourists would pose for their picture with a famous statue which stood not ten meters from a row of park benches occupied by homeless guys and yet not a single person turned to face them. This disconnectedness from the the rest of society is also reflected in the government's response. The irony being you must have a fixed address to qualify for what short-term support is available.
During my brief time in Tokyo I gained an incredible insight into what it means to be homeless. I came to appreciate even the simplest of pleasures: a hot meal, a shower, even sunshine. Along with that came extended periods of boredom, isolation and even humiliation. At times it was frustratingly difficult to take pictures but this is what I captured.