Smallest figure ever may not be telling the whole story, though.

On Friday, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare released the results of an annual study of the number of homeless people in the country’s parks and riverside areas. Conducted in January of this year, researchers found 3,065 homeless people, a decrease of 383 compared to last year and the lowest total since the study was started in 2003.

Out of the 3,065, roughly 91 percent, were men, about 6 percent women, and the remainder of visually indeterminate sex due to obscuring clothing or other factors. Broken down by prefecture, Osaka had the largest observed homeless population, at 888, followed by Tokyo (661) and Kanagawa (454).

On the surface, this would be an applaudably low homelessness rate, given Japan’s current total population of somewhere around 125 million people. However, aspects of how the study was performed may have resulted in lower figures than the actual reality of the situation.

First is the study’s focus on parks and riverside areas. It is true that in Japan, the vast majority of homeless people spend their nights sleeping in parks and undeveloped riverside area. Compared to many other countries, the portion of homeless people literally sleeping on the streets, sidewalks, or in storefronts in Japan is very small. That said, it’s not as if there are absolutely no the number of Japanese homeless people in purely urban environments, especially during the day, so not including such areas in the study would mean at least some level of underreporting.

Second is the method by which the numbers were collected for parks and riversides. Local government workers visited the sites in their territories and reported the number of homeless people they saw there, so any homeless person out of sight, or out of the park at the time of the site visit, was not included in the tally.

On the other hand, assuming no major changes in the study’s methodology or the diligence of those performing it compared to past years, a decrease in the number of homelessness could still be seen as a positive development, considering there hasn’t been a noticeable surge in the number of homeless people in non-park areas of Japan since a year ago. The counterpoint to that, though, would be the question of why the observed homeless population decreased, specifically whether it’s the result of improved social support or economic improvements allowing more homeless people to secure housing, or whether the drop is the grim result of homeless people passing away.

So while “only around 3,000 homeless people found in Japan” might look good on paper, it’s probably still way to early for the Japanese government to consider the problem of homelessness solved.

Source: The Sankei News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/Otowan
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!