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Controversy over the amount of homeless people in Tokyo

A government survey claims homelessness is at an all-time low, but some experts are critical of that claim

By Thor Benson
Controversy over the amount of homeless people in Tokyo
Homeless in Tokyo. (CC/Wikimedia/Kounosu)

TOKYO, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- A new Japanese government survey claims Tokyo, the most populated metropolitan area in the world, has reached an all-time low of homeless people, but some experts question those numbers.

On October 17, publications like the Wall Street Journal reported on a survey the Japanese government released showing the homeless population was down to 1,697, in a city with a metropolitan population of almost 40 million. However, experts from the area are not so sure that number is accurate.

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"I don't think the [survey] number reflects the reality," Miku Sano, a managing director of the homeless street newspaper The Big Issue Japan, told Al Jazeera. Others pointed out that even though many Tokyo residents may not be homeless, there are millions struggling to get by.

The survey was done by city government employees who were asked to count homeless people they saw in parks and on the street. Hiroshi Ito of the metropolitan government's Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health told Al Jazeera that many homeless people could be unseen, as they often reside in internet cafes and fast food restaurants during the day.

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If the numbers are true, then they reflect a huge disparity between homelessness in Tokyo and homelessness in other major cities around the world. In New York, for example, the number of homeless people is over 56,000. As of 2003, Beijing, a city with a metropolitan population of over 21 million, was reported to have at least 57,000 homeless people in the city.

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