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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
Big Issue reaches Japan
By Jonathan Head
BBC Tokyo correspondent

The Big Issue magazine for the homeless has gone on sale in Japan.

The number of homeless people in Japan has risen sharply over the past 13 years of economic stagnation, but the problem gets little attention from the government or the general public.

Japanese homeless
Japan's homeless sometimes face public hostility
The Big Issue's founder, John Bird, has chosen Japan's second city of Osaka to launch the magazine because it has Japan's highest number of homeless.

Officially the total in Japan is put at around 25,000, which is far fewer than in Britain or America.

But their plight is in some ways worse, because of the intolerant attitude of many Japanese towards those without jobs or houses.

A lot of the homeless are former salarymen who lost their jobs during the economic stagnation of the 1990s.

Maybe we sold about 400 copies, so it's not bad
Miku Sano, editor
They live in neat communities of blue plastic tents, in parks and along riverbanks, keeping a low profile.

Begging and drug abuse are rare.

Persuading them to advertise their situation by selling a magazine like the Big Issue may prove difficult.

The Japanese magazine's editor, Miku Sano, told BBC News Online that some vendors had been sceptical about the idea, but based on their first day's success, they had decided to keep on selling into the evening.

"It's going okay. We had about 15 vendors selling in different places in the city, and maybe we sold about 400 copies, so it's not bad," she said.

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26 Apr 02  |  Asia-Pacific
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31 Aug 01  |  Business

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