First of all, from what I've heard there are no food kitchen or homeless shelter in Nagoya. Or at the very least the church leader I asked said she never heard of one. In all honesty, I don't think the Japanese government would provide such services unless there's a natural disaster. Of course, that maybe me being biased because of what I've been learning about the Japanese deaf people.
Also, a while ago I was actually quickly interviewed by a Japanese friend who was doing a survey on them. She asked me questions like, "Did I ever meet a homeless man in Nagoya?" "Was I scared" "Would I be scared" etc etc. When I told her I never had but I probably wouldn't be scared, she was surprised. From what she told me, I assume that most Japanese people avoid these people because of they think they're scary.
Indeed, I was a bit more careful, and thought hard about whether I should bring a bag or not. You see, I didn't know what I was getting into that night. I didn't know if we were going to a shelter, but I thought just in case I'll just keep my wallet. Being cautious, I even thought about keeping my important cards separate from my wallet. When I arrived and learned we were walking around giving food, I was a bit relieved and laughed to myself about how I prepared myself.
That night it was COLD. It was so cold that one of the guys who was there said, "死ねるほど寒い！" which roughly translates as "It's so cold I can die!". That's why I was amazed by some of the homeless we saw. Most of them were under the huge overpass in the city. Some had burners and were cooking dinner when we saw them (it seemed to be some kind of nabe (鍋). Some had makeshift tents, all huddled together with other tents or in a row like a neighborhood. The first man we saw just had cardboard that he stood up to make walls around one of the overpass's pillars. A lot of their homes were in places that were hard to reach as well - a lot was only connected by a narrow ledge that the men deftly walked on. All homes, except the ones that were grouped together, were fairly separated from each other, but they were relatively close to each other. The only homeless people we saw were men, and almost everyone was by themselves (except for one group of men).
About the men themselves, I would say they looked like your typical homeless man. All wore coats, and actually didn't look too different than the average Japanese man except that they were all a bit dirtier and were living outside. They also all looked around the same age: about 40's or 50's, I would say. Definitely we didn't see any young people among them. Because of the cold, many weren't in their homes ( or perhaps they were sleeping), so we left the food out and flyers out for them. Most took them after giving thanks and a small bow. Only one man spent a good time talking to us. He stands out to me though, because he actually did come to church the next morning.
I would definitely say it was a shock to see him there. There was a part of me who thought he was just shooting the breeze and didn't mean it when he was asking where the church was and that he would go. A lot of homeless people say that and never show up. But there he was, donning cosplay clothes (cosplay is short for costume play, which is dressing up as a character). He wore a uniform that looked like it came from an anime. Definitely the most unusual dressed guy I ever seen come to church. HOWEVER, everyone was surprised that God brought him, and I have to admit it shows that God does work in mysterious ways. For one thing, he was so helpful and friendly. He talked to me and my other roommate as if we were native speakers - or maybe he couldn't help but talk really fast. He was really intellectual as well; he went from discussing how Japan was once connected to Hong Kong to how Jon should talk to girls and children (by crouching down to their eye level). It was definitely an experience. He also helped clean up by putting away chairs with some of the church crew, which was definitely unexpected. I wonder if I'll see him again. Probably on another Saturday night when I help pass out onigiri (rice balls) and tea. ^_^
The homeless ministry in Japan is a lot different from the one I've expereienced in Columbus. Instead of the homeless coming to you, we go to them. We don't preach or talk long to them. Literally my group leader just introduced us as people from A church (we didn't say which church) and that we were passing food to the homeless. We also invited them to church and gave them a photocopy of the church's business card with directions and a map of how to get there. The church does this about once a week for an hour or two. Afterwards, everyone eats together in the city before dispersing. At first, I thought that we could do more for the homeless and expand the ministry, but after thinking about it, that's just my American way of thinking. I'm not sure what the Japanese homeless would do if we tried to engage them in conversation. Some would enjoy it, but a lot of them seemed like they didn't want to be bothered. I'm not an expert on this, so I don't have much to say, but it'll be interesting to see what the homeless are like for now on.
Here's a quick video about the homeless in Japan.
Here's a small article about the homeless in Nagoya. Apparently there is a homeless shelter:
A more personal article about the homeless in Japan (particularly in Nagoya), along with what Christian orgs or doing to help them:
Nagoya homeless 2