As the Paralympics begin and the second wave of immense GB pride starts to flow there is a dark and ominous tone surrounding the Tokyo Olympic park. That is the attempted and largely carried out eviction of all homeless people surrounding the park, in order to provide an ‘aesthetically’ pleasing games.
The city of Tokyo is renowned for its technological innovation, financial prosperity, and developing superpower status, but it is hiding a dark secret, its need to show the world a city without homelessness. Except Tokyo hasn’t developed innovative social and financial schemes or support instead it has secretly and quietly been delivering eviction notices for its residents, demanding that they effectively remove themselves from sight before the games begin.
Since Japan was chosen as the 2020 Olympic host in 2013, they have taken a tough approach to homelessness in the city of Tokyo. This approach, however, has not been centred on expanding and enhancing resources and funding but rather a cruel attempt to simply force homeless residents out of Tokyo and their homes. This resulted in parks being locked at night and lit up stopping homeless communities from sleeping there. There was believed to be thousands residing in these parks before restrictions.
The Olympic torch is often described as lighting up a city, providing a place with great joy and pride during the Olympic games, but for the homeless population, the arrival of the torch has brought overwhelming sadness, anxiety, and distress. With many calling the governments actions INHUMANE and UNFAIR.
Along with the closure of parks at night, street tents around train stations and Olympic venues have been removed. A widespread eviction and erasure of all homeless people and possessions. As thousands are forced to hide from sight in less visible locations. Many have been left distraught as authorities threatened to remove possessions, an act that has only been prevented due to the homeless community helping each other to quickly relocate.
Some have described how this has been the biggest struggle of their lives as their homes – their tents and possessions have been destroyed. With communities pulled apart and vulnerable people isolated, distanced from help. The need to project a clean and prosperous city has left the gap between the richest and the poorest in Japan all the more evident, as those who previously struggled to survive on the streets are barely able to live day-to-day.
The once elevated Olympic spirit amongst the homeless community has been destroyed by their isolation from the event. They are of Japanese heritage and yet they are prevented from being allowed to enjoy a home Olympic games because they are viewed as a thing that needs to be removed in order for it to be deemed successful. Would a city without homeless people, because of good intervention and support, not be viewed as a bigger success?
This once exciting, once in a lifetime event, is now a threat to their lives!
One distressing case concerning a thirty-year-old male who sought public assistance depicts how arrangements for him to stay in a business hotel was placed under one condition – check out MUST take place on July 22nd. Why? Because the Olympics commence on the 23rd.
Statistics previously listed around 1,100 homeless people residing in parks, riverbanks, and station buildings but by January 2019 over 300 people had disappeared from records, their whereabouts unknown. These people have been isolated from their communities and are now unknown and non-existence in the eyes of government demographics, with little chance or hope of access to support. Moreover, these figures are yet to be updated for the most recent years and there is a great fear that the eviction mentality has caused further damage and disappearance amongst the homeless community.
During the 2013 Olympic host selection the International Olympic Committee inspected the city of Tokyo, but interestingly before this, two weeks’ worth of city sweeps took place, removing homeless people’s tents and possessions so the committee wouldn’t see them on their luxury bus tour. Highlighting how the government happily removed a whole community’s possessions and homes for aesthetic purposes. This subsequently triggered the eviction of all homeless people from the streets, parks, and stations of the city of Tokyo.
Some have questioned why homeless people are not seeking help from shelters, as many of the community are vulnerable and elderly. However, COVID! The shelters provided typically consist of small rooms crammed with three to four bunk beds, meaning eight people may be sleeping and living in a tiny box room. During a pandemic. It is vital to remember that COVID is currently escalating in Tokyo, and many are not vaccinated including the homeless population. Therefore, eight people sleeping in a small room is not safe. This leaves homeless people at risk from eviction, and unable to seek shelter due to being unvaccinated and vulnerable.
So as the Paralympics captures your imagination and heart, and as the gold medals come rushing in, remember those who have lost their homes, community, and safety for these games.
The torch may light up the city but for some it has simply cast shadows.
If YOU would like to help those in need, you can make donations to the Clothing Collective [here]