Typhoon-Proof Wind Turbines
A Japanese energy startup called Challenergy is creating the first wind turbines that can withstand and harness energy from typhoons. The wind turbines are designed to help countries, especially in Asia, derive some benefit from frequent tropical storms. Typhoon-proof wind turbines could provide a solution to the challenges storm-prone countries often face when they have to shut down standard wind turbines because of typhoons. The robust design of typhoon-proof wind turbines could make renewable energy more accessible to developing countries where tropical storms are prevalent. Building the turbines could also create jobs and protect the environment, which benefits low-income communities.

Deriving Benefits From Typhoons

Atsushi Shimizu, the founder of Challenergy, told Reuters that a central goal behind creating the turbines is to turn typhoons into a positive. Tropical storms have historically caused ample damage to Japan and other Asian countries, but the typhoon-proof wind turbines could make the storms highly beneficial to people and the environment. Typhoons often destroy traditional wind turbines and put them out of service, but the design of Challenergy’s “Magnus Vertical Axis Wind Turbine” withstands and benefits from storms by harnessing powerful wind energy. The turbines could save people, energy and the environment by withstanding tropical storms and providing sustainable energy, even during typhoon season.

How Typhoon-Proof Wind Turbines Work

Challenergy designed the “Magnus Vertical Axis Wind Turbine” without the traditional pointed blades that are characteristic of wind turbines. The typhoon-proof wind turbines resemble egg beaters, featuring square, upright blades that spin horizontally in the wind’s direction. As a result, Challenergy’s wind turbines are sturdier and more able to capture clean energy from typhoons than traditional wind turbines.

Shimizu told CNN that Japan has often imported wind turbines from Europe, but they are poorly designed for areas with frequent typhoons. If Challenergy’s typhoon-proof wind turbines are successful, Shimizu predicts the turbines could provide enough clean energy to “power Japan for 50 years.” Challenergy is on its way to introducing a new, sustainable energy source to Japan and the rest of the world through its typhoon-proof wind turbines.

The Benefits at Large

Every year, Japan experiences around 26 typhoons and other tropical storms, which makes it difficult to maintain wind turbines and harness energy from the storms. Challenergy’s typhoon-proof wind turbines could provide a long-term solution to Japan’s current low capacity for wind energy. The turbines could create jobs in Japan and other countries and provide a reliable source of clean energy amid both normal and extreme weather conditions. Challenergy’s turbines offer a solution to the challenges of integrating clean energy in typhoon-prone countries. The turbines could help all parts of the world, regardless of climate, adopt sustainable energy sources to protect the environment, which everyone relies on to survive.

Challenergy is still testing its wind turbines to optimize performance, but nevertheless, the typhoon-proof turbines offer hope of a clean energy source that will cater to countries that experience an abundance of natural disasters. For many developing countries, this could mean a long-term energy supply that shows resilience in the face of frequent natural disasters in contrast to traditional wind turbines.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

forest-bathing
For the first time in human history, humans are increasingly turning away from wild spaces. By the year 2050, expectations have determined that nearly 7 billion people or two-thirds of the human population will live in urban areas. Meanwhile, half of the world’s poor already live in Earth’s most populous areas where access to natural space is dwindling. Re-imagining the value of nature is alleviating symptoms of urbanization that disproportionately impact the world’s poor. In Japan, the practice of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) serves as a functional detox from the unnatural environment. The practice presents a fresh perspective on humanity’s relationship with nature and provides insight into the importance of nature in sustainable development.

The Environment and Health

Throughout human history, the natural world guided people in their daily lives. However, urbanization is reducing human exposure to nature and increasingly introducing citizens to harmful pollution that exacerbates illnesses that disproportionately affect the poor.

In developing nations, illnesses are most associated with hazards of the urban environment carries. In Dharavi, India’s most densely populated and poorest community, a lack of clean water and sanitation or trash disposal systems are among the issues contributing to a lower quality of living. Despite this one square mile area housing close to 1 million people, there are no parks, trees or wildlife besides disease-carrying rodents and stray pets. In addition, summer temperatures soar and monsoonal rainstorms find just enough room for flooding to spawn mosquito-borne illnesses. Neighborhoods such as Dharavi depict a negative relationship between the urban environment and health.

Health and Forest-Bathing

Poverty often has links to mental illness. This means many of the symptoms of a polluted urban environment contribute to a higher likelihood of stress. Socio-environmental factors as a whole play a large role in determining the health of individuals. However, studies often overlook the tangible effect that the physical environment plays in development. Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese term for forest-bathing, provides insight into what humans are missing in an absence of nature.

Japanese health officials examined the relationship that exposure to natural places has on human health. While studying the practice of forest-bathing and bodily responses to nature, scientists discovered a direct correlation between health and exposure to nature. For example, studies determined that exposure to nature promotes health benefits, including “lower levels of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure,” more than urban exposure. Responses often lead to a lower likelihood of developing serious illnesses that are too expensive for poor nations to address. This begs the question: Do the environments citizens live in hold them back?

The Economics of the Wild

Nature adds a quantifiable impact on economies across the globe. This is especially important for poorer communities that experience direct impacts from the environments they exist in. Singapore, one of the most urbanized nations in the world and previously home to poor communities comparable to Dharavi, is integrating various forms of nature into urban design through the Singapore Green Plan. Sustainable developments feature the city’s main attractions and are helping to alleviate poverty. This means more revenue for the local economy and higher incomes, coupled with an improved quality of life. Comparably, a modern appreciation of nature is proving rewarding across the globe in alleviating symptoms of urbanization. In terms of health, Singapore’s increased greenery also improves the quality of living by negating the urban heat effect and air quality.

For similar reasons, outdoor recreation constitutes one of the most rapidly growing industries worldwide. Japan’s forest bathing is a cultural phenomenon in which citizens escape to natural space. For the United States, hiking and action sports such as mountain biking and skiing are becoming increasingly popular. A whole economy centers around this type of recreation. According to the Outdoor Recreation Association, recreation centered around the U.S. outdoors generates $887 billion annually. The wild is a source of wellbeing, economic development and cultural significance for millions. However, for the developing world, nature is still largely inaccessible, especially for impoverished citizens in urban areas.

Sustainable Development

Uncontrolled development is not the only cause of the environment in poor nations. Rather, the environment in poor urban areas is often responsible for the area’s poverty in the first place. Unsustainable development exacerbates symptoms of poverty. The absence of nature in urban areas holds poor communities down.

Singapore is not the only one incorporating sustainable development into its future planning. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) describes environmental aid as “necessary for improving economic, social and political conditions in developing countries.” Sustainable development and wellbeing increasingly look to nature as a fundamental aspect of development.

Increasing Access to Natural Spaces

Historically, access to nature by means of escape is recreational freedom for privileged, fully-developed nations. In developing nations, the environment is a determiner of the quality of life. Unfortunately, urban areas including Dharavi and Singapore do not have the same access to nature as Japan’s forests. This means that forest bathing is a distant dream for millions living in the most densely populated areas of the globe. Increasing accessible natural spaces and integrating nature into an urban design is fundamental to increasing the quality of life for developing nations.

Investing in poor communities is not separate from investing in the environment. The health, wealth and development of communities remain largely dependent on natural space. Regardless of status, forest-bathing in Japan presents an often overlooked benefit of nature that surrounds all of human life. Poverty and the environment are two heavily interconnected issues that can be and currently are receiving attention.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

Invisible Poverty in JapanThe third-largest economy in the world, Japan has vast influence over global trends in technology and culture. The country has a storied history, first opening its shores to modernization in the mid-19th century with the arrival of American Commodore Matthew Perry. After contact with the West, Japan underwent a process of rapid industrialization, adopting and co-opting colonial practices to become the leading East Asian power. A closer look at the history of the nation tells a story of invisible poverty in Japan.

The History of Japan

During World War II, Japan’s fate changed for the worse. Tokyo sided with the Axis Powers and lost the war to the Allies in a devastating fashion. After the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from American atomic strikes, Japan had to rebuild in the interceding decades. By the 1980s, Japan once again emerged as a major world power and the second-largest economy. Pundits believed Japan was on track to overtake even the United States.

The arrival of the 1990s heralded a second collapse. The Japanese stock market burst and the country plunged into a recession known as the Lost Decade. Growth stagnated and has remained slow for the last 30 years. In 2020, COVID-19 added yet another factor of uncertainty to an already unstable fiscal situation.

Japan still remains a wealthy developed nation. But, its population is aging and a return to global preeminence is therefore unlikely. Meanwhile, poverty is festering, particularly among the young. Addressing these challenges is crucial as much of the global economy remains tied to Japan.

Invisible Poverty in Japan

In Japan, poverty is often invisible but no less severe. In an OECD report analyzing 34 countries, Japan ranked sixth from last in terms of the “share of the population living in poverty.” While these statistics might be shocking to ordinary Japanese citizens who mostly do not have to experience direct encounters with grinding poverty, the statistics are not surprising to researchers. Over the years, experts took notice of an alarming trend. Not only is the Japanese poverty level high (not unlike the United States) but it is also steadily increasing. In 2020, Japan’s poverty rate was almost 16%, defined as “people whose household income is less than half of the median of the entire population.”

Since the 1990s, growth has been almost non-existent. Across multiple governments, none have been able to restart the Japanese economic engine. In 2019, growth was a measly 0.3%. Although U.S. citizens often critique their own economy for being too slow, the U.S. economy is much faster than Japan’s. In 2019, the United States grew 2.2%. Amid COVID-19, the contraction of the economy exacerbated these challenges. A wider global recovery has sparked optimism in Tokyo, but uncertainty lies ahead.

Japan’s Strong Points

  • Japan retains a high standard of living. Despite its economic slowdown from the 1990s, Japan remains one of the most prosperous countries in the world. While Tokyo lags slightly behind the United States and Western Europe in per capita GDP, it has a highly developed free-market system coupled with a dynamic culture of innovation that puts the island nation at the forefront of technological progress.
  • Inequality is relatively low. Compared to countries like the United States, Japan has a lower Gini coefficient, the baseline metric used by experts to measure income inequality. The Japanese government has had a positive influence on this development. Effective taxation and reallocation of funds allow for a significant decrease in Japanese inequality in comparison to the beginning of the 20th century.
  • Of all nations, Japan has the highest life expectancy. During the economic boom of the 1980s, Japan achieved a crowning status as the nation with the longest life expectancy. Although its economy has stagnated since that period, Tokyo’s role at the pinnacle of the world has not diminished. To this day, the average Japanese life expectancy is 84, compared to 79 in the United States.

Second Harvest Alleviates the Impacts of Poverty

Despite high Japanese living standards, the often invisible poverty in Japan has galvanized a growing cross-section of Japanese nationals to build organizational structures to address the fundamental challenges the population faces. Addressing food insecurity in the nation is Second Harvest, “Japan’s first food bank” drawing from farmer and retailer donations across the country to distribute resources to underserved communities. In 2002, its first year of legal corporation, Second Harvest delivered 30 tons of food. Ten years later, the amount had grown to more than 3,000 tons of food. Since 2013, Second Harvest has been delivering food to “320 welfare agencies and organizations in the Kanto area as well as nationally.”

Such organizations lend an optimistic perspective to the future, one that the industrious and innovative people of Japan can capitalize on.

– Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

Japan’s Indigenous PeopleIndigenous people everywhere have struggled with prejudice, the challenge to keep their cultures alive and the societal pressure to assimilate. They also comprise “15% of the world’s” most extremely impoverished despite only making up 5% of the global population. Now, living predominantly in the prefecture of Hokkaido, Japan, the Ainu are Japan’s little-known native people and have faced all of these challenges since the 14th century. It was not until 1991 that the Japanese government acknowledged the group as an ethnic minority. Furthermore, it was not until 2008 that the government recognized the Ainu as Japan’s indigenous people. While legislation has improved conditions for the Ainu people over the years, problems of government accountability remain. The Ainu Association of Hokkaido continues to defend the group’s rights and culture.

A History of Hardship

The Ainu people’s current circumstances of poverty come from a history of colonialism. During Japan’s Meiji era, which lasted from 1868 to 1912, the Japanese government prioritized settlers’ land rights and disregarded the Ainu’s rights. This disrupted the livelihoods and economic activities of Japan’s indigenous people, who largely relied on fishing salmon and hunting deer. A greater effort to strip the Ainu “of their culture and traditions” took root as well. As part of the government’s forced assimilation efforts, the Hokkaido Aborigine Protection Act of 1899 encouraged Ainu people to shift to an agriculture-based economy, but the land they were relocated to was known to be largely barren.

Japan’s indigenous people are still marginalized. Many reside in lower-income areas of Hokkaido. According to CNN, “High levels of poverty and unemployment currently hinder the Ainu’s social progress.” As of 2013, 44.8% of the Ainu received welfare assistance from the government, 11.7% more than Japan’s total population. Relatively few Ainu attend institutions of higher education.

Support for the Ainu​

Founded in 1946, the Ainu Association of Hokkaido exists to advocate for Ainu rights. In an interview with Minority Rights Group International, Ainu Association of Hokkaido Deputy Head Yupo Abe said that, for many years, Ainu people did not know that the government was exploiting them. This was because their indigenous identities went unacknowledged and many did not have education regarding land entitlement. It was only until the Ainu Association of Hokkaido met with other organizations doing similar work for indigenous groups that it realized the Ainu needed to reclaim their culture and fight for their rights.

Discussions with other native people who had experienced similar cases of discrimination led the Ainu Association of Hokkaido to utilize various platforms. This includes the United Nation’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations. The group lobbied for concrete actions from the government to improve the lives of Japan’s indigenous people.

Pushing for Progress

With the establishment of the Advisory Council for Future Ainu Policy in 2008 and the Council for Ainu Policy Promotion of 2009, the Ainu Association of Hokkaido has had some success in bettering conditions for the indigenous of Japan. A shifting focus to Ainu cultural awareness also stands as a positive trend. Driven by Ainu pressure and economic desire, the Japanese government spent at least $220 million building the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony in Shiraoi, Hokkaido to honor Ainu culture. Though the pandemic led to many delays, the museum and park opened in July 2020.

Some still recognize the need for more work. Hokkaido University law professor, Kunihiko Yoshida, expressed in a BBC interview that the space is not likely to create meaningful change. “The Ainu still cannot fish their salmon and dams are still being built that submerge sacred sites. There’s no self-determination, no collective rights and no reparations. It’s just cultural performance,” he said. However, some Ainu believe that the project is beneficial because of job creation, which could potentially lift some out of unemployment and poverty.

As the ethnic minority of Japan, the Ainu people still struggle with discrimination in multiple ways. At the same time, growing cultural awareness and action suggests a broader desire for change. The Ainu Association of Hokkaido supports the Ainu community, and in time, steps toward progress might spark a national journey toward change.

Safira Schiowitz
Photo: Flickr

Karoshi Culture in AnimationJapan, known for its global economic power, has started developing solutions to Karoshi, or death by overwork. This phenomenon started in the late 1960s and gained media traction in the 1990s when several company executives died suddenly. Karoshi culture in animation, specifically, is a significant issue as workers experience unlivable wages and long hours.

How Prominent is Karoshi Culture?

The Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies suggests that the exploitation of Japanese workers is a Western disease that has caused as many deaths as motor vehicle accidents. This issue is specific to Japan because of the “workaholic” mindset of the Japanese economy. On average, Japanese workers do 100 to 200 more overtime hours than other developed nations.

Karoshi’s Effect on Animators

Karoshi culture in animation largely has to do with wage theft and overwork. In 2010, a 28-year-old animator committed suicide shortly after he quit his job. The animator worked hundreds of hours of overtime without pay for several months. An online journal that the animator kept documented that he had only taken three days off in 10 months and worked as late as 4 a.m.

Young workers are consistently the most exploited demographic as highly sought out animators still work for abysmal wages. The median wage for animators in 2019 was $36,000, with many low-end illustrators making as little as $200 per week. Comparatively, the average animator in the United States makes between $65,000 to $75,000.

Companies can get away with this because many animators are self-employed or freelance workers. Employees receive pay on a per-project basis, which means that employers can refuse to pay animators if they do not complete more work. This financial insecurity often drives workers to suicide or the hospital. Many workers have died from heart attacks or strokes.

Karoshi and the Japanese Economy

Many animators must choose between their job and starting families. Animator Ryosuke Hirakimoto told The Japan Times that he had never made more than $38 a day. He ultimately quit after his first child was born. Hirakimoto “started to wonder if this lifestyle was enough.”

Animators leaving, either by death or by choice, could ultimately hurt the global anime market. Most anime production is based in Tokyo and the industry is worth more than $20 billion. Anime provides great economic prosperity for Japan. The global pandemic has only increased sales and streaming as more individuals seek entertainment while stuck indoors.

Alongside workers leaving, the lack of pay means a lack of contributions to the economy. Animators will likely choose to spend their money on necessities because they cannot afford luxuries.

Recent Progress

Japanese citizens recently developed an organization called the National Defense Counsel for Victims of KAROSHI. It offers consultations on compensation for work-related stress, diseases, disabilities or death. Much of the organization’s work is dedicated to preventing Karoshi and helping those affected by Karoshi.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Japan reported that the average citizen worked 1,598 hours in 2020. This prompted the Japanese government to introduce a plan to encourage businesses to offer four-day workweeks.

Since overwork and pay discrepancies are leading causes of the phenomena, the implementation of a four-day workweek could solve many issues stemming from Karoshi culture in animation. Japan recommends that companies reduce their hours or keep better track of overtime to promote the educational and familial prospects of employees.

Moving Forward

Japan’s Karoshi culture in animation will not resolve easily. There is a lot that requires addressing beyond the economic factors, including the social stigma of taking time off. The next move for the government is implementing legislation to solidify shorter workweeks as the population ages and shrinks. 

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Pixabay

Period Poverty in JapanAlthough Japan is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, many women struggle to obtain sanitary products for menstruation. Some women cannot afford menstrual products and social stigma on the topic of menstruation means women suffer in silence  adding to the challenges of period poverty in Japan. In 2019, Japan raised the taxes on sanitary products from 8% to 10%, whilst excluding products ranging from newspapers to non-alcoholic drinks. While it may seem like a small change, women who already struggle financially now struggle further to access sanitary products.

What is Period Poverty?

Period poverty is the inability to afford menstrual products, including pads and tampons, or not having access to handwashing facilities and waste management. Period products often have an extra tax, commonly known as “pink tax.” The tax increases the prices of these basic essentials, transforming pads and tampons into luxury items for women who struggle financially. Many use unhygienic alternatives as menstrual products, including rags, toilet paper or used pads, which can cause infections. Around 2.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to basic sanitation facilities, which adds another difficulty to properly managing a period. The shame that many people associate with menstruation can even cause girls and women to skip school or work.

Causes of Period Poverty in Japan

People in Japan do not discuss menstruation openly, so families and the government often do not address the challenges women face surrounding their periods. Furthermore, there is a large gender pay gap in Japan, women earn “only 73% as much as men.” The World Economic Forum ranked Japan 120th out of 156 countries on the gender gap report. Women also face employment inequality. Overall, significantly lower wages mean women have even less money left over from the costs of rent or food to buy sanitary products.

In addition, mothers, especially single mothers, do not receive full benefits if they work part-time, which leaves them financially insecure. More than 40% of women who work part-time earn less than $9,100 a year and part-time jobs leave women without security or opportunities to advance professionally. With children, women must put any extra money toward the needs of their children rather than purchasing sanitary products.

Statistics and Stories

  • If estimates determine that basic monthly expenses of sanitary products are 1,000 yen, or $9, this adds up to almost 500,000 yen or $4,500 over a lifetime. Some women may need painkillers or extra sanitary products, which adds to the expenses overall.
  • In a survey of 671 school-age women, only 82.9% could afford to use sanitary products as needed and did not require the use of unsafe alternatives.
  • Of the 671 women surveyed, 37% reported that financial difficulties forced them to change their pads or tampons less frequently.
  • A questionnaire that an activism group sent out received responses from women who reported using one pad the entire day or wrapping toilet paper around a used pad to save costs.

Steps Toward Progress

In the last few years, there have been small steps toward ending period poverty in Japan. In March 2021, the Japanese government budgeted 1.3 billion yen to help women in need of menstrual products. The government also helped local municipalities by distributing sanitary pads and tampons to the public free of charge. There is also a growing awareness of menstruation in pop culture and social media. The hit Japanese movie “Little Miss Period” breaks the menstrual taboo while providing education on periods. In addition, there are movements online to sign petitions to reduce the taxes. Some are hopeful that implementing menstrual education in schools will facilitate easier and more frequent conversations, thereby improving period poverty in Japan.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 and Poverty in JapanThe COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the 15% of people living in poverty in Japan, a figure already on the rise in recent years due to lower consumer spending and a shift to part-time employment. Citizens living below the poverty line are suffering from increased rates of food and housing insecurities. So, as the Japanese government prepares for the Olympics in the summer of 2021, it is also securing opportunities to combat rising poverty.

COVID-19 in Japan

Many policies in place at the beginning of the pandemic neglected the needs of Japan’s impoverished communities. For example, children could no longer receive government-funded meals due to school closures for public health safety. The pandemic has put pressure on the Japanese government to address preexisting social issues and the results will have a lasting positive impact. Collaborating with charitable organizations and businesses, the government has worked around traditional laws and regulations to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Japan.

Food Aid

One initial roadblock to COVID-19 relief was restrictions on who could receive food aid. After a poor harvest of rice in 1993, the Japanese government holds stockpiles of the grain in case of emergency. As part of a program called “food education,” the government releases a portion of this stockpile to schools each year in order to provide school lunches and emphasize the value of food. However, regulations made it difficult to release stockpiles to others in need during the pandemic, especially childless people.

The government is working to find loopholes in the 1993 stockpile law to ensure food security for Japan’s impoverished communities. Stockpiles are now allowed to release 300 kg of uncooked rice per year to each organization, compared to the 60 kg cap in previous years.

Charitable organizations such as Minoshima Megumi no Le in Fukuoka and volunteers at St. Ignatius Church in Tokyo have also worked to promote food security for families, refugees and other groups not covered by initial government distributions.

Housing Aid

The pandemic has threatened the safety of Japan’s homeless population. Initially, without adequate access to face coverings or sanitation, more than 4,500 citizens were at serious risk of catching the virus. While the Japanese government offers Livelihood Protection, a program designed to guarantee a minimum standard of living for all citizens, it is difficult to access for some populations in need, including homeless people.

Groups outside the government have also taken the initiative to limit the spread of the virus by providing housing. Across the country, hotels and inns are working to offer affordable shelter. One hotel chain based in Osaka currently offers rooms for ¥390 (about $4) per night. Rooms include a private bed and bath, amenities not found in the Livelihood Protection quarters. This offer helps 100 people at a time find safe living quarters, helping combat the pandemic while also dedicating a space for Japan’s homeless to take refuge for months to come.

Small Businesses and Labor Aid

Japan’s economy depends heavily on human resources, of which, small businesses represent 70%. When stay-at-home orders were implemented, tourist activity halted and consumer spending decreased and the country experienced its first large economic decline since 2015. By February 2021, 1,000 small businesses had closed with 25% located in Tokyo alone. These closures left more than 100,000 people without work, especially in retail, restaurants and manufacturing industries.

The Japanese government passed a record-setting COVID-19 stimulus package equivalent to 40% of Japan’s GDP to protect businesses and their employees. The stimulus allows the government to offer temporary no-interest loan plans to more affected businesses, opening the door for more citizens to receive the aid they need.

In Summary

Pressure from the pandemic has prompted Japan to address existing problems. The government, independent businesses and charities have taken an initiative to help manage the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Japan. Such movements have the potential to continue even after the pandemic, advancing the country’s standard of living for years to come.

Julia Fadanelli
Photo: Flickr

Regional Approaches to Immigration
Regional approaches to immigration highlight the potentially divisive topic as a building block for a better future. Across the world, nations respond to immigration influxes differently. However, history and modern immigration both show that immigration’s greatest impact is on lifting families out of poverty.

Immigration Controversy

Immigration is the movement of people from their home country to another country of which they are not native. Politically, immigration remains controversial throughout the United States. Many U.S. citizens believe that migrant families promote unwanted competition for resources and increase violence. However, what these beliefs fail to acknowledge are the reasons that individuals may leave their home countries. For many, the need to seek refuge dominates the need to leave their country of origin. For others, the desire for employment and education, an improved standard of living and a better life overall weigh into migrant decision to move.

Despite the controversy surrounding immigrant families, experts predict that the number of immigrants will continue to increase over time. While the U.S. has exerted effort into preventing widespread immigration, other countries have embraced their foreign neighbors.

Regional Considerations for Immigration

Per Lumen Learning, Japan once had strict laws concerning immigration. However, issues such as a high birth rate and an aging population forced the country to reevaluate its policies.

In Europe, immigrants helped to rebuild and repopulate after World War II. Meanwhile, in 2010, there were 47.3 million immigrants living throughout Europe, which has experienced great economic growth since WWII.

In Contrast: Spain’s Response to Immigration

Since April 2020, Spain’s Canary Islands have received approximately 23,000 migrants from Africa. Families in Spain are welcoming immigrants and working with nonprofit organizations to offer foster care. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 are eligible for governmental foster care, and those younger than 6 are eligible for adoption (when confirmation determines that they do not have any documentation or family members in the European Union). This gives migrants an opportunity to begin a new life in Spain, and the Spanish government has experienced improved tourism and economic conditions.

Lessons to Learn from Regional Approaches to Immigration

In countries that have embraced immigration, the population understands that foreign does not equate to threatening. They have also understood, or at least recognized, the need and desire for migrants and their families. This understanding has proved to be a building opportunity rather than a competition. As regional approaches to immigration continue to differ in understanding, they will continue to differ in benefits.

– Bailey Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in JapanDespite being a small country, Japan still holds a significant position in the international community by having the third-largest economy in the world. Japan does well in terms of wealth inequality, ranking well below the international average of 0.73, standing at 0.63. Income equality is an important factor in determining the general health status of a country. Specifically, the measurement tends to be an indicator of a country’s mental health prevalence. Countries with a higher rate of wealth inequality tend to have a higher prevalence of mental illness and vice versa. Mental health in Japan is also often impacted by the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

Prevalence of Mental Diseases in Japan

The prevalence of Common Mental Diseases (CMD) in Japan is relatively low. Japan stacks up favorably against the United States, which ranks fourth globally in wealth inequality and has recorded a prevalence of CMD that is approximately three times that of Japan. Compared with China, which has the largest economy in the world after the United States, the rate of CMD in Japan is somewhat similar. Japan’s balanced economy has helped it maintain a low prevalence of mental illness.

One other potential reason for Japan’s low CMD prevalence is the stigma surrounding mental health in Japanese culture. Japanese society has conditioned its members to believe that a mental health disorder is shameful and signifies a lack of willpower. In a June 2018 study on the perception of mental illness in Japan, more than 80% of Japanese participants believed that treatment could cure depressive disorder or schizophrenia but stigma toward people with schizophrenia was still quite apparent.

Mental Illness Stigma

As a result of Japan’s collectively held stigma, persons affected by mental illness often do not seek treatment. One study which looked at the factors of mental health in Japan found that “the proportion of mental health service use by all persons and those with CMD was lower in Japan compared to most high‐income countries from the 2000s to the 2010s.” This suggests that the CMD prevalence rate in Japan is likely higher in reality while mental illnesses are underreported.

Additionally, many Japanese people do not believe that mental illnesses require professional treatment. There are treatments available in the country for many mental health disorders and “almost two-thirds of sufferers never seek help from a health professional.” The responsibility of caring for a mentally ill person usually falls upon the family or relatives.

It is evident that the negative perceptions surrounding mental health in Japan cause many people to suffer in silence. To combat the stigma against mental illness and schizophrenia, the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology changed the Japanese name of schizophrenia from seishi buntetsu byo (split-mind disorder) to togo shiccho sho (loss of coordination disorder). Although Japan has yet to celebrate its success in ending stigma, even minor changes illustrate that the country is evolving to no longer neglect mental health.

Looking Ahead

The powerful stigma around mental illness in Japan has kept Japanese people from seeking treatment and simultaneously oppresses mentally ill people. The stable economy of Japan, when paired with appropriate wealth distribution, has partially contributed to a low prevalence of CMD as the two are essentially related. However, since the stigma around mental illness is so prevalent in Japan, the low CMD prevalence in the country can also point to the fact that mental diseases are underreported. Improving the nature of mental health in Japan will require the aid of rewriting social norms and reframing mental illness. Japan’s efforts so far are promising for combating mental health stigma in the country.

Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

How Japan Can Solve Its Own Hunger Crisis
Despite boasting a reputation as the third-largest economy in the world, Japan has a poverty rate of 15% that continues to worsen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Japan’s hunger crisis has notably risen because efforts to provide consistent meals to children stopped after schools closed. The nation has enough rice and resources to feed its citizens. However, organizations and communities urge the government to take action in acknowledging the lack of infrastructure around federally-mandated food security.

The Role of Kodomo Shokudo

Nonprofit organizations and communities have provided food welfare in Japan through Kodomo Shokudo. Kodomo Shokudo is a series of programs that provide students with a space to eat and socialize. Hiroko Kondo is a restaurant owner who coined the term. She kickstarted the movement when she heard that a student only had one banana to eat for one week. Kondo established the first Kodomo Shokudo so young adolescents could eat affordably. As a result, a network of restaurants and community members participated in helping eliminate Japan’s hunger crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted Kodomo Shokudo. There has been a 33% increase in people who rely on food pantries and services. Furthermore, a survey revealed that half of the people had concerns about exposing themselves to the virus at these eating spaces. As a result, many locations and vendors have recoursed alternative solutions such as donating bento boxes. Moreover, some organizations are working towards community-based solutions to simultaneously improve food distribution and aid struggling businesses.

How the Government Could Help

The Japanese government has struggled to distribute food for a long time. Japan holds an emergency supply of rice to prepare itself for potential famines. These reserves currently hold a million tons. Furthermore, it has assisted Kodomo Shokudo vendors in the past. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) set a precedent that rice handouts for students receive categorization as food education. However, welfare efforts are strictly dissociated from it. Yet, the demand for food handouts has doubled within the past year. As such, recent challenges suggest the government should implement radical changes.

The government continues to practice extreme budgetary caution. The nation allowed charities to take a limited amount of cooked rice at the beginning of the pandemic. It was careful to eliminate any chances of scheming the system and distributed 10 tons of rice. Additionally, food banks are frustrated with the slow-moving bureaucracy of feeding the hungry and continue to lobby for more generous rations.

The government could resolve Japan’s hunger crisis. However, the government must find it economically and politically beneficial. Fortunately, there are potential avenues to improve government assistance, such as nonprofit organizations and Kodomo Shokudo. Although the food crisis in Japan remains largely unrecognized, the need for improved general governmental welfare has not gone unnoticed. Only 40 food pantries exist in Tokyo to support 14 million residents. In addition, the pandemic has eroded the prospects of economic security. Furthermore, unemployment rates are steadily rising. Addressing Japan’s hunger crisis is the first step in alleviating poverty within the nation.

– Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr