Growing numbers of Japanese have been showing interest in helping those in need, whether through charity or volunteer work, since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami left tens of thousands in the Tohoku region in dire situations.
But among young women, altruistic deeds started to take root even before the disaster, with many of them, often facing disadvantages at work, finding social contribution fun and hip, and something at which they can shine and feel a sense of achievement.
Some are purchasing street magazines from homeless people, while others engage in pro bono work to utilize, and even polish, their skills.
Osaka-based Big Issue Japan, which publishes magazines aimed at helping the homeless become independent by letting them sell magazines and keep the majority of the revenues, said 70 percent of its readers are women.
A young woman recently seen purchasing a copy of The Big Issue from a homeless man near Tokyo’s JR Mejiro Station said she has been buying the magazine every month for six months. “For some reason, I can’t help but care,” she said.
“Perhaps women face more disadvantages in the workplace and other areas than men, so they can feel for others more,” said Miku Sano, manager of the magazine’s Tokyo office. “Some of our readers sympathize with the homeless because their fathers lost jobs.”
The homeless vendors keep ¥160 of the ¥300 cover price when they sell a copy of the London-born publication, whose subjects range from entertainment to social issues.
“It’s great because the relationship isn’t one way in which I give and they receive, but it’s an even one where I’m purchasing a product from them,” said Tomoe Nagasaki, 32, who started buying the magazine when it was first published in Japan in 2003, and now works for the publisher.
“It also gave me a way to interact with homeless guys who I’ve long been concerned about,” she added.
Women are also increasing their pro bono work, in which volunteers offer their professional skills for public services.