On a morning in January, female volunteers went to Tokyo's Yoyogi Park to feed and attend to the needs of the homeless.

The women, who belong to the Japan branch of the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Taiwanese humanitarian group established in 1966 by Buddhist nun Cheng Yen, distributed meals to the 100 or so homeless people lined up for food and inquired about their health and general welfare.

"They talk about Buddhism, but they are not trying to spread their religion," a homeless man said of the volunteers.