October 2017

Social Exclusion in Japan

Fig.1. A mother and her children at a shelter via getty images

Social exclusion is the process in which individuals or people are systematically blocked from (or denied full access to) various rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to members of a different group, and which are fundamental to social integration and observance of human rights within that particular group (e.g., housing, employment, healthcare, civic engagement, and democratic participation). It is important to say that income poverty is not necessarily the cause that introduce vulnerability to social exclusion. There are other factors such as involuntary layoff, divorce and gender which have an effect towards (or promote) social exclusion. Unfortunately, the Japanese government has been reluctant to acknowledge poverty and social exclusion as a social issue.

There are several studies dedicated to Social Exclusion which are demonstrated through this file : Selected Empirical Studies of Social Exclusion

Income, Social Factors and Social Exclusion

In Japan, social exclusion has resulted from economic poverty and the decline of informal mutual aid which in 2013, the Japanese government recorded relative poverty rates (population living on less than half of the national median income) of 16% which was the highest on record. It has been seen that the decrease of low-rent dwelling, company residences and social housing is the prime reason behind the lack of access to suitable housing for the low income group. Furthermore, living alone or just the size reduction of household contributes to increased in vulnerability to social exclusion. However, even the age group with the highest vulnerability showed a discrepancy between income poverty compared and social exclusion. There are other factors like involuntary getting fired and getting a divorce contribute to social exclusion.

 Child Poverty and Social Exclusion

With regard to poor children in Japan, it has been estimated that 3.5 million Japanese children – or one in six of those aged up to 17 belong to households that are experiencing poverty. There seems to be a strong causality when it comes to a lower standard of living or child poverty leading to social exclusion in adulthood. As disadvantages at earlier stages of life seem to have influence on social exclusion, even if they have stable income, job and a decent household to stay in.

Childhood disadvantages such as family structure, occupational class,  employment of father and financial hardships are correlated with negative adult incomes. Especially at the age of 15, a low standard of living have a significant effect on basic needs (food, clothing and medical care) despite even after having stable income, job and household, and having dealt with experiences of divorce, getting fired, illness and injuries. This shows that poverty hardship at a young age creates a path where childhood poverty and adult social exclusion directly.

Gender and Social Exclusion 

Fig.2. Poverty rates of the working age (20 to 64 years old) classified by employment status and sex (2007) via Poverty and Social Exclusion of Women in Japan

Fig.3. Poverty rates of the elderly classified by employment status and sex (2007) via Poverty and Social Exclusion of Women in Japan

1 out of 3 Japanese women in the age group of 20-64, and those who live alone, were living in poverty in 2010. There is an increasing data that shows the poverty risk of women is rising. Before “the working poor” was recognized only when it started to affect man, poverty among working women were already a common problem. In cases of men making all important decisions about the community where no women are present could be interpreted as being excluded from social participation as a group. Furthermore, women tend to engage much more in informal social interaction such as pornography than man, but is the opposite when it comes to formal social participation (e.g. political activities) shows that they are socially excluded from the mainstream society.


Abe, A. K. (2012). Poverty and social exclusion of women in Japan. Japanese Journal of Social Security Policy9(1), 61-82.

Aoki, M. (2012). Poverty a growing problem for women. The Japan Times [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2012/04/19/national/poverty-a-growing-problem-for-women/#.WfUDM2hSzcc.

Aya K, A. B. E. (2009). Social exclusion and earlier disadvantages: An empirical study of poverty and social exclusion in Japan. Social Science Japan Journal13(1), 5-30.

McCurry, J. (2017). Japan’s rising child poverty exposes true cost of two decades of economic decline. TheGuardian [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/17/japans-rising-child-poverty-exposes-truth-behind-two-decades-of-economic-decline

Okamoto, Y. (2016). Japanese social exclusion and inclusion from a housing perspective. Social Inclusion4(4).

Improving the Improved: Tokyo Railway Systems towards Olympics 2020


Fig.1. Tokyo Subway Route Map, obtained from http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/subwaymap/

David Harvey Time-space compression which is an idea rooted in Karl Marx’s theory of annihilation of time and space relates to any phenomenon that alters the qualities and relationship between space and time, often occurring as a result of technological innovations (example of Japan Shinkansen and its transportation system). In Tokyo, Rail is the primary mode of transport. Greater Tokyo has the most extensive urban railway network and the most used in the world with 40 million passengers (some tallied twice) in the metro area daily.

As we are approaching Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Japanese government and the Japanese Olympic Committee would need improve their already improved railway system to cater their daily amount of passengers but with addition of influx of athletes (12,000) and tourists from expected nations of 207. The Tokyo metro system and JR East have been named the official partners in the Tokyo 2020 Sponsorship programme where their goal it to contribute to the growing enthusiasm of The Olympics by providing safe and comfortable transportation services. Here are just some of improvements in regards to railway transportation that the government is implementing towards Tokyo 2020 Olympics:

The Inauguration of the Japanese Maglev- World’s Fastest Bullet Train

Although the Maglev is not planned to enter commercial operation until 2027, it is set to make its debut at the Tokyo Olympics. Maglev has broken Japan’s own high speed record as it could reach speeds more than 600 kilometers per hour. This will prove to compressed time and space with high speeds which were thought to be an impossible task during the Tokyo 1964 olympics.

In current times, it would take around 100 minutes (currently the fastest) to reach Nagoya from Tokyo on the Nozomi train. Fortunately, the Chuo Shinkansen line is planned to link Tokyo and Nagoya by the year 2027 in which the trip would only take forty minutes – a staggering improvement of 60% in speed.

Fig.2. Maglev bullet train prototype, obtained from https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/maglev-bullet-train

Improvement of Japan’s Harujuku, Sendagaya and Shinanomachi Station

JR East has confirmed to upgrade Harujuku Station on the Yamanote Loop line and Sendagaya and Shinanomachi stations on the Chūō-Sobu Line. Upgrades  (total cost of 250 billion yen or US$ 2.3 billion) include implementation of new barrier-free facilities and expansion of concourses and ticket gates, are expected to be completed in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This new plans are designed to improve passenger flow and dramatically alleviating congestion. The new designs of the stations will include a wider concourse and ticket gate area, along with elevators and new and more spacious amenities.

Fig.3. Proposed design of the new Harujuku Station, obtained from https://en.rocketnews24.com/2016/06/08/japans-harajuku-station-to-be-rebuilt-ahead-of-2020-tokyo-olympics/

Adding a new Station on the Yamanote Line

This new station will be located between Shinagawa and Tamachi Stations slated for completion in spring 2020, and will provide access to Haneda Airport Monorail and the JR Keihin-Tohoku line.

This new station will be four stories in height and the public area will have a large screen for the viewing of the games. This new station is set to open up the region to the global as this project was set to be part of the urban revitalization plan for the Sinagawa area to be the Tokyo’s genkan (reception area) to the world.

Fig.4. Architect Kengo Kuma has designed the new station on Tokyo’s JR Yamanote Line, obtained from https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/tokyo-2020-olympics

Full Mobile Access to Tokyo’s Subway System

One of Tokyo 2020’s plan is to provide universal mobile access in the Tokyo Metro subway system that would add further momentum to their efforts to leverage innovation in the world’s most technologically advanced major capital. One of the current phase of mobile expansion included extending the access on the Ginza and Marunouchi lines in the heart of the city.

International guests are able obtain a wide variety of Tokyo 2020 Olympics information through the closed-circuit TV which are available in most subways stations and railcars.

Fig.5. Tokolo, Asao. Tokyo 2020 logo. 2016, Accessed 24 Oct. 2017.

Overall, Japan has contributed to the advancement towards railway infrastructure strategically to accomodate tourists, visitors and atheletes etc. in the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics, while providing innovative transportation that is safe and comfortable for everyone.


Japan Rail Pass.** (2017). Tokyo 2020 Olympics With The Japan Rail Pass [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/tokyo-2020-olympics

Mcgee, O. (2016). Japan’s Harajuku Station To Be Rebuilt Ahead Of 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Sora News [Website]. https://en.rocketnews24.com/2016/06/08/japans-harajuku-station-to-be-rebuilt-ahead-of-2020-tokyo-olympics/

The Tokyo Organizing Committee Of The Olympic And The Paralympic Games (2013). News: Tokyo’s Subway System Launches Full Mobile Access [Website]. Retrieved from https://tokyo2020.jp/en/news/sponsor/20160607-01.html

The Tokyo Organizing Committee Of The Olympic And The Paralympic Games (2017). News: Tokyo 2020 Welcomes Two Railway Companies As Official Partners [Website]. Retrieved from https://tokyo2020.jp/en/news/sponsor/20160607-01.html