National partner profile: Japan

The Big Issue Japan Foundation


The Big Issue Japan Foundation is a part of the international “The Big Issue Network,” an international network of street papers. They run various outreach programmes for homeless people across the country through which participants can enjoy and have fun with other people facing similar situations. These activities include football, contemporary dance, music, walking, writing, and others. Their Homeless World Cup team, called Nobushi, has been very active in the humanitarian activities after the big 2011 earthquake in Japan.

The Big Issue Japan works through two organisations. The first is The Big Issue Japan Ltd., a social enterprise which was established in 2003 for the purpose of selling a street magazine. The magazine offers homeless people a source of income and therefore a way to achieve financial independence. The second is The Big Issue Foundation, a NGO that tackles homelessness through self-help, and cooperation and networking with other organisations.

The Big Issue Japan Foundation create opportunities for homeless people to reconnect with society and regain self-confidence. Besides fun and sports activities, their programmes include free health checks and other health services, financial and legal counselling, help with employment, and psychological consultation. They organize events such as movie-day and Christmas parties for homeless people. Additionally, they conduct research and share it with the Japanese public in order to raise awareness about homelessness.

The Big Issue Japan Foundation runs football sessions for homeless people twice a month in Tokyo and Osaka. The Japanese team, called “Nobushi Japan” (which means “wandering samurai”), participated in the Homeless World Cup for the first time in 2004, where they won the Fair Play Award. Since then, they have organised many tournaments for homeless people across Japan and in 2012, they organised a friendly match with the South Korean homeless team. After the 2011 earthquake, the team became strongly involved in humanitarian efforts. When they weren't practicing, the players worked as volunteers to help rebuild the disaster-stricken Tohoku region.

Player profiles & Stories

Mission statement


The Big Issue Japan Foundation work to help homeless people rebuild their lives and become re-integrated into society. They are particularly focused on helping young people, who are increasingly more vulnerable to homelessness in Japan. They hope that their activities, projects, and research will help raise awareness about homelessness in Japan and motivate both homeless people and the rest of the population to tackle the issue proactively.

"We're people who once lost everything. We'd be happy if anyone feels inspired by watching us work hard." Yoshihiro Matsuda, Team Japan 2012

Goals for the future


To host the Diversity Cup, a tournament which promotes social inclusion, with more than 20 participating teams

Social Inclusion

To raise awareness about homelessness in Japan by using the power of football to attract people’s attention

Women's Programmes

To start running a women’s programme

Additional information

Partner since


Football Activities

Training sessions every two weeks, football tournaments, and a Charity Futsal Match

Team selection

The national team members are chosen based on their efforts and aspirations for the future, rather than soccer skills.

Non-football services

Workshops on contemporary dance, music, walking, and writing, humanitarian activities, access to health services, financial and legal counselling, employment advice, psychological consultation, and access to housing services

Participants challenges

Broken family links, mental health problems, substance abuse, and physical weakness

Organisation challenges

The 2011 earthquake in Japan increased the number of homeless people and put additional pressure on shelters and other services for homeless people. Since then, the organisation has been strongly engaged in post-disaster humanitarian relief.

Country challenges

Due to expensive housing, many young people live in Japanese internet cafes for weeks, months, or even years, moving from cafe to cafe each night. While this is a cheap alternative to expensive flats in Tokyo or Osaka, it often causes Internet addiction (Japan Talk, 2011). A big percentage of the Japanese homeless population are men over 40 years due to age discrimination in the labour market (Japan Talk,  2014).

Homlessness definition

Homeless persons are defined as those who base their daily lives in one place, often marked by tents or other small structures, in public spaces such as parks, riversides, and roads. Hence, persons who do not return to the same place day by day and move throughout the city are excluded by definition. Also, Japan does not count persons in insecure housing as homeless, such as shelters, internet cafes, and other accommodations. (Shimokawa, 2013)

Homelessness Statistics

An estimated 25,000 people are homeless in Japan, 5,000 of whom live in Tokyo (International Network of Street Papers, 2006). There are also around three million “Internet cafe refugees” who move from café to café each night.

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