|LIFE IN JAPAN
Advocate, Managing Editor, and Food Bank Japan Co-representative
Time in Japan:
What brought you to Japan?
The USS Towers DDG9 in 1984.
What were your first impressions of Japan?
Sailing up Tokyo bay and seeing Mt Fuji in the winter was something I will never forget.
Once I was out of the gates I realized everyone was my size. I was home.
What do you do now?
I have many different hats. I' managing editor for a Christian publication called Japan
Christian Activity News. We cover a wide range of topics from Comfort Women and
Jubilee 2000 to the image of Christianity in Japan and how Catholics and Protestants are
working together. We can be reached at JCANED@aol.com
I'm also an advocate for foreign detainees, and co-representative for Food Bank Japan.
Each day I might do several different things.
Please tell us a bit about Food Bank Japan.
Each day in Tokyo 6000 tons of food are thrown away. There must be a better way to reduce
waste and get food to those who need it. Presently we have nearly 20 organizations
registered with us ranging from open-air kitchens serving the homeless to women's shelters
and a home for unwed mothers. These groups receive rice and other food products directly
or indirectly from us on a regular basis.
What is the present situation regarding the homeless in Japan?
The face of the homeless is changing. It used be the typical person was male, in his late
50s or early 60s and a former day-laborer. These days it is not unusual to see husbands
and wives living together in parks. You see a lot more "mainstream" people on
the streets than say eight or nine years ago.
Are there a large number of homeless foreigners?
Not that I am aware of.
Why do you feel compelled to help the homeless in Japan?
Almost 21 years ago, I was given a second chance on life. My work is part repayment and
part me liking to make a difference. Joseph Campbell once said, "People are not
searching for the meaning of their life. Rather, people are seeking to feel alive." I
feel alive doing what I do.
What can people do to help?
Food Bank Japan will host a homeless forum in English on November 18 (Saturday) at St
Andrews Hall (behind St Albans) from 6-9pm. Come and learn what you can do to make a
difference. If you cannot come, contact us at FoodBankJapan@aol.com
for more information. We need all kinds of talent. Japanese is not needed.
What other hands-on activities can people be involved with aside from attending
Churches such as the Franciscan Chapel Center, Tokyo Union Church and West Tokyo Union
Church are all involved with preparing food and distributing it. These groups are always
looking for fresh hands to help and you do not need to be a church member to participate.
If you speak Japanese there are other groups doing similar work such as Nojiren in
Shibuya, Shinjuku Renraku Kai in Shinjuku, and a whole host of groups in Sanya. Food Bank
Japan can put you in contact with any of these groups.
What made you want to become involved in the first place?
While attending Sophia University I lived in a religious community in Sanya. Given my
background and history, this work was tailor-made by the Divine.
Can you tell us what non-Japanese speaking people can do to help in your
Food Bank Japan is not limited to serving the homeless. Rather, we see ourselves creating
a bigger pie in which the homeless are but one recipient. In fact, we currently have 18
organizations registered with us that include a home for unwed mothers and women's
shelters. But to build a viable organization with depth requires a wide range of skills,
many of which you may not associate with feeding the hungry. People with skills from
accounting to web designing and nutrition to marketing. If you have a skill and a desire
to use it to make a difference, we can use you. Being the first, we are building the
infrastructure in Tokyo from the ground up. Now, that's something that'll make you feel
What's the one Japanese thing you can't live without?
My daughter and of course Mt Fuji on a clear day.
What's your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
Learn the language, roll with the punches and catch each full moon.
information contact Charles at FoodbankJapan@aol.com
Charles E. McJilton spoke to Maki Nibayashi.
Do you know someone who
has an interesting life in Japan? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org