The Big issue

Anyone who lives in, or has visited, one of Japan’s urban centers has probably seen street vendors selling copies of The Big Issue. Unfortunately, it seems that many people still don’t know what this influential magazine stands for.

Launched in England in 1991, The Big Issue seeks to provide homeless and vulnerably housed individuals the opportunity to earn a legitimate income. It is written by professional journalists and supported in part by corporate sponsors… and you! Homeless individuals receive ten copies for free and purchase each additional issue for 140 yen. Readers then purchase them for 300 yen and the profits go to the vendor.

The Big Issue operates in several countries around the world and takes additional steps to help vendors regain control of their lives through The Big Issue Foundation. Providing vendors a job and getting them off the streets is just a first step. Homelessness is not merely a result of joblessness, but often many other factors, some beyond the individual’s control. The foundation offers counseling on housing, health, personal finance and addiction.

Vendors must go through training and sign a strict code of conduct, which can be viewed on the website. Vendors are identifiable by badges with their photo and vendor number. On the Japanese website, there is a list of all the vendors in Japan for that particular month. Click on the vendor number, and the individual’s photograph and story appear. These narratives—there are over 100 of them—are brutally honest, heartbreaking and yet also hopeful because you see homeless who have found the will to try to re-establish a decent life. The site also lists the locations of the vendors and the times they are usually active.

The Big Issue in Japan is in Japanese, but even if you don’t read Japanese, it is still worth buying a copy. Give it to one of your colleagues or friends who does read Japanese but might not know about the magazine’s work. Or show it to your company’s CSR department.

Purchasing copies is just one way you can help. The Big Issue Japan Foundation offers a wide range of options, from becoming a supporting member, a volunteer or corporate sponsor. Visit their websites for more detailed information. (Japan) (England)





雑誌を購入するのも支援方法の一つだ。しかしビッグイシュー基金では様々な応援プログラムを提供している。サポーターメンバーになる、ボランティア活動、または企業スポンサーになるなど多様だ。詳細はウェブサイトをチェック! (Japan)

Fair Trade Topics: Interview with Rev. Matsuki Suguru (Director, Wakachiai)

K: When did you start Wakachiai?

MS: In February of 1992, I traveled around Europe for about three weeks and went to a Fairtrade shop in Germany, where I bought some coffee and tea. In August, our church had a general meeting and we decided to start selling Sri Lankan tea. That German shop introduced us to the producers. But it wasn’t until Spring of 1993 that we began to sell things with the Fairtrade label attached.

K: What kind of work did you do before launching Wakachiai?

MS: Until then I had been involved in education about developing countries. I had published three picture books by children from third-world countries, but selling books is quite an undertaking. I realized I should buy products from developing countries and present those along with educational materials and other information. I had some money from sales of the books, so I started buying products with that.

K: Was Wakachiai the first Japanese Fairtrade shop?

MS: No. There was a place called “The Third-World Shop” in 1986. A man named Kataoka Masaru opened it. I remember seeing it on the news, thinking, “wow, somebody’s doing this in Japan?” but I didn’t think at the time that I would be doing it myself.

K: Why did you originally go to Europe?

MS: I actually went to America for three weeks as well, but I wanted to learn a little more about aid activities, ODA and Fairtrade. Between 1986 and 1990, I worked in the National Christian Council of Japan office, where I was responsible for international aid and fundraising activities, so I had a natural interest in those things.

K: Right now, there are quite a number of Fairtrade companies operating in Japan. What do you think of them?

MS: I’ve done quite a bit to introduce the Fairtrade label into Japan. The more that familiarity with that label increases, the more that developing countries will benefit. So I hope that these companies will attach the label to whatever products meet the Fairtrade standard, and introduce them widely in Japan.

K: いつから「わかちあい」をはじめましたか?

MS: 1992年の2月にヨーロッパを3週間かけて回りました。その時にドイツでフェアトレードショップに立ち寄り、コーヒーと紅茶を買いました。その後、8月に私たちの教会の総会がありスリランカの紅茶を売ることになったのですが、その紅茶がそのドイツのショップが紹介してくれた紅茶でした。そういった経緯を経て、正式にフェアトレードのマークを付けて売り始めたのは93年の春です。

K: 「わかちあい」を設立する前にどんな活動をしましたか?

MS: それまでは開発教育に関わりました。発展途上国の子供の絵本を3冊出版しましたが、売るのが大変なので、発展途上国の製品を買ってそれと同時に教育的な情報も提供しようと思いました。絵本を売った残りのお金があったので、それを使ってフェアトレード製品を仕入れました。

K: 「わかちあい」は日本で初めてのフェアトレードショップでしたか?

MS: いいえ、1986年にできた第三世界ショップというお店がありました。 始めたのは片岡勝さんという方です。店を開いた情報をニュースで見て、へぇ、日本でもこういうことをやるんだ、と思っていましたが、その時に自分がやることになるとは思いませんでした。

K: どうしてヨーロッパへ行かれたのですか?

MS: 実際にアメリカにも3週間ぐらい行きましたが、援助活動とODAとフェアトレードを少し学ぼうと思ったのです。1986年から90年まで日本キリスト教協議会の事務所で国際協力や資金集めをやっていたので、そういうことに興味がありました。

K: 現在、日本にはフェアトレード会社がたくさんあります。そういった会社に対してはどう思いますか?

MS: 私はいろんなきっかけで世界のフェアトレード認証ラベルを日本に紹介しました。そのラベルを日本に普及させることは、その発展途上国の支援と繋がっているわけです。ですから、フェアトレードの基準にできたものにラベルを付けて日本に広く紹介してほしいですね。

Share and Enjoy:     These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Propeller
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis

Comments are closed.