Are There Slums In Tokyo? A Common Misconception…

Tokyo stands in the top 3 wealthiest cities in the world and is also the richest city in Asia. The total wealth earned by its residents each year amounts to around $2.5 trillion USD, a staggering number. However, this got me thinking. Most cities in the world have their poor and dangerous areas, also known as ‘slums’. I took it upon myself to research if this wealthy Japanese metropolis also has these types of areas. So, are there slums in Tokyo?

While Tokyo does have slums, they are not comparable to slums in other cities. The slums are actually fairly clean, and the build quality of the homes is average. These areas in Tokyo are strictly given the name ‘slum’ due to the number of homeless people and the low incomes in that particular area.

Tokyo’s slums when compared to others around the world, may not even be considered a slum by some people. However, due to the true definition of ‘slum’, unfortunately, even the richest city in Asia is home to some of them. In this article, we have a look into the slums of Tokyo and find out about the common misconception about Tokyo’s slums. 

Are There Slums In Tokyo?

Tokyo is a city which has some of the best quality of life for its residents. So much so, that there isn’t necessarily a huge gap between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ in the city. Of course you have the celebrities and extra successful people who have an abundant amount of money, but, like any other city, they are an anomaly.

Tokyo has managed so well to keep the quality of life at the same level for the majority of its population. Japan as a whole, only has a minuscule 0.003% of its population that is homeless. This is extremely low compared to other countries.

However, there are some homeless people, and this causes the issue of slums in Tokyo

Now, the number of slums is very little compared to other major cities across the globe. You could walk around Tokyo all day and probably not find a slum. And, even if you did, you probably wouldn’t notice.

See even in Tokyo’s poorest neighbourhoods, it is still majorly clean and the buildings are still built with good quality. 

These slums are not even really considered dangerous either. After all, Tokyo has a very low crime rate and the highest number of its crime actually comes from the Shinjuku district, which isn’t a slum; but one of the most popular places in Tokyo. 

Click here to read “Is Shinjuku Safe & Should You Visit?”

The Common Misconception About Slums In Tokyo

When people hear the word ‘slum’ they instantly start thinking the worst. Someone can mention it and suddenly you are picturing run-down houses with no rooves, high crime rates, trash all over the floor etc.

This is normal to think that. After all, we are only ever shown the worst slums, for example, the ones in India or Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. 

However, this is a huge misconception about Tokyo’s slums. 

The slums within Tokyo could look exactly like any other neighbourhood in any city in the world, you would really have no idea it’s a slum at first.

The thing that gives it away, is when you see middle-aged and older men who wear rundown tracksuits and look like they’ve had better days. It is such an upsetting sight to see. I think the fact that homelessness is so rare in Japan as a whole when you do see the few people who it affects, it hits you a lot harder. 

The main cause for the homelessness in these areas was due to the Japanese Yen and assets falling in value back in the 90s. (Source)

If you would like to try and make a difference for these people, please feel free to make a donation here.

What Is The Poorest Area In Tokyo?

The poorest area in Tokyo, and Tokyo’s most famous slum is San’ya. This neighbourhood is known for its issue with homelessness, having an estimated number of around 9000 homeless people located there.

A lot of these homeless people have problems with alcoholism, but that is about as far as it goes in terms of the typical stereotype of homeless people. San’ya isn’t considered dangerous and outsiders could walk through the neighbourhood and 8 times out of 10 be perfectly safe. (I am obviously not recommending doing this though)

San’ya technically no longer exists anymore, as the Tokyo government removed its name to remove any bad press. However, they did not completely leave the homeless there. In recent years this neighbourhood has had many low-budget hotels pop up, more small local businesses have shown up and the general net value of the neighbourhood is rising.

Watch below to see a street view of San’ya.

Should You Avoid Slums In Tokyo?

When deciding whether you want to go to a slum in Tokyo or not, there are a couple of things to think about. The first is your safety. Will you be safe walking through that certain neighbourhood? As a content creator, despite Tokyo’s low crime rates, I simply just cannot recommend walking through these neighbourhoods unless you absolutely have to. 

Homeless people are in one of life’s toughest situations, and when you are dragged so low and have so little, it can make you do things even if it goes against everything you believe in. 

The second thing to think about is the homeless people themselves. If you are going there to have a look at the slum and it isn’t essential for you to be there, it can come across as offensive or even rude. At the end of the day, these people are human beings, not zoo animals.

To conclude, I would avoid travelling through a slum neighbourhood unless you absolutely have to and are in a large group of at least 4 people. 


Tokyo’s slums are proof that even at the lowest point of wealth, Tokyo is still an amazing city. From low violence to the high quality of life, the slums in Tokyo are not as bad as some of the others around the world. Despite there being a number of homeless people in Tokyo, the government and the people are doing everything they can to get these neighbourhoods back on track!

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