Yoshizawa drew on a cigarette held in his dirt-stained right hand as he sat behind his stall. He has a nose split up the middle by an inch-long scar and mud sticks to the hems of his dark grey nylon trousers. Yoshizawa lives homeless in Tokyo?fs Ueno Park. He used to be a builder but now makes money selling the ginkgo nuts he collects in the park. ?gI do this until December,?h he said in Japanese and then took another drag on his cigarette. During the rest of the year you can see Yoshizawa collecting cans and magazines for recycling. Yoshizawa is a stocky man originally from the countryside of Shizuoka prefecture. The greying beard on his chin and the greying hair under the red, white and blue Pepsi Cola cap he wears suggest he has already passed 56, the average age for homeless in Japan according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The number of people like Yoshizawa is increasing as the recession continues. According to the latest research conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare there are 25,296 homeless living in Japan. The survey conducted in January and February 2003 showed an increase of 1,206 homeless from two years before. Tokyo Prefecture is home to 6,361 of Japan?fs homeless, according to the survey. However, some sources estimate the figure is higher. Hiroshi Shinohara of the Japan Jesus Centred Church is one such man. ?gThere are more,?h he said in an interview in Ueno Park during a weekly outdoor service held for homeless people. ?gAbsolutely more.?h ?gToday there is six hundred or seven hundred here,?h Shinohara said in English. On this particular Friday a large crowd of homeless were sitting on old newspapers listening to Korean pastor Shim Wonsuck deliver his sermon in fluent Japanese through crackling speakers. Some of the congregation had embraced religion. They absorbed pastor Wonsuck?fs preaching and shouted praise in unison with Shinohara and the other protestant volunteers standing at the edge of the congregation in red polo shirts whipping up enthusiasm. But many were just waiting for the food that always comes after the service. Some of the homeless in the park do not attend the services. They are too proud to go. Shimamura is one of these. He is also Yoshizawa?fs business partner. Shimamura lives in an area of trees next to where the weekly service takes place. Stretching for several hundred metres the area is a sea of blue tarpaulin partially protected from the elements by the trees. The homeless that live in these tents usually stay away from the service. ?gWe rarely go,?h Shimamura said in polite Japanese. ?gThe people without tents go because they don?ft have food.?h Although the congregation?fs size suggests some tents contain the red packets of Ritz crackers and Cheezits handed out by the church, Shimamura is independent. ?gWe have food,?h Shimamura said proudly. ?gLots of food.?h Yoshizawa is less forgiving of the homeless who attend church than Shimamura. Yoshizawa dislikes the church because he thinks the free food makes the younger homeless lazy and reliant on aid. ?gYoung people go and stop working,?h he complained. ?gThe Christian Church is no good.?h ?gAfter church there?fs a lot of rubbish,?h he said. ?gWe take turns cleaning it up.?h For the first time in the interview Yoshizawa started showing his emotions and became more animated. He certainly has no plans of converting to Christianity, but what about his partner? ?gI?fm not Christian,?h Shimamura said. ?gI?fm Japanese,?h and a smile came to his face that made his skin wrinkle. Shimamura and Yoshizawa survive without the charity of Christians like Hiroshi Shinohara or government aid. ?gAlmost everything I do myself,?h Shimamura said. ?gSometimes, once or twice a week, I get work.?h ?gI get cash and I can live on it,?h he said as he picked up a bag of the gingko nuts he sells for 500. ?gNow I sell these.?h Like Yoshizawa and other homeless Shimamura will sell the nuts until December and then he will try to find other work. Shimamura and Yoshizawa are among the 64.7 per cent of homeless who manage to earn money, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare?fs January survey. The Survey also states 84.1 per cent of Japan?fs homeless population has a fixed residence. Shimamura and Yoshizawa are part of the 40.8 per cent of this number that live in parks. Shimamura?fs description of the tented area in the trees behind his stall suggests him and his neighbours are much better off than the ragged tent less men and women who attend pastor Wonsuck?fs Friday services. ?gMost people have TV?fs,?h Shimamura said. ?gOther things are difficult.?h ?gWe have no electricity so we charge batteries, then we can watch TV,?h he said without answering where everyone charged their batteries. ?gWe also have water and in the tents we have something to sleep on,?h he added. ?gWe have stuff to cook with, frying pans, gas.?h Shimamura does not conform to the stereotypical image of a homeless man. He was dressed in a clean dark blue tracksuit with a light blue cotton shirt. His black shoes were clean and his hair had the same side parting many fifty-year-old Japanese men prefer. Only his stained teeth hinted at the hardships of living in the park. And the dark tan many homeless have came from years spent as a builder. ?gI used to build things like that building over there,?h he said as he pointed to a redbrick building in the distance. But like his partner Yoshizawa he suffered from the construction industry?fs preference for young workers. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 55 per cent of homeless that had full-time jobs worked in the construction industry. ?gThere aren?ft any building jobs, are there??h Yoshizawa said. ?gPeople over 50 aren?ft used.?h Not all the park?fs residents were builders. Shimamura suggests there are homeless from all backgrounds in the park. ?gThere are doctors, school teachers, many kinds of people, because Japan is in recession,?h he said. ?gThere are lots of old people in Japan but they don?ft have jobs.?h Regardless of background life in the park is hard and the homeless feel Japan?fs four seasons more than anyone else. ?gIt?fs tough,?h Shimamura said of the seasons. The homeless are forced to survive the cold of winter and the humidity of summer without the comforts taken for granted by most Japanese. Shimamura?fs smile disappeared as he began talking about the darker aspects of life in the park, especially when he began talking about abuse. ?gPeople who live in tents get harassed,?h Shimamura said. ?gMany people have died.?h Attacks by groups of young men have increased recently resulting in several deaths across Japan. The respect commonly given to elders in Japan is not extended to the homeless. Yoshizawa bears the scared nose of a man that has seen violence and blood red bruises cover the side of his left hand. But Yoshizawa had other concerns he wanted to talk about. ?gYour clothes are dirty, you don?ft bath,?h Yoshizawa said. His lumberjack shirt had ingrained stains that had faded the colours and his running shoes were caked in soil. ?gYour face is dirty so you look older,?h he said. ?gIt?fs not easy.?h According to The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare ill health affects 47.4 per cent of Japan?fs homeless and as you walk through the park physical ailments and mental health issues become brutally apparent. Yet Yoshizawa still thinks Ueno is the best park to live in Tokyo. The others are more dangerous. ?gYokohama has a lot of drunks,?h he said. ?gThere?fs not so many in Ueno.?h However, when you walk through the park at night you see some homeless drinking cheap spirits and canned beer. You also see men sleeping on benches or spread on the street with only pieces of cardboard between themselves and the tarmac. Others sit next to the bags that hold everything they have or search the bins for cans to recycle or magazines to sell to the commuting horde at the station. These scenes are not restricted to Ueno Park. You see characteristic blue tarpaulin or cardboard homes along riverbanks, under bridges and in parks across the capital. However, it is in parks like Ueno that the problem is most visible. It is in parks like Ueno that people like Shimamura and Yoshizawa live.