Photo/IllutrationA salesperson of The Big Issue Japan and high school students sell the magazine in Osaka’s Kita Ward on Oct. 17. (Yuki Matsuo)

OSAKA--Students and company employees are learning sales techniques from homeless people while experiencing first-hand what it’s like being shunned and ignored by society.

Together, they are selling copies of The Big Issue Japan magazine on the streets.

With roots in Britain, the magazine was introduced in Japan in 2003 to help homeless people get back on their feet. The magazine costs 350 yen ($3.21) a copy, and the salespeople can receive 180 yen as a commission.

Currently, 110 individuals are now selling The Big Issue Japan in 12 prefectures.

The Tokyo office of The Big Issue Japan started offering a service to allow non-homeless people to join the salespeople on the streets to sell the semimonthly magazine. The purpose is to give participants a deeper understanding of assistance activities for those forced to live outdoors.

The move came after the office received a positive response from an executive of a sponsor company who sold the magazine on a trial basis.

Although participants must pay a service fee, company workers as well as college and other students have joined the program for occupational training, field work and school trips.

The Osaka main office of The Big Issue Japan began providing the service in 2014, drawing 140 outside salespeople so far.

“People who usually simply pass by our salespeople may find something new if they themselves stand on a different position,” said Koichi Yoshida, a representative of The Big Issue Japan Ltd., publisher of the magazine. “This will also benefit homeless salespeople because they will be able to develop a stronger sense of self-approval if others listen to their life stories and how they feel.”

One day in October in front of JR Osaka Station in Kita Ward, four second-year students from Wako High School in Tokyo’s Machida were heard shouting, “Would you like The Big Issue?”

When one of the students pushed a copy forward, Susumu Hamada, 68, who has sold The Big Issue for 16 years in a nearby area, gently told the student that “being obtrusive could block people’s way.”

Although Hamada and the students worked the area for more than 30 minutes, they failed to sell even one copy.

“They may have learned that it is difficult to sell the magazine even when they behave properly,” Hamada said.

Shun Saito, a 16-year-old student, sighed and said that “continuing to stand in the cold weather was tough.”

“It would be much harder to promote the magazine for an entire day,” Saito said.

The magazine covers a wide range of topics, including issues related to homelessness.

Second-year students at Wako High School started joining the street sales program during school trips to the Kansai region three years ago.

This year, 10 students in three groups stood on the streets. They listened to the salespeople explain how they became homeless and how many magazine copies they can sell.

“I did not imagine it would be so difficult to sell copies,” said Noa Iwamoto, 17.

Riku Hirayama, also 17, shared that sentiment.

“Passers-by made no responses although we were trying to appeal to them,” Hirayama said. “I wondered what I could do to make them interested.”

Kozo Yokoyama, a 54-year-old teacher who was in charge of the students, mentioned another advantage of the program.

“Selling copies and communicating with homeless people will give students an opportunity to change their negative image of homeless individuals,” Yokoyama said.

Hisao Hane, 45, another homeless salesman who worked with the students that day, told the young participants that he had trouble with his parents and left home, but he could not find a job and eventually started living on the streets.

“When I was as young as you, I had no interest in social issues,” Hane told the students. “It is not proper for me to give patronizing advice, but I would like you to think of measures to prevent people like me from emerging from your generation.”