Shinjuku is a famous, neon-glittering Tokyo district filled with shoppers, diners and fun-seekers. It is also a visible nest of the homeless, who typically reside in cardboard boxes close to buildings and at train stations. But lately, some homeless individuals can be seen on the streets, engaged in a new activity: selling an entertainment and lifestyle magazine aimed at young readers. The publication is a Japanese version of The Big Issue, which was launched in London in l991 to offer homeless individuals the chance of a source of income so that they can live independently. The idea to provide 'social entrepreneurship' in Tokyo was conceived by a non-profit organisation in Osaka. The group members - which include salaried people, a think-tank researcher and students - sought ways in which to empower the street sleepers. After learning about the British publication, they launched The Big Issue Japan in September last year, signing up about 130 people who 'qualified' - meaning that they were homeless - as vendors. The vendors use the railway stations of Osaka and Kyoto districts and Sannnomiya in Kobe to sell the product, and earn 110 yen (HK$8) commission for each 200-yen magazine they sell. Almost 40,000 copies of the premier issue were snapped up, making it a feasible undertaking for both the publishers and the sellers. The venture was soon extended to the homeless in Tokyo, where their numbers have grown to 5,300, up from 3,300 in 1995, according to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan government. The magazine's publisher held a meeting last November for prospective vendors in Tokyo, initially recruiting about 20 homeless, although more were later added. 'I would like to get over this kind of life through this job and live under a real roof,' said one vendor, aged 53, who lost his job as a shopkeeper recently. The Tokyo vendors took to the streets in early December to sell the third issue, which featured articles on Aids among the young, an interview with popular British band Travis and sweatshop toy factories in China. Its sales in Tokyo alone exceeded 10,000 copies in two weeks. The editorial office in Osaka has received more than 200 letters and e-mails of encouragement. Despite tough advertising revenue prospects, there are plans to publish it every fortnight in the near future.