Having been born and raised in Japan, they had a tough time with culture shock and in the middle of it started a 24-hour hotline out of their dorm room for Japanese living outside Japan, as well as a partner hotline in Japan for the international community.
Coming from Missionary families, they grew up with the military. They went to school at Washington Heights, learned to drive at Grant Heights, had a girlfriend or two at the Tachikawa Air Base and played basketball at Johnson Air Base.
Over time, the simple hotlines with volunteers to help callers grew to nearly 22,000 calls within Japan and another 20,000 outside.
The Japan Helpline, currently celebrating its 42nd year, continues to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Founder Ken Joseph Jr, one of those first students says, “From the very beginning The Japan Helpline has had a special place in our hearts for the military who keep us all safe and for whom we honor their service.
“Those serving America can call or email from anywhere in Japan 24 hours a day to ask a simple question or ask for emergency help. If we cannot help over the telephone or online, one of our local volunteers will be on scene to help put you up for the night or whatever you need.”
Concerned, these days with a major downsizing of the number of bases in Japan so often service members are caught in areas far from the nearest post, the Japan Helpline is working hard to get their number and contact information out so that any service member will keep it in their “emergency number “list.
In addition to the helpline, the Japan Helpline is working to restore the USO Post back into downtown Tokyo. The helpline is looking at the Roppongi area and discussing with local merchants to set up a place where a service member can come, have a cup of coffee, watch some TV and get help.
After 42 years much has changed, but much has stayed the same.
Listed in all the guidebooks to Japan, newspapers and magazines under the “emergency” section below “Fire” and “Police,” The Japan Helpline is always in need of local volunteers and donations, as it as it was when started by four “Tokyo Kids”, supported 100% by private donations.