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April 17, 2006 1:03 AM   Subscribe

Some people rap their way out of Osaka's slums. Others are forced. The lucky ones get to stay in their little blue houses for now, but how long will it be until another Rose Convention comes to town to spoil their fun?
posted by Jase_B (17 comments total)

 
Previous looks at Osaka's homeless situation here and here. And more photos of Kamagasaki here.
posted by Jase_B at 1:04 AM on April 17, 2006


There are slums in Osaka? I dunno if homeless people living in public parks really count as a slum. I live on the other side of the country, but I cannot imagine it is very much different from how things are here in Tokyo. I have very little sympathy for park-squatters who aren't batshit-insane, because the non-crazy homeless in this country seem to almost always be homeless by choice. With an unemployment rate in this country which is laughable by the standards of North America, it's a very different situation from homelessness overseas.
Then again, maybe I'm just a heartless bastard.
posted by nightchrome at 1:45 AM on April 17, 2006


I dont understand this sentence -

With an unemployment rate in this country which is laughable by the standards of North America, it's a very different situation from homelessness overseas.

Where do you mean when you talk about 'homelessness overseas'?
posted by the cuban at 2:07 AM on April 17, 2006


the cuban: I live in Japan. I was comparing homelessness here to homelessness in North America, where I am originally from. I perceive a difference in the two areas based on levels of unemployment. Many homeless people in North America don't work because they can't find any work, and it's a very serious issue. Here in Japan, the unemployment rate is ridiculously low, and there are a ton of make-work jobs of all kinds. I often see people in worse states of dishevelment than many homeless here, working govt. construction jobs or barking for houses of ill repute.
Sorry if my statement was not clear.
posted by nightchrome at 2:23 AM on April 17, 2006


Nightchrome,

I can't remember if it's Nishinari or Kamagasaki, but regarding one of the big Osaka slums, I've heard it's a slum not only by Japanese terms, but conventional terms as well. Deaths are seldom investigated, police sometimes refuse to enter it, etc. I don't think there's anything comparable in Tokyo (though I've heard there is one small slum somewhere in shitamachi).
posted by Bugbread at 2:24 AM on April 17, 2006


nightchrome writes "I live in Japan. I was comparing homelessness here to homelessness in North America, where I am originally from."

Nightcrome: I'm in the exact same position as you (from NA, live in Japan). But remember when a Japanese person says something like "This year is the year of the dragon. Is there an animal for every year in America?" and you say "No" and they say "Oh, so it's only Japan?", and you get all annoyed by this assumption that "if America doesn't do it, it's only Japan", as if the rest of the world doesn't exist? I think that's what's annoying The Cuban. You've equated homelessness in NA with homelessness "overseas", as if NA is representative of everywhere.

No big deal, I assume it was a slip of the tongue (happens to me too), but I think that's where the gap here is.
posted by Bugbread at 2:28 AM on April 17, 2006


No, it wasnt too clear. I hope your not in Japan teaching English.
posted by the cuban at 2:30 AM on April 17, 2006


bugbread - Kamagasaki is in Nishinari.

Most of Nishinari is all worn and tired looking but not lacking a good sense of character, however around the infamous vacant block in Kamagasaki is terrible. The whole area smells like urine and there are old men just wandering around aimlessly. I'd never seen anything like it before, and definately not in Tokyo. There are also a lot of old men just standing in one spot with their heads hanging - I don't know if that's a general slum thing or just in Nishinari, you could call them the 'standing dead'. Although last week there was some Salvation Army concert or something going on in the lot which the old dudes seemed to be enjoying.

I actually remember reading about Kamagasaki in the post from back in 2003 and finding it facinating (before I even thought about living in Japan at all). Little did I know that only a few years later I'd be living within a 5 minute bike ride from the place.
posted by Jase_B at 2:51 AM on April 17, 2006


No, it wasnt too clear. I hope your not in Japan teaching English.

Guffaw!
posted by Jenga at 2:55 AM on April 17, 2006


bugbread: Well, I quite clearly stated I was referring to North America in the first part of that sentence so I kind of figured it would be obvious in the second part of the sentence rather than saying "North America" again.

the cuban: There's no need to be rude, Pot, this Kettle is no language whore.
posted by nightchrome at 3:09 AM on April 17, 2006


I hope your not in Japan teaching English.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
posted by quonsar at 4:17 AM on April 17, 2006


Nightchrome, you said:

I have very little sympathy for park-squatters who aren't batshit-insane, because the non-crazy homeless in this country seem to almost always be homeless by choice.

Japanese hiring practices (discrimination based on age and sex), rental practices (key money and deposits), public aid policy (cannot apply for public aid if you do not have a fixed address), etc., leave many people unable to get a job, home or public aid.

Homeless shelters are few and far between because local politicians either block their establishment or create laws making it difficult for private shelters to operate (for example, regulations requiring that each person in the shelter have their own private room). They do this for votes (from people who don't want homeless shelters in their neighborhoods) and for financial reasons. Once the homeless person gets a fixed address at the shelter, they can start collecting public aid. This public aid comes out of the local government's pocket. If a shelter has 50 people in it, the public aid alone would cost the local government about US$50,000 per month (or US$600,000 per year) for each private shelter.

Public shelters exist but they are next to useless because people are only allowed to stay there for a short period of time - not long enough to get a job and save enough money to get back on their feet.

I have dined with homeless people, had lengthy conversations with them in Japanese and have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of private shelters but I have never met (nor heard of) a homeless person there by choice. I am sure they exist but they are definitely not the majority as you would lead us to believe.

Here in Japan, the unemployment rate is ridiculously low...

Unemployment figures in Japan only include those who are actively looking for work while collecting unemployment. People living in parks or under bridges are not included in the unemployment rate.

Nightchrome,

If you speak Japanese, I challenge you to buy two lunch boxes, a couple of drinks and have a meal with someone living in a park. You may gain some knowledge, a new perspective or maybe gratitude for your many blessings. Hopefully, you will gain a healthier attitude towards fellow human beings living without shelter.
posted by cup at 5:23 AM on April 17, 2006


Well, your apparent considerable investigation into the situation certainly trumps my idle observation so I'll just take your word for it. I guess I just don't understand why almost every supposedly-starving homeless person I encounter has more personal electronics in their cardboard hut than I do in my house. Apparently handheld tv is more important than dinner, who knew?
posted by nightchrome at 5:34 AM on April 17, 2006


bugbread:

I don't think there's anything comparable in Tokyo (though I've heard there is one small slum somewhere in shitamachi).

Perhaps you are referring to Sanya (山谷)?
posted by cup at 5:45 AM on April 17, 2006


cup : "Perhaps you are referring to Sanya (山谷)?"

That's the one. I think I heard about it from MeFi, recently. Interestingly (or not), my wife has no knowledge of Sanya (even though she's lived her whole life in Tokyo (well, Kawasaki, close enough)).

There was a report on Sanya recently on the news, actually. Talking about how the homeless there built a government office because the government had alloted no money for either construction materials or construction work.

Jase_B,

Thanks for the clarification about Nishinari/Kamagasaki. I was kinda wondering, since Nishinari is a ku, if Kamagasaki was inside it, but I wasn't sure.

Cup (again),

Thanks for the clarification on how the homeless figures are derived. I always wondered about why the homeless figures were so low, but there were so many damn tents in Yoyogi, Ueno, and Shinjuku.

Nightcrome,

What I've heard from cup pretty much reconciles with what I've heard from many Japanese. If you're young, and homeless, and not insane, then it may well be a problem with your own work ethic/drugs/alcoholism, et al, but if you're old and unskilled, it's probably not a personal choice. There are enough people looking for construction work that your average construction firm would rather hire a 20 year old than a 50 year old. Ditto for convenience stores, dockyards, and other traditional hirers of unskilled workers. So a 50 year old may be perfectly capable of working, but the fact that they aren't working doesn't necessarily indicate that they don't want to work, as much as that nobody wants to hire said 50 year old.

---

I sent an email to a friend living in Osaka (from Tokyo, but an inquisitive sort, and now living in Osaka). Apparently, within Nishinari, there is a section/are sections (no plural in Japanese, so kinda hard to tell from what she wrote) where there are no addresses assigned, which is the particularly bad part. I'm guessing that's the Kamagasaki area. Rumour has it (which I find believable) that this part of Nishinari is where a/some of the Most Wanted folk(s) (again with the damn lack of plurals!) from the Aum subway attack / other gas attack(s) (memory poor) are hiding out from the police.
posted by Bugbread at 6:26 AM on April 17, 2006


For anyone interested in learning more about Sanya and the people who live there, I recommend A Man with No Talents. It's written by a day-labourer who's ostensibly there by choice, although it's pretty evident he has some psychological issues as well.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 10:02 AM on April 17, 2006


Random additional trivia:

Friend in Osaka had never heard of Kamagasaki, but mentioned "Airin" area. Checking Wikipedia Japan's entry (would link, but I suspect few could read it), Airin is the official name, decided in 1966, for the area, but folks living there go by the pre-1966 name, which is Kamagasaki.

The average age of new day labourers in Kamagasaki is 49.2. The average age of all day labourers, including both new and residing there since last year or earlier, is 54.5.

Last trivia: Due to the high presence of day labourers, general slum conditions, and bad image, hotels are cheap (2,000 yen a night for a business hotel, which is absolutely dirt fucking cheap in Japan). As such, with the spread of the internet and access to rate info for hotels, it has become a popular place for young tourists and foreign tourists to stay.
posted by Bugbread at 4:41 PM on April 17, 2006


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