One of the distinct characteristics on Japanese homeless is that single middle-aged men are the majority; this fact is deeply associated with "yoseba ". According to the surveys done by Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Osaka City Government, most of rough sleepers used to stay at "yoseba" and the majority were employed in the construction industry. During the 60s to 70s—a time of intensive economic growth in Japan, numerous day laborers gathered from all over the country. When economic stagnation arrived in the late 1980s and 1990s, those day laborers became "homeless"—unable to pay for staying at doss-houses. Today, aged and/or diseased laborers who are unable to work have no choice but to live on streets or in parks.
|Table 1 Overview of Kamagasaki (Airin District)|
|Year of the survey/notes|
|Number of cheap lodging houses||Approximately 160||May 2003
(total accommodation capacity-17,000 people)
|Effective job supply at Airin Employ Service Agency||11,491||End of March 2003|
|Average age||54.5||February 2000|
|Number of rough sleepers (Nishinari Ward)||1,910||August 1999(total in Osaka City-8,660)|
|Number of patients||5,300||2000|
|Anonymous death toll (Nishinari Ward)||14||2000|
|Welfare Apartment and Supportive Housing||Welfare Apt. 40, Supportive Housing 9||May,2003|
|Welfare recipients||4979||End of February, 2003|
However in the post-bubble economy years, economic recession and aging of the laborers (average 55 years old) resulted in several thousand rough sleepers around the area. Around half of the estimated 12,000 rough sleepers covering the area of Osaka City seem to have had experience as day laborers in Kamagasaki.
There were other problems related to the increase of rough sleepers. For instance, the anonymous death toll and prevalence rates for tuberculosis in Kamagasaki are much higher than for other places; also there were problems such as alcohol dependency and drug dependency. Besides, degradation of the local environment and decline of the local economy from low consumption rate are serious problems in the area.
Yoseba: Where day laborers seek for their daily jobs to get hired. The term "Yoseba" originally came from "Ninsoku Yoseba" at Ishikawa-island in Edo (Tokyo), known as the shelter (or rehab center) for rough sleepers and later also for petty criminals to rehabilitate established in 1790.
There are ways to categorize yosebas as follows: Ones developed from traditional slums (Kamagasaki in Osaka, San’ya in Tokyo etc.) and ones newly developed after World War II (Kotobuki Town in Yokohama, Sasajima in Nagoya etc.). There are also yosebas that have flophouse quarters (Kamagasaki, San’ya, Kotobuki Town etc.) and ones that do not (Sasajima etc.).
Cheap lodging houses: Cheap and simple hotels based on hotel business law used as semi-permanent lodging for day laborers. Day laborers call them as "Doya". In San’ya (Tokyo), there are quite a few large-scale bedhouses; on the other hand, in Kamagasaki (Osaka) most doyas were rebuilt into high-rise and modern budget hotels during the time of bubble economy. In the latter cases, around 70% rooms are private rooms occupying less then 5㎡ and each room furnishes an air conditioner and a TV. Also the budget hotels have a big shared bath and an elevator. The average fee to stay one night is around 1,500 yen; recently there are some places drop the price into about 1,000 yen
C/o Kamagasaki eggs
(Shared office for NPOs working on Kamagasaki community development)
2-2-16 Taishi, Nishinari Ward
Osaka City, 55-0004, Japan
|Tel:||+81-(0)90-8448-0315 (Sen Arimura’s cellular phone)|
|+81-(0)6-6641-0131 (Work place of Sen Arimura)|
|Fax:||+81-(0)6-6641-0297 (Work place of Sen Arimura)|
If it is an urgent mail, please send to:
C/o Nishinari Labor Welfare Center
1-3-44 Haginochaya, Nishinari Ward
Osaka City, 557-0004, Japan
HERE IS THE STORY OF ONE NPO WORKER IN KAMAGASAKI (from THE WORLD AT WORK by JOHN SPIRI)
Matsushige Itou, 55
NPO Staff Worker
What does your NPO do?
We support not only homeless people but individuals on the edge as well. Many have lost their job because of the economic downturn, or other reasons. If using the broader classification of homeless, there’s probably 10,000 in Osaka. Our area is Kamagasaki, inside Osaka city. It’s a laborer’s town.
What kind of employment program do you offer?
Mainly we register individuals for jobs. Last year we operated under the national budget; this year the money comes from Osaka prefecture and Osaka city. That change means our budget was cut from 900,000,000 yen to about 700,000,000 yen. This is a significant slash. With the amount of money we have available only 199 individuals can work. Most homeless make 30,000 yen a month, on average.
Do they receive food handouts?
Some Christian and other groups give out food in parks. Convenient stores and restaurants like McDonald’s donate old food. It’s perfectly edible but past the selling date. There are quite a few convenient stores in Osaka. That helps. In some cases they sell the old food really cheap, like just 100 yen.
Why do the homeless become homeless, in general?
In America and Europe I often hear that drugs are a big problem with homeless. In Japan it’s quite different. There isn’t a drug problem.
There is alcoholism but the number is not high. The main reason is economic, the bubble burst. The situation changed dramatically in the 1970s. Many salarymen lost their jobs and were left with inadequate funds, inadequate pensions. When people are on the edge of homelessness it doesn’t take much—an illness, an injury, a personal problem. This is the mistake of the government, to not have programs in place to take care of them. If the government could create jobs, they’d all want to work. With globalization the companies are pulling out. In Japan now there are no large factories. Middle aged people have no places to work. Even when there is a modern factory now, where they used to employ 500 workers, no they only hire 100 due to mechanization.
It’s often said that homeless choose that lifestyle. To what extent is that true?
It’s a rationalization. Most people want to blame the victim. The cause of homelessness lack of employment. People want to be in charge of their own lives so many would rather eke out a living on the streets rather than take handouts. The interviewers don’t look at the causes of homelessness.
For a personal question, why did you want to do this job?
I didn’t want to do it! (laughs) I started living here in 1976 while working as a day laborer myself. That work is too hard. The main reason I got the job was because I knew bookkeeping. Others didn’t have that experience so I got the job by default (laughs).
Are you satisfied?
I can’t say I am. The problems aren’t being solved unfortunately. Many homeless are dying.
What about the future?
I want to quit (laughs). I’d like to see the problems solved soon so the homeless can live a better life. The thinking of the entire society has to change. People need to understand that there just aren’t jobs. It’s a problem of how the tax money is used.
Food Bank Japan
The food bank provides food to not only the homeless but struggling single parents and others in need. They also work to find long-term solutions to poverty and homelessness. Information is available at the website above and through Tengu Natural Foods, distributer of organic foods in Japan.
And some more Homeless Links