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Kamagasaki, Japan’s biggest slum, cannot be found on official maps, and city festival organizers have been accused of censorship. Osaka officials asked Shingo Ota, a film director, to remove scenes that identified the slum, on the grounds that it was insensitive to residents.
“To me, what they were asking was a cover-up attempt to make this place non-existent,” he said in a recent interview. In Kamagasaki area one in three residents are on welfare. About 25,000 people live in the compact area, mostly single men who stay in free shelters or dozens of cheap dorms that charge as little as ¥800 ($8) a night, and homeless line up to get tickets for free shelters. Osaka official Kazumitsu Oue said the film festival organizers wanted to protect the area and its people from exposure to prejudice. “We felt that the film lacked consideration to the area and its people,” he said.
The relative poverty rate of Japan —the proportion of the population living below 50 percent of the national median income—nearly doubled from 8.1 percent in 1994 to 13.5 percent in 2000 and increased to 14.9 percent in 2005. According to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) survey Japan was the second worst among advanced economies in 2000 in terms of relative poverty, partly because of the high number of non-regular workers.
Some people in japan especially older people especially those living on their own live in houses similar to those in the picture above, others live in the sidewalks and alleys while others live in tents pitched in places such as open areas like parks. some who live in the cities in tents and under bridges; single parent families; elderly people with small pensions; and temporary workers who sleep in Internet cafes. There are few slums in Japan and even the ones you do find are nothing likes those in India, Brazil or even America. Still, they often have no furniture, only cushions, and no bathrooms; families must use a public bath down the street. Some poor Japanese people live under bridges, in flophouse dormitories, or in train stations. The majority live in tents in parks. These tents are usually made of blue tarpaulins and the area around them is tidy and clean.
Some tents have battery-powered televisions, stereos and even air conditioning. Many homeless have cell phones which they use to find work and bicycles, which they use to get from place to place and collect recyclable materials. In Kamagasaki in Osaka is said to be Japan’s largest slum concentration, Kamagasaki has been a place name since 1922. and has the largest day laborer concentration in the country. 30,000 people are estimated to live in every 2,000 meter radius in this area.
History Kamagasaki has been a place name since 1922. An accurate count of occupants has never been produced, even in the national census, due to the large population of day laborers who lack permanent addresses. Daily life in Kamagasaki in the 1950s was photographed by Seiryū Inoue, who won the 1961 Newcomer’s Prize awarded by the Japan Photography Critics` Society for “One Hundred Faces of Kamagasaki”.
It has the largest day laborer concentration in the country. 30,000 people are estimated to live in every 2,000 meter radius in this area, part of which has been in slum-like conditions until as recently as 2012, containing run-down housing structures and untidy streets. The area surrounding Kamagasaki is upscale, clean and attracts tourists with popular sightseeing spots including the Tsutenkaku, Shinsekai, and Nipponbashi. However, in Kamagasaki, homeless people can often be seen sleeping in the streets throughout the day, and doya (ドヤ) hotels (cheap temporary rooms intended for day laborers) abound in the area. These hotels have recently become popular amongst backpackers from outside of Japan due to their cheap price and close location to rail transportation.
Non-profit and religious organizations frequently give out food rations, creating long lines of people in public parks. Property values in Kamagasaki are noticeably lower than those of surrounding areas. Many Bōryokudan offices are located in Kamagasaki, and drug and weapons trafficking is thought to occur daily. Illegal gambling stores are often in business in broad daylight. A seemingly endless line of illegally parked cars extends along the national highway just across from the Nishinari police station. The police do not bother issuing tickets knowing that the fines will never be paid. Notable Riots & Human Rights Protests Several conflicts with the police have occurred in Kamagasaki since 1961 over perceived human rights violations by authorities. The mass media usually refer to these events using words that can be translated as “riot”.
The first riot occurred on August 1, 1961, when an elderly day laborer from Kamagasaki was killed in a traffic accident. The official who arrived on the scene assumed that the man was already dead (only doctors are allowed to pronounce a death) and left the body on the street for over 20 minutes without calling an ambulance while he spoke with witnesses. A large group of day laborers surrounded the Nishinari police station in protest of the man’s treatment, overturned parked police cars, and set fire to nearby apartment buildings. The Osaka Prefectural Police responded with 6,000 officers, using police sticks and vehicles to round up the rioters. It took two days to stop the 2,000 rioters; 28 were arrested. Approximately 10 rioters and 100 police officers were injured.
This riot became a national issue and was taken up in the prefectural legislature and national legislature of Japan. Several attempts were made to mend relationships between the groups, but minor riots continued to occur. In May 1966, it was decided that the official name of Kamagasaki would be changed to Airin-chiku (あいりん地区) in an attempt to improve the area’s crime-ridden image. The name Kamagasaki is still commonly used amongst inhabitants, while the name Airin-chiku is used by the media and government officials.
The 22nd riot occurred in October 1990, 17 years after the last riot in 1973. This riot also involved local day laborers but grew in proportion when youths from outside Kamagasaki joined in. Shin-Imamiya Station and local stores were set on fire during this riot, and it took several days to calm the area. The 23rd riot occurred in October 1992, and a large-scale riot did not occur for over 10 years. This was the last large-scale riot to occur in Japan before the 34th G8 summit.
The 24th conflict with the police occurred on June 13, 2008, and it continued six days. It was related to the 34th G8 summit. One day before the G8 Finance Ministers’ Meeting started in Osaka with a very large police presence, a day laborer in Kamagasaki was allegedly tortured by the police. In protest, many day laborers and other local citizens carried out several days of street protests. Many mass media referred to the protests as a “riot”.
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