Another Type of Japanese Minority

Do you know the town called “Kamagasaki” in Osaka?  It’s so-called Japanese slum where many homeless people, day laborers have lived long time ago. I suppose that there are some who haven’t ever heard about this town because the name of this place was changed to “Airin-chiku (愛隣地区)” as a political term by Osaka government. However, most of the residents and those who know this place well call it Kamagasaki.

In this town, there are not only residents but also plenty of supporting organizations and most of them are organized by those who don’t live in Kamagasaki. Why are there so many supporting organizations? Why don’t they band as one big organization to support Kamagasaki residents? The reason is that each organization has each idea of their activities. Some of them appeal the right to work and live stably, while others insist on the right to live on the streets. For us, who have our own houses, it’s too hard and cruel to be forced to live on the streets. If I ran into such situation, I would surely aim to rehabilitation. Therefore, we tend to expect that Kamagasaki people also hope to work and work stably. However, not all Kamagasaki people hope so.

Before I explain the reason, I need tell you another story.

They have their favorite song named “Kamagasaki Ninjo (釜ヶ崎人情―kamagasaki  heart)”. In its lyrics, it have a phrase―”Koko ha tengoku kamagasaki (means, here is heaven, Kamagasaki)”. Why is Kamagasaki heaven although people can’t work and live without any problems and are forced to live on the streets? I sometimes go there to work as a volunteer, and I cannot possibly think that I want to live there. Kamagasaki, which is like a hell, is a heaven to the residents. This difference of thoughts between them and us makes Japanese labor problem complicated, tells us the difficulty in resolving, and creates supporting organizations with various ideas.

Now, bring the topic around the reason why they think Kamagasaki is heaven. Japanese society use many laborers to build infrastructures in the term of rapid economic growth and after finishing it, our society excluded them as disposable labor force and have ignored them. Such people lie in Kamagasaki. Therefore, the hell is Japanese society rather than Kamgasaki for those people. There, they can get a few job such as day labor and somehow manage to squeeze. They can also walk around the town not as a poor person but a resident. This is the reason why Kamagasaki people sing “here is heaven, Kamagasaki”, and appeal not rehabilitation but the right to live on the streets.

Profound social problems, especially local ones such as Kamgasaki problem, villages with nuclear power plants, and Okinawan base problems, always have differences of thoughts between outsiders and concerned people. In these local problems, concerned people are usually minority. They are neither immigrants nor minority ethnic groups, but they are also Japanese minority. To understand those minorities’ thoughts and to solve the local problems, the outsiders should know that there are differences of thoughts between them and concerned people.

by Yukari Deguchi