Kamagasaki – The largest slum in Japan

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Kamagasaki [釜ヶ崎] is a neighborhood located in Southern Osaka in a region called Nishinari-ku. In this article we will talk about this famous neighborhood known as slum because of homeless and unemployed.

Many reports and articles on the Internet talk about this Kamagasaki neighborhood and call it Japan’s largest slum. In this article I want to get as close to the truth and show if this is really a slum.

It is already knowledge that the international media often increase and generalize often a certain subject to generate more controversies and visualizations. Is Kamagasaki that depressing?

Where is Kamagasaki located?

Kamagasaki is an ancient name used from 1922 until 1966. After that year the neighborhood was named [あいりん地区]Airin-chiku, yet most people call it Kamagasaki.

The name Kamagasaki is used to refer to the taishi [西成区太子], haginochaya [萩之茶屋], Sannō [山王], Hanazonokita [花園北] and Tengachaya [天下茶屋] neighborhoods located in Nishinari-ku [西成区].  

The kamagasaki neighborhoods are located near Shin Imamiya station on the Osaaka Loop Line line below the ShinSekai Famous District Region, which also features a more cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

In addition to shinsekai you will find other nearby tourist places such as Tsutenkaku, Nipponbashi and Abenobashi.

Some theories claim that the neighborhood was named Kamagasaki because food distributed to street dwellers was cooked in a kettle.

The name Kamagasaki takes the ideograms [釜] of kettle, cauldron and iron pot along wit[崎]h headland, cable and tip.

The story of Kamagasaki

Kamagasaki District is a place where poor and street dwellers have accumulated since post-war and especially in the 1960s. But his history of poverty comes well before World War II.

Since the Edo period, there have been many wooden accommodations for tourists who stretched from the present-day Denden Town neighborhood through the Tennoji, Namba and Imamiya districts of Osaka. This place was called Nagamachi.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

The Nagamachi neighborhood is believed to have had more than 2,800 wooden accommodations on rent, hosting more than 6000 people in the Meiji Era in 1886. This generated a certain name involving Osaka.

The neighborhood was seen as a problem of security and urban planning, the sugeira dominated the place and some even became ill. During the expansion of Osaka in 1897 this neighborhood was divided and ceased to exist.

After many twists and turns involving the structuring of neighborhoods in 1925 in the second expansion of Osaka, the southern region was named kamagasaki, at the time a common neighborhood and without any problem.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

The city of Osaka was thriving until it was affected by World War II. At that time, people from various parts of Japan came to Osaka to build doya (lodgings and accommodation areas).

For some reason, most of these poor people have accumulated in the Kamagasaki region. In the 1950s, shewas with wooden shacks sometimes covered in canvas, the region emerged.

Even with the removal of these precarious accommodations and the construction of appropriate apartments, increasingly unemployed, walkers and homeless people frequented the neighborhood in search of friendships and jobs.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

The neighborhood was famous for having cheap lodgings and villas, as well as a good job offer. Jobs are advertised through posters and speakers. People determined to work could get jobs in construction, freight transport and dock work.

In 1959, a survey was conducted that states that 40% of residents were regular workers, 40% were diarists or made beaks and only 20% were unemployed. It may seem reasonable in times of crisis, but it was not resolved.

Kamagasaki is as if it were a neighborhood or region that failed to fully lift from the economic and social crisis after World War II. Fortunately today the neighborhood has changed and improved considerably compared to the past, but there are still many homeless streets, poor and unemployed.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

Who lives in Kamagasaki?

Most residents of the region are temporary workers and diarists who do not have a fixed job but work and have a normal life. In addition to the residents, the neighborhood is home to many homeless people and homeless people.

It is impossible to determine how many people live in Kamagasaki, since the place is frequented by residents of streets, walkers, street vendors and people who live moving, arriving and leaving.

It is estimated that more than 30,000 people live in this neighborhood. They are usually elderly addicted to drinks, drugs, pachinko, sick or abandoned by their family. Many are unemployed, but not for lack of employment.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

Many who live there have a home or family, but don’t want to come back for some personal and shame problem. Others just can’t leave their addictions and keep living on the streets.

Many also choose to live on the streets after suffering from a lot of stress at work and revolted, opting to never work again. Some wait to sit without trying to win a job.

Although it is a sad place, both the residents and the unemployed who live on the street seem to be happy, always smiling, they live talking and smiling, unlike some places like Tokyo…

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

Why does kamagasaki exist?

How can there be such a depressing slum and neighborhood in a country so rich and full of jobs? In fact things like that will always exist in any country. The country may be as rich as it is, street dwellers will accumulate.

Japan has few homeless people compared to other first world countries. The government always invests in these people, trying to get them off the street, but much of it does not accept help.

Religious and non-profit organizations often distribute food rations or sopão, creating long lines of people in public parks. Many elderly people also receive welfare help.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

The Neighborhood community also always does things to help these homeless people, whether by providing food, beaks or delivering cans and other things to help walkers recycle.

Most people in Kamagasaki live this way by choice is not because of lack of choice as it is in Brazil. One of the causes may be depression, where people lose the joy of life and ends up in these conditions.

In fact the site also becomes a meeting point and agglomeration of homeless people because of their low accommodation price and the Community Help center and Airin employment that we will talk below.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

The government of osaka does not allow the name “Kamagasaki” to appear on official maps and discourages the use of the name in the media. Not to hide the existence of the place, but also to discourage the existence of it.

The government has been fighting for a long time to end poverty and homeless people accumulated in these neighborhoods. Some of the measures to help Kamagasaki street dwellers by the community and government are:

  • Nishinari Public Health Service;
  • City Ai Neighbour Hall;
  • City Ai Neighbourhood Dormit;
  • City Imaike Living Hall;
  • Summer Festival in Kamagasaki;
  • Twilight Concert;
  • Energy Festival;
  • Evening Variety Show;
  • Kamagasaki May Day;
  • Come Here Festival;
Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

Community festivals, religious groups and humanitarian aid groups are very popular in the region and are of great help to the unemployed living in these neighborhoods.

Kamagasaki is a slum in Japan?

The definition of slum consists of a place where low-income people live in low-budget and improvised constructions of materials. Is Kamagasaki really like that?

In this slum there are no children or women, they are just homeless people who gather in buildings sleeping in their futons and killing time in groupes in bars and some rarely using drugs. That’s the idea that many have of Kamagasaki.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

Despite the large concentration of homeless people, the neighborhoods that make up Kamagasaki are not necessarily poor neighborhoods full of poor people, crime and trafficking dominance as in Brazil.

In fact, as I walked all these places called Kamagasaki, I realized it’s a normal residential neighborhood of Japan. The only difference is the agglomeration points of street dwellers.

Property values in Kamagasaki are notably lower than those of the surrounding areas. In fact the neighborhood attracts many tourists for its cheap lodgings called doya.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

Much of the neighborhood is full of hotels and lodgings that help both street dwellers and people who want to save money. Recently several backpackers have stayed in this neighborhood for the price and location.

Kamagasaki is not a dangerous neighborhood full of crimes, robberies and drugs. Streetders are usually loving, do not ask for alms and do not make a mess. You can walk without being afraid, but you will be thrilled with a sad scenario of some points.

Despite the old buildings and the poor environment, the place remains clean and organized, but be careful not to stumble where homeless people set up their tents or put their futons, it can be anywhere.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

Apart from this, for me Kamagasaki is equal to many neighborhoods in Japan, with its restaurants, ramen houses, izakaya, automatic sales machines, konbini, medical clinics, onsen, apartments and traditional houses.

We must also remember that the 5 neighborhoods that make up the region called Kamagasaki are huge. It’s depressing the situation and the places where homeless people live, but I think it’s unfair to crucify every neighborhood for it.

In fact, there are homeless, homeless and unemployed residents anywhere Japan. In several cities you can end up facing a square or land full of tents, not something exclusive to Kamagasaki.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

Airin – Work and Wellness Centre

This is one of the most famous buildings where there is a large concentration of unemployed people and homeless people in Kamagasaki. At Airin Labor people can get a job and a new life.

The first sight is still chaotic, an old and poorly renovated place, without painting, looking like an abandoned building. Despite this, the site is beautifully administered, with spacious interior and a market or temple atmosphere.

There is a hospital, cafeteria, bathroom and bathroom is extremely clean. It is possible to see some elderly people playing shogi throughout the day. The current Airin Labor Welfare Center was established in 1970 at the Osaka Expo.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

In addition to Airin Labor, we also have other communities that provide jobs and help temporary residents of Kamagasaki. Not to mention some buildings, parks and squares where the homeless usually stay.

Some humanitarian aid centers and places where street dwellers crowd are:

  • Sankaku Park
  • NPO Kama;
  • Haginochaya-minami Park;
  • Recycling centres;
  • Hello Work Airin Rodo;

One of the main is Sankaku Park, a triangular square where there is a famous television trapped in a large where homeless people with their tents watch during mornings and nights.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

Conflicts with police in Kamagasaki

In this neighborhood there are also conflicts with the police, protests and riots. The first was recorded in 1961 where an elderly worker was allegedly killed in a traffic accident.

The officer who arrived at the scene assumed that the man was dead, even though he was not a doctor, leaving the body for more than 20 minutes without calling an ambulance while talking to people at the scene.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

This generated a riot in front of the police station that needed more than 6,000 police officers to stop. Several conflicts with the police occurred because of the perception of human rights violations by the authorities.

The 24th riot occurred in 2008 and lasted six days because a worker in Kamagasaki was allegedly tortured by police. Many claim that police and local authorities do not treat them equally.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

How to combat Kamagasaki’s problems?

As already mentioned, much has been done to end poverty and kamagasaki homeless. Yet these initiatives are not enough and sometimes it only sustains this scenario even more.

There is no point in changing the name of the place to cause a good image, nor try to distribute jobs to a huge queue of people, or provide spaces that help crowding these people.

Japan has a virtually zero unemployment rate, but unfortunately companies are too demanding. Probably the history and the situation hinders these unemployed Kamagasaki getting a job.

Kamagasaki - All About Japan's Largest Favela

The region’s sales machines and bars further encourage homeless people to crowd and stay in a Comfort Zone, where they simply don’t want to take a step forward in their lives.

Not to mention in pachinko’s gigantic gambling trade, one of the causes that lead a structured person to become a homeless person who spends all his beakmoney playing more pachinko.

Unfortunately in the world we live in, there will always be something that spoils lives. Man and his greed for money and search for pleasures ends up harming and harming others.

What do you think can be done to improve Kamagasaki’s image? I hope you enjoyed the article, it took a lot of work to write, so I thank you strongly for the comments and shares.

Kamagasaki Videos

To finish the article, I’ll leave some videos and reports about Kamagasaki:

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