It has been already four years since "The Kamagasaki 1988" was first published in commemoration of the acknowledgement of Tabiji-No-Sato as the Jesuit Social Center in Osaka. One of the purposes of the Jesuit Social Center is to analyze social issues and structures, to place ourselves in the midst of the realities in the society. We have not yet reached the stage where we can make sound critical analysis, but we have begun our efforts by compiling a report in English to inform the people in different countries of situation in Kamagasaki, a town of day laborers.
Fortunately, many readers have responded with constructive criticism, encouragement, and other useful information.
"Kamagasaki 1992" outlines the drastic changes in Kamagasaki since 1990, which was when the second edition of the report, "Kamagasaki 1990" was published. The main reason for the changes is the collapse of the Japanese bubble economy, which was growing extraordinarily at the expenses of the poor and the weak. During the 2-year period, there was an abundance of jobs available to the day laborers in Kamagasaki. One consequence of this phenomenon is the reconstruction of 'doya' (inn) buildings in Kamagasaki.
The old wooden inns were demolished and rebuilt one after another, and transformed into reinforced concrete buildings, resulting in the price of rooms jumping from 400 or 500 yen to 1,500 or 2,000 per night. As a result, there became a division among the workers, those who can afford the room charge and those who cannot. The former are mainly the young and capable workers, while the latter are older workers or those with weak physical conditions and who have difficulty finding jobs, thus forced to sleep on the streets. Details of the workers staying on the streets can be referred to the 1988 report.
Collapse of Japan's bubble economy began taking place around October, 1991, and it immediately hit on the life of the day laborers. The statistics published by the Nishinari Labor Welfare Center show the real picture. According to the statistics, there was an average of 8,600 job openings a day in March 1991, but it decreased to 5,700 in March 1992 and again decreased to 4,600 in March 1993, which is approximately one-half of jobs available during the economic boom in 1991. The number of workers in Kamagasaki is estimated to be 12,000 on the basis of the number of issued labor insurance note.
Decrease in number of jobs naturally means loss of income that pays for overnight housing. The number of workers who are forced to sleep on the streets exceeds 300 every night in the vicinity of Kamagasaki alone, and the number of workers lining up for food services has increased to more than 700.
The Kamagasaki Christian Kyoyukai, a Christian ecumenical group working for and with the day laborers, has been continually negotiating with the town administrators since June 10, 1992 with the following demands:
These demands were supported with facts we researched through our participation in the food service programs and the night patrols.
So far, the results have been disheartening. One worker who participated in the negotiations said in anger, "The administrations do not consider us as human beings."
It has been said for many years that the day laborers served as the safety valve of Japan's economy. Faced with the depression and economic difficulties in the everyday life of the workers, we feel this is utterly. In times of economic prosperity, day laborers provide deep and difficult labor with little consideration given to their needs or physical conditions. But during a recession, they are cast away without a second thought.
This phenomenon of the day laborers truly represent the Japanese social and economic structure that always gives priority to profit making.
For "Kamagasaki 1992", we chose four articles that informs our readers about the happenings in Kamagasaki in the past two years. Rev. Nobuaki Koyanagi who wrote "How the Workers Are Feeling" is a pastor of the United Church of Christ in Japan and a member of KUIM (Kansai Christian Urban Industrial Committee). He has extensive experience in Kamagasaki. He has also been actively involved in the urban and industrial problems of Japan as well as problems concerning all of Asia. His article on the feelings of the Kamagasaki workers is based on two court cases, and was originally printed in "the White Papers of Kamagasaki '89 - '90" (edited by the Editing Committee of the White Paper of Kamagasaki Christian Kyoyukai.)
"Put An End to the 'Gakureki' Society - Society That Seeks Only Affluence," by Ms.Tomoko Shoho views social problems in Japan today from an educational perspective. It originally appeared in the March 1993 issue of Evangelical Missionary, published by Oriensu Religion Research Institute. She argues that at the core of the discriminatory practices of the Japanese society is the "undue emphasis on one's family and educational backgrounds." This discriminatory system enables the rich to richer, and the strong to stronger. She explains the negative influences of this system and raises problems through the situation in Kamagasaki. Ms. Shoho is the director of Kodomo no Sato, a center run by Catholic Guardian Angel Sisters.
"Protect the Human Rights of Foreign Migrant Workers" looks at the issue of labor accidents of foreign migrant workers in Japan. This section was written by Mr. Kenji Iwata of Kansai Labor Safety Center, which supports and consults foreign workers faced with labor accidents. This article is a reproduction of his contribution in the report submitted to "The 28th National Conference for Migrant Work" on March 1, 1992.
Many small-and-medium sized Japanese companies employ foreign workers to meet their labor shortage. The Japanese government, however, does not acknowledge their employment. Thus, these foreign workers are faced with illegal employment that exposes them to lower wages, unstable employment and dangerous working environments. When they are met with labor accidents, they cannot be adequately treated or compensated in fear of disclosing their improper visa status. These are apparently violation of human rights.
The last section is written by Mr.Sin Won-sik, a Korean Jesuit seminarian. During the period from July to December of 1991, he worked for "Asian Friends," the SOS center for foreign workers based in Tabiji-No-Sato. He worked with foreign workers, especially those from Korea, who were in trouble due to labor accidents.
He shared the suffering and hardship of his brothers in Japan. In the article, he shares frank criticism and hopes toward Japan. It is a reproduction of the article in English in the 47th edition of "Social and Pastoral Bulletin," circulated by the Jesuit Social Center of Japan.
Again we have received support from many people in publishing this edition. I would like to extend my appreciation to each contributor and to publishers who allowed reproduction of articles. Translation work was done by Ms. Megumi Komori and Ms. Kaori Kitai. I am sure that they had a difficult time as there are some parts that need good understanding of the situations. I also thank Sr.Sharon Tembarge and Ms. Yoon Hae-Jin for proofreading.
With cooperation and efforts extended by many people, the "Kamagasaki 1992" finally reached its completion. We would most appreciate your honest comments or criticism of this edition, so that, we hope, the negative aspects of the Japanese social structure can be changed. Copies of the "Kamagasaki 1990", the previous edition, are still in stock, and we will be willing to send you upon request.
Father Noboru Susukida