Osaka homeless in trouble

Let’s take another look at Google Maps Japan, this time focusing our gaze on Osaka’s Nishinari Park. On the map, it just looks like your average urban park in Osaka:

But look at the satellite photo (click for full size):


What could those be? Why, they’re little shanty houses!

Since the early 1990s, parts of Osaka have become something of a haven for Japan’s homeless people. Colonies of blue-tarped tents and cardboard houses, such as the one in Nishinari Park (located in the Airin area, host to one of Japan’s largest homeless populations) seen above have developed into full-blown communities, complete with electriciy, TV, and corrals of dogs. Residents make ends meet through day labor and collecting recyclables. If you’ve ever visited Osaka Castle, you will likely know what I am talking about.

The colonies have even gained some international attention in recent years (see this excellent BBC pictorial, for example). I suppose they are interesting because while shantytowns are a common sight throughout Asia and the rest of the developing world, they might not be expected from the world’s 2nd largest economy. Plus, it’s pretty neat to see that they’ve made such comfortable lives for themselves considering the circumstances.

One of those homeless colonies, a ten-person, 15-tent compound located in Nagai Park, is in trouble as authorities plan to evict squatters in to begin construction in preparation to hose the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.

It’s sad to see these generally peaceful groups of resourceful men broken up. The homeless culture is one of the unique aspects of Osaka that gives the city some flavor, and it’s too bad that city officials can’t recognize it as such. Instead, they have brought an expensive sporting event to the city that is likely to plunge it even deeper in debt.

Nevertheless, the order has been issued, and if the homeless do not leave by Jan. 21 they will be forced to remove their tents.

To get a better idea of what’s happening on the ground, MFT plans to send crack Osaka correspondent Roy to attend a festival to be held this weekend by the residents and their non-profit backers. The event will feature stage performances with the homeless residents and young people. Stay tuned for awesome photos!

17 thoughts on “Osaka homeless in trouble”

  1. There used to be many many more homeless hanging around the station in Umeda than there are now and, of course, around Tennoji Zoo. I only saw a few around JR Osaka station when I was in Japan a few months ago, and didn’t see any in the South of the city, although I mostly hung around Namba.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the powers that be are slowly sweeping a wave of homeless into the Southern suburbs. I remember a few years ago when IOC officials came to inspect Osaka on its rather silly bid to host the 2008 Olympics (a friend of mine had a job assisting the Osaka bid committee and claimed the whole thing was a not-so-elaborate hoax to funnel tax money towards municipal politicians. No one ever imagined they would win, but I digress.) homeless hanging around the Shinsekai/Tennoji area were briskly told to piss off. I guess this park must be one of the places they ended up in. Not surprising as its pretty close to Tennoji.

  2. Last week I was walking along Yodogawa maybe 15 minutes from Umeda Station and I saw a homeless dude with his own vegetable farm… and a goddamn chicken coop!

  3. You guys should come to Kawasaki right along the Tamagawa river banks.
    I know at least three guy who built a house from cardboard and woods.(no longer homeless) and they have their own gardens not just vegetable but for flowers and bonsai.I know at least one guy has a dog….

  4. The Sumida in Tokyo also has some of the most pleasant homeless housing I’ve ever seen. I loved walking down the river at night and enjoying the skyline of condo towers in Koto-ku. And sure enough, the whole west side of the river is lined in little tents where homeless people sleep. A much better environment than even Ueno Park, I think.

  5. That might be the same one, I’m not totally sure. I think there are a few farms out there, right? Anyway, the chickens are what impressed me the most. Was there a chicken coop a few dozen meters on?

  6. Looking at homeless tents and the like, and especially after the Great Hanshin Worldwobble, I have to ask: why are ALL Japanese tarps BLUE??

  7. I live in Osaka and my that anecdotal evidence points towards a southward push on the homeless. There are a lot fewer around Osaka-jo these days and now that Utsubo-koen has re-opened there is a security guard that patrols late (maybe all night, I’ve never been in the park past 1ish). I can’t imagine what the security guard could be for other than deterring homeless from setting up shop because I’ve seen kids doing all kinds of stuff there (drinking, shooting fireworks at the buildings and trees, riding bicycles through the fountains) and he didn’t say anything.

    A friend who lived in Hanazonocho (south of Namba) a while back talked about an influx of homeless, especially the ones on the bottom edge, some of whomho ended up dead on the street in the Daikokucho/Hanazonocho area.

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