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Copyright
VOLUME 2 (2000), ISSUE 4  (WINTER)

 

THE UNDERCLASS IN JAPAN : A CASE STUDY OF HOMELESS MEN IN KAMAGASAKI AND THEIR WINTER STRUGGLE

HIDEO AOKI

 

SUMMARY

Cities in Japan are changing drastically under the impact of economic internationalization. The urban industrial structure is shifting from a goods-producing industry to a service-oriented one. The working class structure becomes increasingly polarized between a few professional and skilled workers on the one hand and many unskilled manual laborers on the other hand.

At the same time, due the present economic recession in Japan, more and more manual day laborers who work mostly in the construction industry are losing their jobs, especially in the 'Yosebas'. A Yoseba is a district in the inner city where day laborers can find jobs and stay at cheap hotels called 'Doyas'. Thus, these unemployed day laborers are becoming homeless.

This articles details the basic characteristics of Japanese homeless men, such as the size of the homeless population, and for example, their ages, their labour force statuses, and the types of paid work they complete. Second, it provides for an overview of the history of the biggest Yoseba (Kamagasaki in Osaka), and it analyzes the social movement of homeless men and their strategies to survive at Kamagasaki. Third, it interprets their mental world by reconstructing the value system expressed symbolically in their most important activity for survival, the ''Winter Struggle''.

KEYWORDS

Homeless People - Cities - Class Structure - Underclass - Japan

AUTHOR'S PRESENTATION

Hideo AOKI is a Sociologist and a Director of the Urban Sociology Research Center, Hiroshima, Japan. He studied the urban underclass (day laborers, homeless men, squatters and foreign laborers) in both Japan and the Philippines. He is the author of Life and Death of Yoseba Laborer (Akashi-Shoten,Inc., Japan,1989), Give a Space: Sociology of Yoseba and Homeless man (Shoraisha, Inc.,Japan,1999), Urban Underclass in Modern Japan: Yoseba, Homeless Men and Foreign Laborers (Akashi-Syoten Inc., Japan,2000).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This article is a revised version of a paper presented to the 4th Conference of the Asia Pacific Sociological Association (APSA), on the 14-16th of September 2000 at Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan.

COPYRIGHT

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