In , the official solution to ridding the region of its crime-ridden image was to rename it Airin-chiku. The first that drew nationwide attention was in The year-old, who spent 18 years living on the streets after a messy divorce and a bitter row with his siblings over inheritance money - of which he received none - now considers Kamagasaki as his true, if dysfunctional, home.
The first that drew nationwide attention was in This article is over 10 years old Homelessness in Osaka. Though Arimura denies that alcoholism is any worse here than in Japanese society at large, for many Kamagasaki men, drinking is a way of life. Takezawa is one of Kamagasaki's few success stories. It was the first major disturbance since anger at collusion between local police and the yakuza - Japan's mafia - prompted five-days of rioting in October Some will even eschew free accommodation to fuel their addiction. At the height of the bubble economy Kamagasaki's labourers were guaranteed regular work, says Sen Arimura, an official at the Nishinari Labour Welfare Centre, a s structure whose breezy forecourt is dotted with men napping. After losing his job at a cinema when the economic bubble burst in the early s, he spent several years sleeping near Osaka's main railway station before ending up in Kamagasaki. The tuberculosis infection rate in Kamagasaki is three in every residents, 30 to 40 times the national average. There had been previous clashes between police and residents. I've made lots of friends here over the years - and I've seen lots of them die. But these are hard times for the thousands of casual labourers who descend on the local employment-welfare centre every morning at dawn, not knowing if they will spend the day earning hard cash on construction sites, or queuing for handouts at the local soup kitchen. Around him the personal stories are more often of broken marriages, financial ruin and ill health. Osaka's bureaucrats would rather the world knew as little as possible about the maze of dingy streets, tarpaulin-covered parks and high-rise dosshouses that symbolise growing social inequality in the world's second-biggest economy. When jobs are plentiful, life in Kamagasaki continues largely unnoticed by the rest of Japan. As dusk descends there are still beds to spare in the area's two 1,bed homeless shelters. Robert Gilhooly All it takes is a short train ride to be transported from the affluent, neon-lit streets of central Osaka to the grinding poverty of Japan's biggest slum. It is likely that this year's violence would have gone unreported by the media had it not coincided with a meeting of G8 foreign ministers a few miles away at the Osaka International Convention Centre. Arimura, who also runs the non-profit Kamagasaki Community Regenerative Forum, says besides the obvious deprivation, most of those in greatest need are caught in the safety net that includes free healthcare and advice on accommodation and insurance claims for work-related injuries. It's not all bad news. Afflictions associated with extreme poverty are common: Though he has secured three days of work this week - earning about 10, yen a day - he has barely worked for four months and has no idea what tomorrow will bring. All they have to look forward to is an evening meal of cheap grilled meat and plenty to drink However, you won't find Kamagasaki on any official maps. Kamagasaki has a history of lawlessness. The lucky few clamber aboard waiting trucks, to be offloaded at building sites across the region, where they will earn enough to pay for a room in one of Kamagasaki's dozens of cheap hostels.
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