Homeless issues in Japan
Since 1990s the number of rough sleepers in Japan has been increasing. According to the survey conducted in large cities in the country from 1998 to 2000, the number reached to approximately 20,000. In recent years, rough sleepers can be seen in provincial cities or even in smaller cities; thus, the actual number should be much more than 20,000. Also we should note that the survey only counted those who sleep on streets, in parks, and along riversides; this attributes to the terminological difference---meaning of "homeless"---between Japanese and English. In Japanese, "homeless" does not include those who are about to be evicted from their houses and those who live in the houses in inappropriate condition.
One of the distinct characteristics on Japanese homeless is that single middle-aged men are the majority; this fact is deeply associated with "
yoseba ". According to the surveys done by Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Osaka City Government, most of rough sleepers used to stay at "yoseba" and the majority were employed in the construction industry. During the 60s to 70s---a time of intensive economic growth in Japan, numerous day laborers gathered from all over the country. When economic stagnation arrived in the late 1980s and 1990s, those day laborers became "homeless"---unable to pay for staying at doss-houses. Today, aged and/or diseased laborers who are unable to work have no choice but to live on streets or in parks.
Location / Population / Area
Kamagasaki is a distinctive laborers' community which locates itself in the middle of Osaka City -Nishinari Ward- and houses approximately 20,000 single day laborers with around 190 cheap lodging houses . (Map of Osaka City, Vicinity map for Airin District, Table 1)
Table 1 Overview of Kamagasaki (Airin District)
Year of the survey/notes
Area 0.62 sqkm
Number of cheap lodging houses Approximately 160 May 2003
(total accommodation capacity-17,000 people)
Population Approximately 30,000
Effective job supply at Airin Employ Service Agency 11,491 End of March 2003
Average age 54.5 February 2000
Number of rough sleepers (Nishinari Ward) 1,910 August 1999(total in Osaka City-8,660)
Number of patients 5,300 2000
Anonymous death toll (Nishinari Ward) 14 2000
Welfare Apartment and Supportive Housing Welfare Apt. 40, Supportive Housing 9 May,2003
Welfare recipients 4979 End of February, 2003

Source: documents of agencies related to Airin District

History and Recent Situation
Kamagasaki originates in Nago Town (Naga Town) known as a yoseba from the early Edo Era and a slum area from pre-modern times; Nago Town moved to Kamagasaki in the occasion of the 5th Domestic Industrial Exhibition in 1903. Kamagasaki once vanished after the air raid on Osaka; however, it restarted as a black market and the massive yoseba, as it is today, was formed during the time of intensive economic growth. Kamagasaki functioned as the laborers' market to support Japanese economy (especially for the construction industry) at least till 1991 when bubble economy ended, even through there were many problems.
However in the post-bubble economy years, economic recession and aging of the laborers (average 55 years old) resulted in several thousand rough sleepers around the area. Around half of the estimated 12,000 rough sleepers covering the area of Osaka City seem to have had experience as day laborers in Kamagasaki.
There were other problems related to the increase of rough sleepers. For instance, the anonymous death toll and prevalence rates for tuberculosis in Kamagasaki are much higher than for other places; also there were problems such as alcohol dependency and drug dependency. Besides, degradation of the local environment and decline of the local economy from low consumption rate are serious problems in the area.

Yoseba: Where day laborers seek for their daily jobs to get hired. The term "Yoseba" originally came from "Ninsoku Yoseba" at Ishikawa-island in Edo (Tokyo), known as the shelter (or rehab center) for rough sleepers and later also for petty criminals to rehabilitate established in 1790.
There are ways to categorize yosebas as follows: Ones developed from traditional slums (Kamagasaki in Osaka, San'ya in Tokyo etc.) and ones newly developed after World War II (Kotobuki Town in Yokohama, Sasajima in Nagoya etc.). There are also yosebas that have flophouse quarters (Kamagasaki, San'ya, Kotobuki Town etc.) and ones that do not (Sasajima etc.).

Cheap lodging houses: Cheap and simple hotels based on hotel business law used as semi-permanent lodging for day laborers. Day laborers call them as "Doya". In San'ya (Tokyo), there are quite a few large-scale bedhouses; on the other hand, in Kamagasaki (Osaka) most doyas were rebuilt into high-rise and modern budget hotels during the time of bubble economy. In the latter cases, around 70% rooms are private rooms occupying less then 5㎡ and each room furnishes an air conditioner and a TV. Also the budget hotels have a big shared bath and an elevator. The average fee to stay one night is around 1,500 yen; recently there are some places drop the price into about 1,000 yen