Saturday, June 21, 2008

Another Riot in Kamagasaki

Officially, Kamagasaki (釜ヶ崎) doesn't exist anymore and you wont find the name on a current map of Osaka, but that's what the locals still call the large slum in the northeast corner of Nishinari-ku (西成区).

Kamagasaki has traditionally been a day labor's neighborhood and the local hotels have average nightly rates of 1,500円, but the population is aging and even at this price many of them can't afford a room and sleep in the streets. The area is famous in Japan as the largest slum in the country, with high homelessness rates and a long history of intermittent rioting.

A couple weeks ago, a day laborer was picked up by police detectives in one of the local shoutengai, taken to the police station, beaten in the face and hung upside down from ropes. When he was released the next day with no charges, he went and told his friends what had happened. In response, about 300 workers surrounded the police station and demanded that the police chief apologize and that the defectives be fired.

This lead to four or five days of rioting. The other night, a friend and I decided to ride down and check it out. It was raining pretty hard that night, and the riots had quieted down.

I took these shots while I was riding, so they're pretty shaky. A few of the pictures that I thought would be the best didn't come out, because I wasn't actually looking at the view finder while I rode.

After we rode through Kamgasaki we headed back to Shinsekai, where Biliken, the god of things-as-they-ought-to-be, is always watching with his malevolent grin.

1 comment:

Sam said...

I had never heard of the Billiken before, but "god of things-as-they-ought-to-be" certainly rang some bells. A little digging turned up a weirder story than I thought! That is a hell of career for a good luck charm named after William Howard Taft made by an art teacher from St Louis...I had thought he might be some yokai or other but this is far more intriguing.