Kawasaki, known for poverty and pollution, confronts gentrification
Japan Times -- Feb 15
Surrounded by bustling downtown streets, shopping malls and high-rises, Kawasaki Station and its vicinity are, on the surface, a paragon of urban development.

Just a short distance away, however, this veneer of prosperity gives way to an eerie quiet that persists in the underbelly of Kawasaki, a former hub for factories and manual laborers with a long history of battling poverty, pollution and racial discrimination.

A walk northward from the station takes one to a notorious riverbank of Tama River, where a 13-year-old schoolboy was viciously slain by a gang of local juveniles on a freezing February night five years ago. Because the ringleader behind the lynching was a Filipino Japanese, the case at the time spotlighted anew the difficulties of fitting in for children with foreign backgrounds. It also gave ammunition to xenophobic rallies that had begun surfacing in Kawasaki a few years before.

South of the station, meanwhile, lies Nisshincho, a well-known doyagai (flophouse district) inhabited by many elderly men, most of them without any family, scraping by on welfare. Memories remain fresh here of a raging fire that engulfed two of these low-rent hotels in May 2015, killing elderly lodgers thought to have drifted to the area after becoming alienated from mainstream society.

Freelance writer Ryo Isobe, who has authored the book “Rupo Kawasaki” (“Reportage on Kawasaki”), says he sees both the Tama River lynching and the Nisshincho fire as representing the epitome of social woes born of modern Japan, which itself is struggling to acclimate to a rise in foreign residents and cope with more and more lonely deaths of the elderly.

News source: Japan Times
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