PERSONAL EXPERIENCES OF A "WINTER SEMINAR" IN KAMAGASAKI

Yamanaka Taiju, sj (Jesuit seminarian)
The Christian ecumenical group "Kyoyukai" of Kamagasaki, organizes seminars every year at the end and the beginning of the year. Many people have participated in the preparation of the soup kitchens and the night patrolling, listen to lectures from versed persons in the Kamagasaki area and find opportunities to be in touch with the situation there. That time 6 persons of the national Japan Youth Volunteer Association, 2 young persons from Kyoto and Yamaguchi, a seminarian of Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2 Jesuits and 4 staff seminars gathered at the "Tabiji no Sato" and spent 4 days together.

Program and activities of the last Winter Seminar

[Dec. 31] Orientation and show of the movie "Ashigara san". Medical patrol

[Jan. 1] New Year celebrations with rice cake making at Nishinari park. Talk of Mr. Yamada of the daily workers' union. Patrolling the town

[Jan. 2] Soup kitchen at the Sankaku park. Talk of workers historian Mr. Hirai. Walk around the town and common sharing under his leadership

[Jan. 3] Discussion
Movie Ashigara san A documentary on a person that, after 20 years of a homeless life tries to return to his former ordinary life, but it takes him 3 years to recover.
Medical patrol: One of the night patrolling groups that patrols the town at night, visiting the homeless and checking their health situation. If needed, they distribute blankets and pocket heaters.
Ordinary patrols: Groups of workers and supporters distribute leaflets and perform parades through busy streets of Osaka City to inform citizens on the situation of the Kamagasaki town that mass media never covers (on the first of January a parade took place in the vicinity of Umeda station). Nearly 300 mob police and plainclothes policemen surrounded a group of about 50 workers and supporters.

People might think that in such a short time it is difficult to experience the realities of Kamagasaki. Nevertheless, students from Jesuit Hiroshima and Eiko schools spend a few nights in Tabiji no Sato at the end and the beginning of the year and many other people do the same at that time. That way, they can become in contact with social realities by visiting Kamagasaki town. The winter seminars have a special role to fulfill.
Let me list here the social common realities participants found important, from the sharing that took place at the seminar.

1. The job situation of daily workers is hard, but in the case of senior workers there is practically no job available.
2. As a result of the discontinuance of special subsidies for the creation of emergency local employment, street cleaning works run by the City and Prefecture of Osaka that give preference to senior workers are in crisis. This means that the number of persons who cannot have a meal a day is on the increase. (At present, jobs available are only 2 or 3 times a month and the daily wage is 5,700 yen)
3. Today daily jobs opportunities are posted in the Internet and the intermediary "meeting places" are losing importance.
4. Efforts of solidarity among workers, especially young and senior, are rare.
5. It is increasingly difficult to find the materials to cook soup kitchen.
6. Mass media does not cover any more the situation of the workers of Kamagasaki.
7. Some people look with interest at the leaflets distributed by people patrolling on the streets. Others, most probably thinking that it is not their problem, look with indifference and even indignation at them.
8. The view of policemen and staff of railroad stations expelling homeless people testify of the controls in Japanese society.
9. Many believe that they are safe, i.e. are not exposed to a homeless situation.
10. Many take, maybe unconsciously, the sides of the administration without holding any doubt that they might also been living under control.
11. Since the ordinary position is to take the sides of the administration, people can feel personal responsibility if they get dislocated from the social system. It is difficult to realize that anybody at any time can get kicked out from the social system.
12. The least people realize it one can find areas abandoned because of discrimination or places from where homeless workers have been evicted.
13. History shows that people on the fringe of society provide support to social systems.



I want to end here the opinions and impressions of our sharing to list down my own reflections.
1. want to end here the opinions and impressions of our sharing to list down my own reflections.
2. In order to countermeasure the roles of the administration, business and mass media to support the social system there is a need of fostering grass roots approaches. To be able to do that, one has to visit the places or to live with the people there listening to their stories.
3. By acting in accordance with the needs of the places, people get empowered and those acting with them interact mutually with power.
4. Peripheral situations promote social changes and make society more human.
5. Joint experiences and impressions must be widely shared in common.
6. It is very important that in places in need of networks there are facilitators to promote networking. In order to do that, they must share the feelings and needs of people and become sensitive towards actual trends, cultural and social structures.


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