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Kamgasaki: Japan's Forgotten Ghetto

My Photo scholarship 2010 entry

Japan | Wednesday, 8 September 2010 | 5 photos

Rapid economic growth in post-war Japan brought on a construction boom, and with it a huge demand for day laborers, who came from around the country to recruitment sites such as Osaka's Kamagasaki. As Japan grew, so did the population of these "labor towns", which by the 1970's were inhabited almost entirely by single dwellers living in flophouses and ramshackle hotels. When Japan's economic bubble burst in 1991, these areas were the first to feel the shock. Today, the "labor towns" of the postwar era have become "welfare towns." Thirty percent of the population of Kamagasaki is homeless, with many more one step away as they struggle to make ends meet in the midst of economic stagnation.

The aging inhabitants of Kamagasaki face a grim reality. Many feel betrayed by a country their hard work helped build, a country that has forgotten them. Eyesores to government officials concerned with re-election, slums like Kamagasaki have been removed from maps in Japan. Officially, they don't exist.

I came to Japan in 2003 from California to help start a film school, and have since worked freelance in the film industry here as an art assistant and interpreter. Photography has long been my passion, and National Geographic a source of inspiration since before I was old enough to read it. To assist on a National Geographic project with an amazing photographer like Mr. Edwards would be for me not only the fulfillment of a long-held dream, but also a chance to learn how I can take my images further and make a difference with them. I think seeing the way others live their lives can do a lot to foster understanding and compassion. Also, I’ve wanted to visit Bhutan for many years, since reading about their unprecedented economic policy of Gross National Happiness, as well as the importance the Bhutanese place on conservation.

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