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Can earthquake homeless survive Tohoku winter?

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Last January a welfare ministry survey counted 130 homeless in Sendai, and municipal officials say that hasn’t changed appreciably since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated the region.

Anecdotal evidence collected by Spa! (Dec 6) suggests otherwise, however. “City hall only counts those who go to them for help,” says a local former homeless man surnamed Suzuki. “My impression is that the homeless population is two or three times what it was before the quake.”

It makes sense to suppose it might be, given the vast dislocations the disaster has caused. Suzuki, working now as a volunteer night watchman keeping an eye out for looters, says, “Probably people left homeless by the quake had some savings, and were able at least to find shelter at Net cafés and all-night restaurants and the like, but as their savings run out they’re hitting the streets, at the mercy of the cold Tohoku winter.”

Among the new homeless are those who, unable to face life in a crowded shelter, took jobs with reconstruction crews for the sake of the more private dormitories that were provided. The jobs were temporary, though, and now, having lost their living quarters along with their work, they find themselves out in the cold, the new temporary housing hurriedly built to accommodate people in shelters being already full.

Experiences, adventures and misadventures are as numerous and varied as the individuals being put through them by circumstances far, far beyond their control. Among the several stories Spa! hears is one of a 32-year-old man the magazine calls Mr Arai. His apartment building in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture was washed away by the tsunami and he moved into a shelter, a local school gym. He’d been a port laborer, but the port was destroyed and his job gone. He had 20,000 yen to his name.

Life in a shelter is a grim business. The only pleasure was the daily meal service. By September most of his fellow refugees had either moved into temporary housing or made other arrangements for themselves. Arai, somehow, didn’t manage to. Ashamed, he left.

He slept in abandoned cars or half-destroyed abandoned houses. Autumn was coming on, it was getting colder. He found a volunteer center that took him on. For food, a tent and a portable gas heater he worked clearing rubble. He lasted a week and left – keeping, however, the tent and heater.

He headed south but got no farther than Minamisanriku, a short distance down the coast. Here too he did volunteer work. He got to know the other volunteers, fell in love with one, and decided he rather liked the life after all: “If you think of it as homeless, that’s what it is, but if you think of it as camping, it’s fun!”

And so for now he’ll stay put. “The power of love,” he says, “will see me through the winter.”

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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the new temporary housing hurriedly built to accommodate people in shelters being already full

The temporary housing isn't full as much of it was built in inconvenient locations where people don't want to live.

I hardly see any homeless people around Sendai and certainly none sleeping on the streets. There used to be a couple of cardboard and tarpaulin constructions in the park, but they seem to have gone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@scrote

It's hard sometimes to see the homeless in big cities because they sleep or live in places that do not have a lot of people moving around them. Many sleep under bridges, in parks, places where you won't see them.

Also it's possible too that you wouldn't recognize or be able to differentiate between a homeless person from anyone else.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

this artcile is so unthorough

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What a great article.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Men like this fella could & should be doing Paid Labor in the least-where did All That $$$$$$ go for disaster aid? From what i've been reading it seems the entire story is being buried by the media into the" back of the bus" while lesser problems are getting the Headlines!Cut the Red Tape & get to work!!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Tokyo should be ashamed!!

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

I find it interesting that people don't want to move into those emergency housing places just because they're "inconvenient." Isn't that better than living in a shelter or on the street? I'm really boggled. Aren't they free, too? I'd gladly take a free place of my own, no matter how inconvenient, especially if it was between that and a school gymnasium floor.

Do they cost money or something? Surely there's another reason.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I find it interesting that people don't want to move into those emergency housing places just because they're "inconvenient." Isn't that better than living in a shelter or on the street? I'm really boggled.

Even homeless people have jobs, activities, a social life. In Osaka, for instance a homeless would need 600 to 1000 yen a day to commute from the city (where he has a garbage sorting job for instance) to the remote shelters in some desert industrial suburb. That's probably the same in Tohoku, or even worse as in the countryside, transportation is even more expensive, or simply impossible if you don't have at least a motorbike. And if they can't afford to commute daily from the shelter to the place where they work, they even lose the little income they usually had to buy food. Plague or cholera ? So what many do is they "camp" as much as they can, and they go to the shelters only when the weather make it dangerous to spend the nights outside.

I'd gladly take a free place of my own, no matter how inconvenient,

And you'd eat what ?

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I'm sure they're happy that some of their aid money is going to help the whaling fleet. I'll bet that whale will taste real good this winter.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

130 seems a very low number for a city of 1 million.

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Why should Tokyo (Nagatacho) be ashamed?? First, all of the lazy good for nothing Japanese politicians from the LDP were the ones supporting building nuclear power plants left and right on these earthquake prone islands, now that Fukushima will be a NO GO ZONE for what...the next 20 thousand years, what can these idiot politicians do to make it better??

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Hard fact is while some of us are gearing up for the festive season people are trying to find ways to survive the season. Amazing to hear that people are finding love under such circumstances also what a blessing specially when he probably thought all hope was lost. “If you think of it as homeless, that’s what it is, but if you think of it as camping, it’s fun!” - Spoken like a true survivor. This is the real Man vs the Wild!

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