O-uccino, a realtor based is Tokyo's Shimbashi district, is well known for its annual rankings of the places in the metropolitan area where people find most appealing to live. The appearance on such a list -- or disappearance -- may have a lot to say about changes for better or worse in conditions of the area concerned.
For instance, in O-uccino's 2016 listing, the Kichijoji area in Musashino City -- a long-established presence on the list -- was dropped. And last year's leader, for both for single-unit dwellings and condominiums, was Tokyo's Setagaya Ward.
The top 10 in the respective categories (in Japanese) can be viewed here.
But a writer for Weekly Playboy (March 6) asked himself: What if someone were to conduct a survey of homeless people in the metropolitan area? Where would they say was the best place to flop?
The question appears to be rhetorical, because the writer is convinced he has already stumbled upon the answer: the neighborhood most appealing to Tokyo's lumpenproletariat would be on the Tokyo side of the Tama River, near Rokugo Dote -- the last station on the Keikyu Line before crossing the river into neighboring Kawasaki, and close to National Highway 15.
Once known as "Rokugo no Watashi," the area was, until a bridge was finally built several years into the Meiji Era, a ferry landing where travelers on the old Tokaido ("eastern sea road") that linked Edo and Kyoto would cross the Tama River.
"This area's extremely popular with the homeless, and you can find the largest concentration of them in the entire Kanto area," remarks investigative writer Umu Murata.
Skeptical at first of Murata's claim, the author uses Google Earth to focus in on the neighborhood along the riverbank, and sure enough, the number of homes that are obviously occupied by such individuals almost resembles those inexplicable crop "mystery circles."
Taking the Keikyu local to Rokugo Dote, the reporter passed through ordinary neighborhoods, where squatting is illegal. But as he approached the river bank, he spotted an area with heavy undergrowth, through which narrow trails resembling wild animal tracks could be seen, and soon he found himself in a neighborhood of some 50 ramshackle houses.
Unlike the places where homeless flop in other parts of Tokyo, the construction materials were not blue plastic sheeting or cardboard, but real wood, and from their appearance, quite robustly constructed. Among them were edifices with doors, which contained not only simple furnishings but TV sets, radios and even refrigerators.
"What's the appeal of this area?" he inquired of a resident.
"Well, I can only speak for myself," came the response from a man who appeared in his 40s. "But it seems that the local city office finds it difficult to enforce regulations against squatting." He puffed away on a "Short Hope," a budget-brand cigarette.
"I'd lived before in Hiroshima and Osaka, and the local governments there were always on my case, saying 'We'll help you find a job,' and so on, and you can give up being homeless.' I guess maybe because here is on a sort of no-man's land between the road and the river, it's not clear who's supposed to be in charge so they leave us alone."
Another man, who appeared to be in his 50s, raves at the warm comradeship he's found in the neighborhood.
"When I first came here, one of the locals built me a home out of steel piping. He does this for almost all the newcomers, and he's well known for building spacious and robust houses."
"Getting along with other homeless people is surprisingly difficult," a 10-year resident of the neighborhood observes. In most places they hardly talk to each other. But at Rokugo Dote, we've got a nice group. None of them are drunks and hardly anyone has a wild streak."
A man in his 60s with a spacious yard then appears, carrying eggs. He keeps his own chickens, a breed with black bones called "ukokke."
"Their eggs are really tasty. I eat them over white rice," he grins.
Aforementioned writer Murata believes as the 2020 Olympics approaches, it's likely the city's homeless will be rounded up and forced to vacate their regular haunts.
"I suppose the word will get around and more of them will head for this area," he predicts.© Japan Today