JIN-385 -- In the Belly of Kotobukicho

The J@pan Inc. Newsletter
Commentary on the Week's Business, Social and Cultural Trends =======================================================
Issue No. 385
Wednesday September 20, 2006 TOKYO
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2.VIEWPOINT: In the Belly of Kotobukicho


The Tyler Foundation for Childhood Cancer presents:
Sports Extravaganza 2006, September 29 - October 1.

Cricket and rugby celebrities from the UK, South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand will come to Tokyo for 3 days of sport, fun and fundraising!
Sports Dinner at the Grand Hyatt, Golf Day and Celebrity Cricket match.
All proceeds benefit children with cancer in Japan.

Shine On! www.tylershineon.org
For more information on the Sports Extravaganza 2006, please see:

================ Start a Company in Japan Seminar==============

Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar: 30th of September

If you have been considering setting up your own company, find out what it takes to make it successful.
Terrie Lloyd, founder of over 13 start-up companies in Japan, will be giving an English-language seminar and Q&A on starting up a company in Japan.
This is an ideal opportunity to find out what is involved, and to ask specific questions that are not normally answered in business books.
All materials are in English and are Japan-focused.

For more details: http://www.japaninc.com/handbook_seminar3/


2.VIEWPOINT: In the Belly of Kotobukicho:
Informed of the renovation of flophouses in Kotobukicho, a stone's throw from JR's Ishikawacho Station in Yokohama, I visited the Yokohama Hostel Village (YHV), on the second road from the canal. The kind people at YHV fixed me up with a room in Hayashi Kaikan, a renovated flophouse, for 3,000 yen a night.

Kotobukicho has about 110 cheap boarding houses clustered around a ziggurat of a building serving as a free job placement agency. The boarding houses lodge the approximately 5,000 laborers who live in the quarter.
Eighty percent are on welfare. Most are well past their prime.

It wasn't like that in the bubble years. Mornings labor bosses would arrive to cherry pick the strongest men standing on corners for work at the port and elsewhere.
Many were from the Philippines and other countries.

Today's Kotobukicho is a place where people don't come to live but to die.

My room was 3 tatami mats with AC and TV. I didn't have a reservation. So my room wasn't the best, being next to the communal bathroom and near the highway, such that I had trouble sleeping for the roar of the incessant traffic.

Not that I was ready to sleep. I wanted to explore the area....(cont'd below)

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I made the acquaintance of Y, a walking compendium of knowledge of Kotobukicho. He took me to what he called a "nomiya," a term for an illegal betting joint, run by the moll of a gangster. I experienced a feeling of deja vu.

My cicerone explained that Kotobukicho was a place outside Japanese government law. It had its own laws, enforced by gangs and Third Country Nationals, or those from "The North" and "The South" -- code words for Koreans.

He lit another cigarette, and then began explaining how the quarter was a microcosm of Japan--a favorite of professors eager to study the impact of such things as the graying of society, the plummeting birthrate, and racism.

It was, he said, also a magnet for artists. About 30 painters and theater people drop by Kotobukicho on occasion. They experience culture shock there. It reminds them of, say, their travels in Southeast Asia.

I realized the source of my deja vu. The place, with its spaciousness and spare decor, had an atmosphere like that of the joints I hung out in Busan, Korea, as a sailor.
Of course, the bank of TV screens broadcasting horse racing and the like was a big difference.

If Kotobukicho is the sort of place that reminds you of elsewhere, it is also a place the likes of which I'd never seen before in Japan. Despite, or perhps because of, the poverty, gaily lit neon signs announced untold tiny snack bars with their doors open for the evening breeze and for luring passerbys. Men sat drinking atmakeship al fresco tables. Denizens constantly crisscrosed the intersection in front of the free job placement agency, or sat on its cascade of steps, an impoverished imitation of tourists lounging on the Spanish Steps in Rome.

For all the destitution there is a peculiar animation.
Perhaps the area's sad verve, its melancholy, is what attracts artists?

YHV is a project with the goal of burnishing the image of Kotobukicho by drawing Japanese and foreign travelers in the hope of creating jobs for its aging residents.

My room was clean and comfortable--worth a thousand yen per tatami mat. I was happy to do my bit. Hayashi Kaikan is a convenient and inexpensive base from which to see Yokohama and environs. ( 045-663-3696/AM9:00~PM8:00)

-- Burritt Sabin

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So Fast Offering Tours of Its Warehouse

So Fast Corporation, an innovative logistics company, is offering tours of its Heiwajima warehouse.
See why 8 of 10 foreign company presidents choose So Fast after a visit.
Read in the autumn issue of J@pan Inc Magazine why SNOVA Corporation selected So Fast and are glad they did.

For details and an appointment, contact Katsuhiko Kakuchiyama.
Phone: 03-5753-3101
Email: k.kakuchi@so-fast.co.jp

Logistics warehouse Dates:
Sep 1 - Oct 31
Time: 8:45a.m. - noon



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