Monday, December 17, 2007

Rich Japan

This piece is a translation of an article by Ryujin Makoto.
Things in Japan are beginning to coalesce. People are becoming more aware of the growing poverty at the heart of the world's richest nation. But, if it is enough to make people care is another question entirely.
Despite NHK (Japan's National Broadcaster) running its "Working Poor" series and the long running TV Asahi show "Zenigata Kintaro" few people are taking notice. The series, in their own ways, highlight growing poverty in Japan. Yet there is no popular clamour for change, there never is, and the politicians are turning a blind eye so long as the overall economy is ok.
"Working Poor" focuses on individuals living on the bread line in Japan. Though episode 3 considers the poor in America, Britain and South Korea. Most of these families seem to be stuck on minimum wage jobs. Many are broken families, often single mothers, receiving no support from the former spouse. Even qualification holders, such as those with cook's licences, who come from lower class backgrounds are finding it hard to get jobs that pay much more than minimum wage. [Translators note: As a graduate whose first post-graduation job was minimum wage in a shop knows how they feel].
Meanwhile "Zenigata Kintaro" has families competing, with a strong sense of comedy, to prove who is the least well off. The ones that convince the judges win a prize of $2,000. It demeans the subject as many Japanese documentaries often do but it raises some kind of awareness in a society which rarely pays attention to its ills. The featured families do without electricity and eat food that wouldn't nourish a roach. Hopefully these are all exaggerations and not real.
However, as I said in the opening, few are paying attention. This may have changed recently with the publication of comedian Hiroshi Tamura's book; "Homeless Junior High School Student." His mother died when he was young and the pressure of looking after three children caused the father to simply walk away leaving Hiroshi and his siblings living in the park.
Tamura's book, not the TV programmes, has led exalted MP, and heir to PM Fukuda, Taro Aso to declare that "we Japanese should never forget."
Well, home come despite evidence of poverty growing at an alarming rate in Japan why has your government still done nothing?

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