Notes on the 4.5 Great Kamagasaki Oppression and Nuclear Power Industry

(Original text in Japanese below)

Notes on the 4.5 Great Kamagasaki Oppression and Nuclear Power Industry

Takeshi Haraguchi

On April 5, 2011, Kamagasaki in Osaka suffered the largest case of oppression in recent years. Osaka Prefectural Police arrested 6 activists (and 2 more in the following few days) who were engaged in the struggle in Kamagasaki, and raided at least 14 places around the city.

The occasion of this oppression dates back to 2007. In Kamagasaki, many day laborers, who hop around cheap lodging houses and bunkhouses as well as those who can’t afford these facilities, kept their registration of residency at the addresses of support organizations in and around the neighborhood. However, in 2007, Osaka City abolished residency certificate of all day laborers who were using the addresses of three support organizations such as Kamagasaki Release Center. Day laborers, who often suffer rejection from basic human rights, were now without certificate of residency hence without the right to vote. As a protest against this reckless act by the city, outside a voting station during the House of Representatives election-day in July 2010, supporters of Kamagasaki communities and day laborers themselves took an action to stand against this human rights violation. On April 5th 2011, the City attacked individuals and groups associated with the protest from the previous year, as a preventive oppression to keep them from voicing their demands at then-upcoming general regional election on April 10, 2011.

We ought to take this 4.5 Great Kamagasaki Oppression as an incident that differs from other forms of oppressions against human rights, considering the particular characteristics of Kamagasaki. Since this has a direct link to the situation with nuclear power plants after 3.11. I would like to note crucial points in relating 3.11 and the Kamagasaki incident.

Workers in Yoseba (day laborers’ community) like Kamagasaki in Osaka and Sanya in Tokyo have always been a vital labor power at constructions and various industrial works. Highways, high-rise buildings and dams would not be built without the work force coming from the day laborers’ communities. Who else could have built the site of Osaka World Expo of 1970, for instance?

However, facts of their labors and efforts are hidden in the shadow and forgotten. Away from the eye of the general public, in the places hidden from social consciousness, day laborers have burdened themselves with the works nobody else would want to do. And one of the works they took was no other than the radiation labor at nuclear power plants. In “The Reality of Radiation Workers at Nuclear Power Plants” [original at], there is a series of testimonies by nuclear plant workers from Sanya in Tokyo. The text records the straight-up voice of a worker who was recruited without much explanations of radiation by his employer, taken to the site with no sense of fear, eventually his body eaten up with diseases, and even lost a friend of his for leukemia. Precisely like Kamagasaki was necessary for the success of the World Expo, day laborers’ sacrifice was necessary in order to maintain the cursed apparatus called nuclear power plant.

And now countless number of workers are brought out for the ever ominous labor at the Fukushima Power Plant. It’s not certain whether the workers are from day laborers’ communities or elsewhere. But the workers at the plant are definitely under, not just similar but, totally the same condition as the typical lives of day laborer’s.

Today’s Kamagasaki workers might be sent to power plants tomorrow, and today’s Fukusima workers might wind up living the lives of Kamagasaki day-workers tomorrow. The oppression on Kamagasaki equals the oppression on all the workers who are at work in nuclear plants and who are going to be sent there in coming days.

One of the targets in the police raid on 4/5 was a space of a documentary film collective. This frankly reveals what the authority fears and attempts to destroy all methods of recording, expressing and conveying the facts.

Here we shall recall the 24th Kamagasaki Riot in June 2008. Since the 1990’s, Kamagasaki has suffered the shrinkage of job market and transformed from “the town of the laborers” into “the town of the unemployed.” During this period, especially after the 23rd riot in 1992, the fire of riots turned into the legend of the past. Therefore the 2008 riot surprised all of those who were involved in Kamagasaki. And most importantly, many young workers joined the insurrection. In response to the 2008 riot, I have written as follows:

The riot of 2008 taught us that the fury of the day-workers – though the majority of whom are now unemployed — has never disappeared. Furthermore, many young people participated in the riot. Which means that they rediscovered the place to express their own fury in Kamagasaki, the sanctuary of riot, that inscribes the history of militant struggle. While the older day-workers and the younger precariats confronted the riot squad together, the method of expressing fury was bequeathed from one generation to another.

The most important lesson from this insurrection is that in the city of Osaka dwelling latently yet certainly is the fury of the oppressed people, which could explode whenever the opportunity comes. The expression of the fury could speak in any possible ways — not only in Kamagasaki but also in any urban space. It is imminent that the whirlpool of rebellion detonates everywhere. (From “Kamagasaki: A Geo-History of Rebellion” by the author)

Documentary films potentially play a crucial role in conveying expressions of anger into various ends. Now the role has become even more important in the aftermath of 3.11, as foundation of anger is widely spreading around the issues of nuclear power. Therefore this role of expression – the film collective – became an immediate target at the 4.5 Great Kamagasaki Oppression — I cannot help but believe so. If this is the case, to record, express, and convey are on the foremost line of the struggles in Kamagasaki as well as against nuclear plants. The 4.5 raid was an oppression not only on day laborers, but also on all of those who create forms of expressions as messengers of struggle.


Kamagasaki is a small section of town in Osaka in which approximately 20,000 to 30,000 day laborers live. When the town had the largest population, well over 200 cheap lodging houses stood side by side, in which many day laborers lived. Such day laborers’ communities exist in every larger city such as Sanya in Tokyo, Kotobukicho in Yokohama, and Sasajima in Nagoya, and they are typically called Yoseba (laborer’s community).

Yoseba did not come into existence spontanieously, but they were a product of capital and the nation-state, for their own necessities. In order to successfully construct the site of 1970 World Expo in Osaka, the Japanese government reportedly hired a large number of young workers from all over Japan to work at construction sites. To ensure as many useful and cheap work forces as possible, the government turned Kamagasaki into a concentrated day laborers ghetto in the late ’60s. Since then Kamagasaki has been used by capital as a main site of labor power for the lowest paying jobs like construction and other industries. Then the capital has also left many to live on and die on the street.

Yoseba has always been a stage to voice our demands to the nation-state and capital, as well as a base for resistance. The most important action of Kamagasaki resistance has been insurrection. August 1st in 1961, following a car incident that killed a day laborer whose body was left on the street without proper attention of the local police, the first Kamagasaki riot began. There have been 24 major riots there since.








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