There are many popular images of Tokyo, but extreme poverty generally isn’t one of them. In the east of the capital, however, in an area once known as Sanya, that’s exactly what you see.
Photographs from Sanya have appeared on Tokyo Times before, but at the time I was under the impression that it was home to a large population of day labourers and the desperately poor. An equally destitute little sister of sorts to Osaka’s much larger, Kamagasaki district.
But I was wrong, at least in regards the work aspect, as it seems there simply aren’t any jobs to be had anymore. The gradual ageing of those who scratch out an existence in the area means there’s not much they can physically do, so instead the men must attempt to get by with what little money they may be entitled to — or at worst with whatever handouts are available.
Thankfully there is at least a small clinic run by an NPO. A place where the men can get help, as well as help out.
For those with the means, cheap accommodation can also be acquired. Wretched looking rooming houses that despite their obvious squalor, are clearly a blessing for those who stay in them.
Also there are some cheap and basic facilities dotted about.
But primarily it’s a life lived — in one form or another — on the street.
And quite understandably, drink is the only real means of escape. The cheaper and stronger it is the better. A road to oblivion that starts early.
Meaning that by the time noon rears its heavy head, things are already getting ugly. Resulting in scenes that in Tokyo, during the middle of the day, are really quite shocking.
Yet such episodes sadly aren’t unusual in Sanya. Quite the opposite in fact. An element I’ve tried to capture by taking the photos on just a regular, random day. All of them shot within an hour, within an equally narrow radius. Not as a means to preach. Or to judge. But simply to document.