Poverty in Japan is more than homeless living in blue sheet and cardboard shacks that most think of. Working poor are, by and large, the largest group of Japanese suffering the ills of poverty and estimated at more than 10 million. These struggling individuals go largely unnoticed as provide the services that fuel society and then go home to inadequate housing, survive on instant ramen and fall thru the cracks with regards to retirement and proper health care.
Take Nagasaki residents Kichisaburo Tanaka and his wife and their deceased children, son Kaito, 3, and daughter Kirari, 2.The Tanakas were well liked among their neigbors and nobody considered them to be victims of poverty. Neighbors respected them as tried to juggle their work schedules in order to watch over their children. They are typical of the families that are multiplying at alarming rates all throughout Japan. Just a few years ago, Japan was seen as an economic miracle raising from the ashes of the destruction of WWII and creating what seemed to be a large and homogenous middle class that enjoyed a standard of living that was the envy of most of the world. Today, the Tanakas have become much more the norm and should serve as a wakeup call to us all.
The gap between the wealthy and the poor is widening at an alarming rate in Japan. And as this insidious cancer spreads thru society, it victimized the children and undermine the greatest resource that Japan has in its bid to remain economically competitive in the coming years. Malnutrition is common in this group, the children suffering most. Latch key kids left to raise themselves as mother and father pass like ships in the night taking turns as best as possible watching the kids. Minimal education guarantee a workforce illequipped to sustain ecomomic development.
On a fateful cold winter night, just before Christmas a tragic fire roared thru the Tanakas apartment killing Kaito and Kirari. it was one of the rare times when mom and dads schedule forced them both to be at work at the same time. They reasoned that the kids would not be alone that long …
I hope that kaito and Kirari did not die in vain. I hope that we all can see just where we are heading as a society. When we pay people just barely enough to pay rent, buy food and clothes… are they no better than simple slaves? Did we not eradicate slavery in the develped world? Perhaps the slaves in 19th century America had it better than many of the poverty stricken today. At least it was in the best interest of the landholder to provide housing and food that his harvest would come in on time and profitable. Of course that is a harsh comparison however, when we find millions of families that due to overwhelming economic pressures are unable to protect and care for the most precious thing they have, we have to truly examine the society that we have built.
We must take care of our brothers, our sisters, our children and our eldery. There is no shortage of money to take care of all. There is just a root of selfishness that we have allowed to erode our sense of compassion and fair play. What kind of a society forgets the elderly that toiled to build the wealth and freedoms that we enjoy today. What kind of society talks about giving incentives and promoting childbirth to enrich our future and then refuses to provide for all of them fairly and equally. It is a slippery slope we tread as we allow approximately 1/3 of the working population to subsist at slave wages. Where do we draw that line, and who is drawing it?
The current situation arose because a great many of us sat by and watched the wealthy manipulate the government into passing laws and enacting regulations that served to enrich the wealthy on the backs of the poor. How apathetic we are when we are not the victims. Are we going to continue to allow this trend to continue until the line, at which we feel obligated to step in and assist the poor, creeps to a level at which half or our society live in fear of poverty?
That my friends is closer that I wish to imagine, and a point from which there is most likely no return….