- 桃山学院大学経済経営論集 = St. Andrew's University economic and business review (ISSN:02869721)
- vol.53, no.3, pp.159-195, 2012-02-29
This article examines the historical trajectory of urban lower class society in modern Osaka. Taking into account developments from the early modern period, it analyzes the transformation, expansion, and structure of urban lower class society in the modern period, as well as the way of life of lower class city residents. Specifically, this article focuses on the example of the1930s. First, it analyzes urban lower class society, which was characterized in the early modern and modern periods by the fact that its members frequently gathered together in concentrated residential zones, while also considering the development of the city of Osaka as a whole. Centering on the transformation and dismantling of early modern Osaka's best-known slum district, Nagamachi, urban lower class society developed during the modern period in a form whereby new slums emerged during the processes of industrialization and urbanization. The slums that appeared after Nagamachi's dismantling, including Kamagasaki and those in the Nipponbashi neighborhood, each possessed a subtly different character. Entering the twentieth century, Osaka's slums became even more diverse. Not only did the city's largest outcast community, Nishihamacho, continue to expand, but also new communities inhabited by immigrants from the Korean peninsula and migrants from Okinawa appeared. Thereby, an urban lower class society possessing various unique features took shape in Osaka. Lower class city residents, who lived in the above slum districts, were neither the "negative versions" of modern urban citizens, nor passive subjects. In the rapidly industrializing and changing society of the early twentieth century, they established a world in the city's back-alley tenements into which impoverished migrants, who moved to Osaka, married, gathered together in low-income residential districts, and permanently settled, were absorbed. Influenced in part by new urban governmental policies, during the early twentieth century, lower class city residents not only continued to congregate in the same residential communities, but also began to participate in local reform movements and become increasingly aware of their rights as citizens. The eviction disputes that occurred in the Nipponbashi area over the municipal government-led Substandard Housing District Reform Project are a manifestation of the growing rights consciousness of lower class city residents. Second, this paper examines the case of urban "lower class" laborers in the1930s. In particular, it engages the theme of "lodging and employment brokering." Focusing on brokers who provided housing and employment introduction services to short-term and non-contract laborers and remain a problem in contemporary Japan, this paper analyzes range of issues concerning the supply of "lower-class" labor power during the1930s. Examining two types of laborers, dockworkers and bathhouse workers, this article considers their similarities, differences, and mutual relationship. In the bottom tiers of urban society in1930s Osaka, lower class laborers were closely linked with a specific stratum of brokers called "inns," "rooms," and "brokerages," who provided them with housing and employment introduction service. In addition to arranging housing and employment for unskilled laborers sent to work at the port and the city's baths, brokers extracted brokerage fees, board, and commissions from them. However, in the1930s, as the national unemployment crisis deepened, government officials and labor unions began to view such brokers as a problem and their reform became an important social issue. A significant number of Osaka's dockworkers and bathhouse workers were Korean laborers. During the period in question, which saw an intensification of the problems of low-wage labor and harsh labor conditions, immigrant Korean laborers were forced to accept terrible living conditions. Furthermore, small and mid-sized entrepreneurs involved in the management of bathhouses and shipping labor at the city docks passed on their financial struggles to their workers in the form of poor living and labor conditions. As I noted above, the structure of urban lower class society in Osaka, which formed in the early modern period, was transformed by an increase in the number of migrants from elsewhere in Japan and abroad. During the first half of the twentieth century, lower class city residents continued to play vital role in urban society, supporting the development of the mega-city of Osaka at its base.