Images by "IRA_K" in Tokyo.
Nike Japan has bought a run down park in central Tokyo and renamed it the Nike Park. The multinational supplier plans to build a skate park and cafe, introduce an entrance fee, and kick out a group of homeless dwellers who live there in shacks.
Tucked away in the Shibuya Ward business district, Miyashita Park is a bare and shabby park, largely neglected except for minor alterations in 2006. For the 34 homeless people who live there in tarpaulin shacks, Nike Japan's plans to make it into a spotless space for paying customers, doesn't come as good news. Nike has already pledged 150m yen (€1m) in buying the naming rights of the public space (something not unusual in Japan) and will plough another 450m yen (€3m) into renovating the park. But not everyone is pleased with the fancy plans. A group of activists has set up a campaign called "Keep it Miyashita", which argues that, amongst other things, the new development will deprive "people forced to live on the streets" of this "life-saving place".
"The homeless in Japan never beg for money or food"
As a teenager, I got high for the first time on the Miyashita swings; that was also where we ended up with liquor store-bought cocktails on warm summer nights. The park had a weird mix of couples making out, homeless people living peacefully under blue construction tarps, cops doing their early morning training drills, and kids like us just screwing around.
I was always curious about the homeless people - they seemed to have a nice little life set up there, with makeshift kitchens on tree stumps and blankets set up like beds and water from the public toilet to wash their clothes in. The homeless in Japan never beg for money or food - they just make do with what they have, and then scrounge through trash when people aren't looking."
"As a skater… I'm pretty torn up about it"
As a skater, I have to say I'm pretty torn up about it. Nike will clean up the park, now filled with homeless people, create a park that's ok to skate in (skatepark?) for a fee, very doubtfully make you wear helmets, and let you skate without fear of getting hassled by the police, in the leading neighbourhood in Tokyo for youth culture. (...)
There are definitely many ins and outs to this issue. (...) The Japanese press has focused just as much attention on the people protesting this park, saying it's unfair to the homeless, etc. They better yell hard if they think they're going to make those politicians feel guilty for taking that 150 million yen. (...) I also wonder if the amount of homeless people in my [neighbour] hood will increase after the exodus of bums from Miyashita Park. I hope it's not the case, because they STANK."
Tent town in central Tokyo
One of the homes, made from tarpaulin.
An "outdoor" area on the site.
Upturned wheelbarrows used for shelter.
The residents collect recyclable rubbish and take it to centres which pay them per piece.
Photos posted on Flickr by "n.wrecks" 26 August 08.