I am StrateGigi, an Assistant Professor of Strategy. I recently visited Kotobuki in Yokohama, the site where my wife conducts her anthropological fieldwork. Today I will share my thoughts on this neighborhood so alien to the rest of Japan.
Kotobuki owes its origin to a governmental project in the 1950s, when it was established as a designated area for day-laborers. During the boom that propelled Japan’s post-war economy, Kotobuki was a source of cheap labor for dock work and construction. At the end of the boom, however, Kotobuki rapidly declined. Numerous day-laborers lost their jobs and, with no other place to go, many remained there. Nowadays, Kotobuki is the antonym of the shopping streets of Motomachi and Chinatown, located a few blocks away. It’s a stigmatized area with no cars, no tourists, no city lights. And yet, it shines.
In Kotobuki, I met people who live of struggle, solidarity, and dignity. From the aged men trying any job to survive to the mothers with disabilities raising their children decorously, people in Kotobuki battle together. One youngster from the neighborhood became a medical doctor to relieve the community from its sufferings. One intellectual with progressivist ideals joined the labor union to defend the weak. After visiting many places where poverty breeds war among the poor, Kotobuki touched me deeply and taught me plenty about having an existence worth living. In Kotobuki there is poverty, but will it last if people are united?