HOMI / TOYOTA
In a rice field on the road leading up to Homi-ga-oka (Homi hill) there is a brand new billboard advertising the Emirates airline.
Recently the Emirates cancelled their flights from neighboring Nagoya to Brazil via Dubai. The billboard announces that the airline now only operates between Osaka to Sao Paulo but offers a free bus connection from Nagoya. The advert is written in Portuguese with no Japanese text.
Situated at the top of Homi-ga-oka is the Homi Public Housing Estate which consists of over 40 apartment blocks, shops and schools. It is divided into two sections, one was originally owned by the Government funded Housing and Urban Development Corporation, the other section is still rented through the prefectural government. It was originally constructed in the 1970's as a suburb to Toyota City and was intended for young Japanese families. Like most Public Housing Estates in Japan today many of the residents are old age pensioners, some of whom live alone. Many of the apartments are uninhabited. The Homi Public Housing Estate has a population of around 11,000 and more than 4,000 of these are Brazilian immigrants. Consequently most of the streets signs and shops use Portuguese.
Neighboring Toyota City, known as the Japanese Motown, was named after the family run automobile company which was founded there before WW2. The original buildings of the Toyota head quarters and factory gates which can still be seen are over shadowed today by the Toyota Technical Center and the many new office buildings. The city is tidy and provincial, interspersed with large factories, subcontractors and car show rooms most of which run along the route 248 connecting the city to the main factory site.
In 1990, in the backdrop of an ever declining population in need of an unskilled labour work force, the Japanese government began to issue special long term resident permits to descendants of Japanese emigrants. These were offspring to the many thousands of Japanese who had emigrated to South America in the early twentieth century. A revision of Japan's strict Immigration and Refugee Recognition Act made it legal to admit people of Japanese ancestry up to the third generation together with their spouses. This scheme resulted in over 300,000 Brazilians moving to Japan, most of whom could not speak Japanese. However language ability was not a hindrance for obtaining work within the unskilled sections of the manufacturing industries, work which they obtained through recruitment agencies and employment brokers set up in Brazil.
These recruitment networks were often run by Brazilian Japanese and operated under the guise of travel agencies offering flights to Japan, assistance with permits, accommodation and access to unskilled manufacturing jobs. In some cases they offered loans that would be repaid after a period of work in Japan enabling even the poorest Japanese Brazilians to emigrate.
The U.S financial crisis in 2008 and the declining value of the US dollar badly effected the export industries in Japan, especially the Automobile industry and precision manufacturers. For example, Toyota City lost 30% of its tax revenues due to Toyota Automobile Company losses. These circumstances led to hundreds of temporary contract workers, including many Brazilians, being laid-off.
Brazilian workers have been publicly protesting these layoffs which are effectively forcing thousands of migrant families who have invested many years of there lives in Japan to return home. Finding alternative work is almost impossible due to the language difficulties and some of these workers have now lost their accommodation. At a recent demonstration in Nagoya Aichi one of the participants was seen holding up a sign exclaiming:
"Please put us in the Homi Prefectural Public Housing!! 350 rooms".
Seen as a safe-haven by the protesters and a place where Brazillians can live without having to speak Japanese, the Homi Public Housing Estate houses the largest Brazilian community in the Aichi prefecture. However, despite the many empty apartments in the Homi Estate, the local government only allows a limited number of them on to the market each year as an apparent attempt to stave off an escalating influx of immigrants.
In April 2009 in response to the present situation the Japanese Government initiated a support program for unemployed foreigners of Japanese descent. It offers 3.000 USD towards a plane ticket home (and 2000 USD for each additional family member) in exchange for an agreement to never return to Japan on a special resident permit again. The program even includes unemployed foreigners of Japanese descent who have already received their permanent resident status.
Mike Bode + Takuji Kogo
A CANDY FACTORY PROJECT 2009
Supported by iaspis,
Helge Ax:son Johnson Stiftelse
KITAKYUSHU BIENNIAL 2009 IMIN
HOMI / TOYOTA