Park dweller loses address case

by Setsuko Kamiya

In the first ruling of its kind, the Supreme Court on Friday rejected an Osaka Prefecture homeless man’s bid to use a city park as his registered address.

On Friday, presiding Justice Osamu Tsuno and three other justices of the Second Petty Bench unanimously supported the Osaka High Court’s decision that the plaintiff, Yuji Yamauchi, 58, could not register Ogimachi Park in Kita Ward, Osaka, as his place of residence because his tent’s location cannot be recognized as a legitimate address.

In its January 2007 ruling, the high court said a tent, because it can be moved easily, cannot be recognized as a person’s address “based on healthy social norms.” The court added that the tent was pitched illegally in the first place.

Yamauchi, who has lived in a tent at the park since around 1998 and receives mail there, sued Kita Ward in 2004 after he was not allowed to register the park as his address. The ward rejected his request on the grounds that it was improper use of a public park.

In January 2006, the Osaka District Court ruled in favor of Yamauchi, saying that a person’s residence is the place where that person lives, regardless of whether one has the right to live at the location and that Kita Ward should register him.

The ward appealed, arguing that the tent was not a permanent structure and that recognizing the park as a lawful address could lead to an increase in the number of people living there illegally.

A citizen without a registered address is excluded from many rights and opportunities, including the right to vote, join the national health insurance system, obtain a driver’s license or passport, or apply for a job.