Hibiya Park tent village for laid-off workers draws 300

Kyodo News

The population of a temporary tent village set up for people who have lost their jobs and housing had exceeded 300 by Friday compared with about 130 on New Year’s Eve when volunteers first established it in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park, organizers said.

“People here have been worn out due to the cold . . . an emergency shelter such as a gymnasium is necessary as soon as possible,” said a leader of the organizers, who said the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry was asked to act fast.

Following the request, the welfare ministry decided to open its auditorium, which is located near the park, and let those people without shelters use it until 9 a.m. Monday, as the number of people who have no other place to go reached nearly 270.

Chuo Ward may also open some of its facilities to accommodate those in need.

The “year-crossing temp worker village” was set up in the park Wednesday in front of the Imperial Hotel, one of the country’s most luxurious inns, to provide free food and shelter for homeless people, including laid-off temporary workers who have been forced to leave the accommodations of their employers.

About 50 tents, each big enough to handle four to five people, are already full, forcing those unable to find room to spend the night around portable stoves. Some became sick and were taken to a hospital by ambulance, the organizers said.

“I want to address the problem of the temp workers, sharing the feeling that a Japan in this condition is unacceptable,” said Tsuyoshi Takagi, president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), a 6.8 million-strong group that encompasses all the national labor unions.