SPECIAL REPORT

Homeless recruited by yakuza for Fukushima clean-up

Picture expired. Shizuya Nishiyama, a 57-year-old homeless man from Hokkaido, speaks during an interview with Reuters at Sendai Station in Miyagi Prefecture. REUTERS

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  • 12

    gelendestrasse

    It's tragic but I guess we all saw this coming. Decent reporting. Have to wonder what can be done about it. Guess organized crime and construction are tied together the world over?

  • 4

    marsopa

    **What a tragedy. Japan? That is sick!

  • -14

    overchan

    Bah. Get to work, someone has to do it

  • 24

    paulinusa

    Funny how Reuters can dig up and piece things together instead of government officials.

  • 1

    lostrune2

    It's like day-laborers, just pick 'em up in a van or truck.

  • 0

    Cricky

    Vile

  • 4

    bilderberg_2015

    Wholly predictable since March 12, 2011.

  • 5

    SenseNotSoCommon

    Business. As usual.

  • 6

    FightingViking

    I feel very sorry for the homeless who really need the work. They are promised so much and end up with so little... At the same time, I feel so much "safer" now that I know just how many unskilled workers are in charge of sifting around contaminated earth, leaves and debris and throwing it all into the streams and rivers...

  • 12

    hatsoff

    “Many homeless people are just put into dormitories, and the fees for lodging and food are automatically docked from their wages,” said Aoki, the pastor. “Then at the end of the month, they’re left with no pay at all.”

    Being tricked like this is not so different from the gangs that engage in human trafficking. This kind of thing is possible because of complicity and a no-questions-asked mentality. Saying, "I can't check everyone" is no justification for this exploitation. This is another example of what happens in the race to the bottom through the use of sub-contractor layered upon sub-contractor. Top companies have not discharged their responsibilities after assigning the first sub-contractor. They need to have several people in charge of checking these things, and transgressions need to be made public.

  • 8

    Sabugo

    paulinusa, this is Japan. Nobody see the bad things, just the good things, Or you will be in a bad situation. The land of the lies.

  • 5

    Disillusioned

    Ah, yes! It seems the honourable Japanese tradition of 'bushido' has changed to 'bullshido'! The country's taxes are being soaked up and squandered by both the government and the Yaks to make untrained people work for less than minimum wage on the Japan's most important civil engineering project ever. Welcome to the 'real' japan!

  • 6

    Stewie

    In your face corruption will always thrive while there is a corrupt Govt. But, cant see why anyone in Japan would complain, as they voted them in. First world country, third world govt corruption.

  • 4

    sushilover

    Is anyone surprised by all this? Nobody knows, nobody wants to know, nobody cares. Head in the (contaminated) sand.

  • -6

    homleand

    The private sector is having success at finding people work where the public sector is unsurprisingly failing.

  • 5

    seiryoden

    The foundations of Japan's Nuclear power generation were laid by a "happy" arrangement between Government, Corporations and The Yaks. Google "Nuclear Gypsy." The exploitation of low paid/indigent workers in service of Tepco, LDP and Mob agendas has been going on since the 1970s.

  • 6

    chucky3176

    Funny how Reuters can dig up and piece things together instead of government officials.

    As usual, it took an outside media to report on this, when the domestic Japanese media should have taken the lead. Notice not much complaint from Japanese citizens who are not worried about their own back yard, while too busy embroiled in nationalist issues with Japan's Asian neighbours.

  • 3

    Christopher Blackwell

    I wonder how many more cases of cancer we will see and how much it is going to cost tone taxpayer too mention of the waste of money on the alleged clean up which won't actually be cleaned up at all since none of the workers actually know what they are doing. So what new disaster will this cause that could have been prevented by first some honesty up front.

  • 7

    seiryoden

    Funny how Reuters can dig up and piece things together instead of government officials.

    Sadly not so much. Blame the Kisha Clubs (記者クラブ). There's a reason that Japan fell 31 places in Reporters sans Frontieres' 2013 Freedom of the Press index. All the major media in Japan knew about the Lockheed scandal years before it broke; they kept quiet then for the same reason they keep quiet about Fukushima now: access (and paid lunches and New Year gifts).

  • 6

    Magnet

    Not surprising news really... Also helps to explain why it's taken so long. In a perfect world, the government would have done the right thing and made the TEPCO execs responsible for all the criminally negligent acts of their company, and they'd be the ones forced to clean up. But... To this day, I haven't read a single article about any of them being indicted, let alone charged with criminal negligence, a crime they are so very obviously guilty of.

  • 5

    SenseNotSoCommon

    See No Evil + Hear No Evil + Speak No Evil = Monkey Business

  • 4

    CrimsonRedMoon

    Why am I not surprised ?

  • -12

    AKBfan

    So what? They probbaly happy to get the work and the money.

  • 5

    Balefire

    The penalties are risible compared with the profits to be made. A million a month income for a company that when caught pays a quarter of that as a one-time fine; that's a very acceptable risk.

    Watch how much the situation worsens as construction workers--undoubtedly including the homeless or near-homeless day workers--are siphoned off into the construction jobs that will be proliferating as the Olympics-related construction takes off.

    But you're going to have to watch carefully, because you can bet that local media won't be reporting on it.

  • 3

    smithinjapan

    Ah, Japan... don't ask, don't tell... and if told, do nothing. I'll tell you this, though, if gangsters are making millions off of this kind of human rights abuse and the worst they face is a $5000 fine from a government that has promised they wouldn't allow this to continue (again and again), it won't ever stop.

    These poor people.... one month's wages for 1000 yen, or worse yet, ending up in debt on top of being homeless. These companies need to be shut down, and people like Hirose held accountable.

  • 3

    Jeremy Rigby

    And there will be nobody by their side in years to come as they die a slow and painful death as their bodies are overcome with cancer. It is just another sad demonstration of those in charge of the clean-up. No real respect for anybody.

  • 0

    ham21

    After all the finger pointing, the persons signing the checks have the responsibility to make sure their getting what they lawfully paid for. Money came from the gov't so the responsibility rests with them to make sure the money that the people entrusts to them gets spent properly.

  • 4

    smithinjapan

    ham21: "After all the finger pointing, the persons signing the checks have the responsibility to make sure their getting what they lawfully paid for. Money came from the gov't so the responsibility rests with them to make sure the money that the people entrusts to them gets spent properly."

    But that's just the thing, isn't it, ham? The government throws money (as the J-government always does) at a problem without looking where it lands. TEPCO gets the money, then throws some (after skimming half or more for wages and bonuses, or other plans to stay in the black) at sub-contractors. Those sub-contractors then throw it (if not already) at yakuza companies as sub-sub-contractors. The Yakuza skim most of the rest and recruit 'nuclear gypsies' who get next to nothing, or end up in debt for their hard work. The people at the top are never ever held responsible because they can easily fob off responsibility on the people at the bottom and say, "We didn't know what they were doing", or, "We trust them to do the right thing", etc. Hell, even this guy Sasa says he only "recruits people, after that no idea" what happens, as he is unwilling to face up to what he is doing, and only gets a slap on the wrist from police. Obayashi company? a $5000 fine when they're making millions and getting government money to boot, say they do not know their own inner workings.

    The whole system is corrupt.

  • 0

    don-in-japan

    So this is how our taxes are spent. Nice. And this on top of the news that the country's population fell by quarter of a million last year?
    I wonder how much longer Japan will be able to simply "throw money at a problem"...

  • 1

    funny car

    The Devil is in the details. I don't have a problem with homeless people doing the work. My biggest problem is that they are not being paid wages commensurate with the danger and most likely not being properly trained and evaluated on safety techniques.

    If proper wages were being paid, older people who are more reliable for such work but who for whatever reason have nothing to lose might take the risk to enrich their children.

  • 6

    Weasel

    ...charges for food, accommodation and laundry were docked from his monthly pay equivalent to about 150,000 yen, leaving him with 1,000 yen

    Classic indentured servitude of homeless folks. Calling it slavery of the 21st century tends to get most folks sightly uncomfortable.

  • 0

    lulytz

    this is real untold story, I enjoy to get real time information, ever found on any media the true story of other side of the coin

  • 1

    daito_hak

    The construction industry is 90% run by gangs.

    This sums it all. The government knows it, this has been going on for ever in Japan. And it continue as Abe is keeping wasting tax payers money on public works, money that ends up in gangs hands. Welcome to Japan.

  • 3

    kuuku

    sad news to c exploitation of those weak people in society rather than helping them. the elites of those big companies should be held accountable as well.

  • 0

    sighclops

    The Yaks will find a way to cash in on ANYTHING. This is no exception!

  • 2

    obladi

    Truly vile, sick and uncool, even for the Yakuza.

    According to Andrew Rankin (http://www.japanfocus.org/-Andrew-Rankin/3688), the Yakuza jumped to exploit the Fukushima disaster, including using homeless people to apply for emergency housing etc.

    Anyone brave enough to work on the cleanup efforts ought to be given a huge bonus, not ripped off by low-life scammers.

  • 2

    SwissToni

    TEPCO has the resources to recruit nationally and pay these people directly. They should be made to do that and ensure the workers get all the pay they are due.
    I've never liked the Japanese outsourcing industry but this is too much to turn a blind eye to,

  • 9

    zichi

    The only answer, is to sell off TEPCO, lock, stock and barrel to one of the power utilities or even a new utility.

    Form a new gov't agency to deal with the nuclear disaster. All workers are employed directly by the agency.

  • 1

    daito_hak

    Does anybody know whether this information has appeared on any Japanese mass media, like NHK?

    I seriously doubt it which means that the majority of the population won't know it and we all continue to hear from the people here how great Japan is and how kowai the rest of the world is.

  • 1

    thkanner

    Seems like japan looks only nice on the outside but its cores are rotten. . very fake and corrupt country with no dignity and respects for humans. the old PM was thrown out cos he wanted some changes ... the most fake country i have seen in the western world. i feel sorry for them.

  • 2

    Bear27840

    By sending the homeless there to work they will be dead within a year thus removing them from public areas just like the Japanese government wants them gone as they are an eye-sore to others.

    This is no way to take care of a problem by killing that problem off by excessive radiation poisoning.

  • -3

    Daemon Ryuou

    Could someone explain to me what the problem is here? It's not like they're forcing the homeless to work...those people are well aware of the risk and they choose to take it. If they die from radiation poisoning then it's by their own hands.

    It seems to me like the Yakuza are actually doing something beneficial in this situation. They're putting the jobless to work, cleaning up the disaster site, and paying out of their own pocket thus reducing the amount of tax payer money that will be spent.

  • 2

    Olegek

    Daemon Ryuou Could someone explain to me what the problem is here? It's not like they're forcing the homeless to work...those people are well aware of the risk and they choose to take it. If they die from radiation poisoning then it's by their own hands.

    Sorry is it normal to offer make a choice - suffer from hunger or die from radiation ??

    It's sounds like a cyberpunk about Nazi Germany ..

  • 0

    daito_hak

    @Daemon Ryuou

    Well the first thing to do that could be useful is to read properly the article.

    The problem is that they are employing people by removing their basic labor rights, since they pay them less than the minimum wage instead of giving them the full benefits that come with the risky job. Plus they treat them like slaves with little consideration for their well being and actually these people are not made fully aware of the danger of the job.

    The Yakuza are not paying anything, do you really believe that they will do? The point is that they want to make money not spend it. They are employing those poor people, fooling them because they are vulnerable by actually paying them the minimum or nothing and instead they keep for themselves the money paid by the government that these people are supposed to receive for working in this dangerous environment. Basically tax payers money is going to Yakuza's pockets. Totally the contrary to what you seem to believe, isn't it.?

    And I find quite bizarre that someone could believe that Yakuza, who are criminals could do anything beneficial to anybody.

  • -1

    Daemon Ryuou

    Sorry is it normal to offer make a choice - suffer from hunger or die from radiation ??

    How does offering someone a job equate to blackmail? The yakuza aren't starving the people, they just said "hey, if you wanna earn a quick buck put on this hazmat suit and pick up some trash in the Fukushima disaster site. They didn't have to take the job, they could keep looking for something else.

    @daito_hak

    The same can be said for the people TEPCO is employing. It wasn't but a couple of weeks ago I heard about the workers getting sprayed in the face with radioactive mist without being warned about it or anything. The work environment is the same for both. It's an equally dangerous job for both, but something has to be done about it.

    The Yakuza may not be operating legally in this situation and it is a shame that these people are by far underpaid, but you have to understand that these people chose to put themselves in that situation. All I'm saying is that they're solving issues that currently little is being done about...in their own dirty way I suppose.

  • -1

    daito_hak

    @Daemon Ryuou

    You say what? Apparently you seem to really have difficulties to understand what it's about. The fact that there could be some people who would argue that the Yakuza are solving issues by cheating some people making them work without proper dignity and by stealing tax payers money is just beyond my mind. And you've chosen to ignore the other main point (by replying with impossible meaningless arguments) that they are stealing tax payers money for their dirty activities.

    You keep saying that this victims have "have put themselves in that situation" while it's clear that these people just wanted to work but got cheated and exploited. How could you dare say that they have chosen this? As I said you, this planet is populated with weird people. And I am staying polite with you, something that you don't actually really deserve. Please think about that.....

  • 0

    Jonathan Prin

    @Daemon Ryuou

    The typical Japanese mind : make suffer by illegal and immoral means weak people is a standard here. I work in Japan and indirectly in nuc biz. After Fukushima, i cannot even believe it. For me, it reminds me about German civilians durin WWII saying "i did not know" although the smell, the view´ the noise and nearly the flavor would scream hell. Japan will die of that, I guarantee.

    My work is to insert in system some mind improvements. Little impact so far but still worth trying.

  • -1

    Daemon Ryuou

    @daito_hak

    I accidentally left out part of my comment and couldn't respond fully do to the stupid comment system on this site, which is that I'm not familiar in any way with how the Yakuza works so I'm seeing this from a generally unbiased viewpoint. Which is why I was asking someone to explain why this is such an upsetting problem as I'm only seeing people working and messing getting cleaned up from a source that to my knowledge isn't backed by tax-payer money.

    We're perhaps bound to bash skulls in this argument though because I believe life is about choices, not opportunities. If you don't have a job then you keep filling out applications and talking with people until you get one. If you want to have a career, then you get a loan to put yourself through school and pay back your debt. If you live in a country that's limited to resources, then you use your legs to walk to one with better resources. As far as I can tell, these people didn't have a gun pointed at their heads, they decided to take what they thought was an easier path knowing the risks and no one but them is responsible for their actions.

  • 0

    bluesea67

    Yep Japan Gov, corps, and Yaks are working to together. What's new. Everybody is getting there kick backs. Sadly Damon many poor people in Japan will never be able to afford an Education. You need to be exceptional to be offered a place at a public university. and if your parents haven't got the dosh you not going to be going to even a crappy one. And unlike Many other countries you can't go university as an adult. It is very difficult to change jobs and if you lose you job. If is extremely difficult to get another one. But I think that starting to change a little bit. I knew a man you was a shoe designer for 30 years company lost contracts and he lost his job he in his 50s. He a security guard now. 800 yen an hour down from 600,000 a month Hes doesn't have a choice. You are lucky you have choices and education.

  • 0

    Daemon Ryuou

    @bluesea67 That's a whole different story then. If the government is throwing money to the Yakuza to handle the problem, that's just outright dirty and twisted. I was thinking that perhaps the Yakuza had their own agenda like trying to take back territory sooner that just so happened to have a somewhat beneficial influence.

    As far as the education thing goes, there are ways to circumvent that. Eg.

    • As of 2004, Japan began a scholarship program featuring 2 types of student loans. First class loans are maintenance only, have a 0% interest rate, are academically selective, and offer between ¥32905-47007 /mo depending on whether or not you're living at home and if you'r'e attending a private university. Second class loans can be used for both tuition and living expenses, have a prime rate interest, and aren't as academically selective; but offer ¥75211/mo with an additional ¥225633 for the first month. Both have a 6 month grace after graduation and a maximum repayment period of 20 years.

    • You can move to the US for 5 years to become a legal citizen, get a government loan to pay for schooling when you go back to your own country on a school visa, then renouncing your naturalization after you finish schooling and paying back the loan. You can additionally apply for a pell grant of up to $5,550 once a year that never has to be repaid.

    • Marrying a wealthy person who is willing to help pay your way through college. The Nationality act states that a person must live in a country for 5 years to gain citizenship but school and work visa's only last 2 to 4. Considering that it costs around $800 - $1600 for a one-way flight from the US to Japan, there's a chance a person looking to move to Japan could have deep pockets and wouldn't mind coming to a mutual agreement.

    If you know the rules, you can beat the game.

  • 0

    toshiko

    The recruiters did not force people to work. It seems they did same recruiting method Japanese employment agencies . have been doing /The legal employm,ent agencies often collect large fees from employers and then from each employees. I wonder why these recruiters did not register as employment agencies. I;d bet these are uneducated bunch, unlike sokai-ya members of yakuza organizations,'

    'As for Japanese Govt scholorship to study abroad,, Since Meiji Ishin, Govt has been offerring. Female who wanted to use scholorship had to declare that they wooul never marry after they finished study. the first female PhD of Japan, Dr. Kono Yasui studied in USA such as Harbard and she never married and contributed to Science field in Japan until her death at 91 years old single. It is different now, I'd bet. It did not begin to offer in 2/004. It has been for more than a couple hundred years. Many Japanese families use their family find to send their children to study abroad after their children graduated a Japanese university.

  • 1

    Yasumasa Arai

    I think that is decent and sincere investigative journalism, trying to make sense of the situation. The most important is how our tax money is spent {would it be better given directly to the homeless or filtered down through the Yakuza }?? The homeless are not in a position to rescue themselves and find themselves inevitably in a "gray-zone". It may not be right, but it is a fact. As for government money going through a series of contractors and sub-contractors is concerned, this is how things work the world over. The point is, I think, that the relatively new Ministry of the Environment has not yet acquired the proper contract writing skills. I am astonished that 5 sub-contractors out of 50 or more are not properly identified. It's bad management on both sides. If you say this is a rotten system, you are quite right. In this respect, the investigation is a valuable contribution and I hope that the authors are continuing their investigation into examples of such mal-practice. I am a retired engineer with a 40 year career with a large chemical company in this country and experience of working with contractors. It is quite ridiculous that sub-contractors have not been identified before-hand. So the point I want make is this country is not all rotten and dysfunctional. I acknowledge the work done by the journalists here but I would say that the title of the article is inadequate, since it does not reveal the true extent of the problem.

  • 0

    toshiko

    In Japan, large condtructuin companies use sub contractors in region they have projects. Then regional sub contractors use their own sub-contractors to do their parts. Not too many people want to work for construction related labor in Japan. If these people who lined up homeless people are yakuzass they must be bottom of bottom yskuzas, ;;As for USA Citizen requirement, if married to An American citizenm 3 years will give them Green Cards and can apply for US Citizenship tests instead of 5 years, As for going to US colleges, First, you have to ask your HS and Colleges in Japan to send your tranxcript to colleges (in English) directly and has to be accepted. You don;t have to marry to poor American to enter US colleges. Best is your Japanese family buys a house nearby the school youw ant to attend so that you don;t pay dorm money in crummy rooms. '

    Back to homeless people who went to work for toHoku, they did not have to line up. mayber ythey thought they will be working in an airconditioned office?

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