The Other City: Social Exclusion and Care in Urban Japan


This book project explores how the marginalized in Japan strives to make life inhabitable amidst a prevailing public ethos of crisis and decline. The long-term recession that followed the collapse of the financial bubbles in the early 1990s has made the postwar economic miracle a distant past to many Japanese.

Although Japan is still ranked as the world’s third largest economy and boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates, there is a sense of irreversible loss shared by Japanese as expressed in the despair over the prospect of “ the lost three decades.” The triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown in 2011 that caused almost 20,000 deaths as well as mass destructions of homes, neighborhoods, and infrastructures only exacerbated such a sense of loss. Meanwhile, indexes of the rapid aging and decrease of population are constant reminders of a downhill journey waiting ahead.

The Other City sets out to provide a view of a society in decline from the vantage point of the margins. Situated in a place where such a decline predated other parts of Japan by decades, The Other City depicts how a post-crisis time-space might be navigated and inhabited by people who have been deemed by mainstream society as having “no future.” Drawing on nineteen months of ethnographic fieldwork between 2009 and 2016 in the nation’s once third largest yoseba (day laborers’ quarter) in Yokohama city, The Other City demonstrates how the impoverished and disabled residents, along with leftist activists and local volunteers, struggled to fight pessimistic views of the future by weaving alternative relations of care.