Homeless people evicted from Miyashita Park in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo (Japan)
Miyashita Park is a park located in Tokyo's Shibuya ward, a major commercial center. Many people experiencing homelessness have stayed in Miyashita Park in small cardboard or other structures since the late-1990s. In addition, Miyashita Park has served as a space for organized "outdoor soup kitchens" and other collective actions to protect and preserve the health and interests of homeless persons. In 2009, Nike Japan and Shibuya Ward signed a contract which awarded naming rights for Miyashita Park to Nike, and included terms for park reconstruction.
The construction was delayed because of widespread protest, and Nike eventually gave up renaming the park in its name. However, in the fall of 2010, Shibuya Ward closed the park to the public after evicting homeless persons staying there. In the spring of 2011, the park was reopened with over half of its space dedicated to new pay-to-use facilities such as a skate park. At night, the park was closed and locked.
In the spring of 2015, a court judgment released in the case for damages against Shibuya Ward ruled that the contract between Nike and Shibuya Ward was illegal. In the fall of 2015, Mitsui Fudosan Realty, one of Japan's three major real estate corporations, decided on a plan to newly build Miyashita Park atop a three-story shopping mall and alongside a 17-story hotel. From the winter of 2016, a campaign to stop the nighttime closure of Miyashita Park began and, since then, 10 to 20 people have been sleeping there nightly. We also installed a storage unit for blankets in the park.
Historically, Miyashita Park has served as an important space for survival for homeless persons. It is also an important space where anyone in the city could spend time without having to spend money. However, in recent years, large companies such as Nike and Mitsui Fudosan Realty, as well as Shibuya Ward, have tried to turn the park into a site for commercial profit. In their eyes, members of the public who cannot pay for use of the park, such as persons experiencing homelessness, are unwelcome. We have long decried Shibuya Ward's attempts to sell the park to the highest-bidding businesses and its disregard for human rights and lives or persons staying in the park.
On March 27, 2017, Miyashita Park was completely enclosed by a series of 3-meter-high steel panels. Since the end of last year, this park has served as a place to sleep for approximately 20 people without shelter and, to the best of our knowledge, 9 people were sleeping in the park on the evening of the 26th, just prior to the enclosure. Shibuya Ward initiated construction of the enclosure early in the morning on the 27th and a large number of ward personnel, security guards and police prohibited public entry into the park after 9am.
The ward arranged for this blockade, excluding any and all persons from the park, without providing prior notice to the general public and park users, including unsheltered persons sleeping there. The unannounced and underhanded nature of this move is troubling. At the time of the enclosure, several people sleeping in the park were driven out into the cold sleet. Some who wished to wait until the downpour stopped were shut in by fencing without any explanation regarding the construction, and later offered only temporary accommodation at a doya by ward personnel from the welfare division.
Many of the facilities used by Shibuya Ward's welfare department do not meet standards established by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in its Guidelines for the Establishment and Operation of Accommodation Facilities. In addition, in reality, most people entering such facilities, leave due to exorbitant "fees" changed by the facility (taken from the resident's income from welfare assistance provided by the ward), crowded living conditions (usually in small rooms furnished with bunk beds), and rigid curfews, among other things.
This kind of welfare "assistance" coupled with forcible eviction, on the one hand, and the loss of freedom of movement, on the other, are both insults to-and violations of-human dignity. In actuality, when viewed from a human rights perspective, public servants working in welfare ought to stand in opposition to the forcible expulsion of people from public spaces, yet in Shibuya ward the welfare division serves as foot soldiers for evictions.
We have been accompanying homeless people for many years. We want to make a statement to protest against the actions taken by Shibuya Ward, Shibuya Mayor Hasebe, and Mitsui Fudosan Realty".
What we ask for:
Sleeping spaces be returned;
Miyashita Park be returned;
Shibuya Ward ends all exclusion of homeless persons;
Mitsui Fudosan Realty withdraws from the new Miyashita project;
Mayor Hasebe engages in discussions with us now.