American johatsu: meet the “evaporated people” of Japan–and contemplate the disappeared people of America

I was recently awakened to a situation in Japan–people who “disappear,” due to the failures of Japanese society to create honorable outlets for marginalized and at risk peoples.They have a name that invokes mist, and the evisceration of social structure, and nuclear war–they are the “evaporated people.”

What is most striking is that there are no similar articles in the US press, a country where their is rampant homelessness, and the criminalization of marginalized peoples. It is also significant because “gang stalking”targets the marginalized and the homeless populations.

Look here for one example where gang stalkers stalked people in New York in the 1990’s, in order to enable property developers to gentrify neighborhoods, which is also a theme in Japan too.

In fact one of the stated goals of gang stalkers is to create homelessness and there are 8.5 million results for the search phrase “gang stalking and homeless.” So–marginalization is in fact a situation that is created, as much as it is happenstance, or accidental–gang stalkers seek to marginalize people.

That is quite significant, considering that “official sources” claim that people who say they are being gang stalked are “delusional.” But when we examine the social pressures that force people into marginalized existence, we find a curious fact:the “mental health industry” exploits them despite the lack of any mental illness–that the social pressures of shaming, blaming, scapegoating, and other society wide blame shifting mechanisms are in fact the problem.

And the fact that Japan calls them johatsu, or “disappeared”is an interesting approach, that begs bigger questions–that evaporated people hearkens to the era of the atomic bomb, and the social ills that befell the country after that; whereas in the US its merely “homelessness,” a real estate problem.

Perhaps that is by design–that Japanese people acknowledge a larger social dysfunction involved, and the use of the term disappeared indicates a mysterios element–it forces us to ask larger questions, whereas the US use of “homeless” negates the larger questions.

Questions like “why does America deny the problem, and simply state it as a real estate matter?”

Well-more on the johatsu of Japan here:

Living in the Shadows: Chasing the “Evaporated People” of Japan

Crossing the street in Shibuya, Tokyo | © Pete Stewart/WikiCommons

Why are people vanishing?

There are many factors that contribute to Japan’s growing population of johatsu. There is usually a rise is disappearances during times of economic hardship, indicating that financial factors play a role. People who lose their jobs or who are unable to pay their debts or support their families might find it easier to just disappear than to find a solution. Others may want to escape violent partners, or the pressures and restrictions of everyday life, and seek freedom.

Shame is another motivator. For instance, disappearances in Japan increased at the end of World War II, when the country was collectively hanging its head in defeat. Evaporation, therefore, could be the new seppuku, a ritual suicide once practiced by samurai and high-ranking militia. Japan was historically a nation which preferred honor and death over shame and disgrace, and many still hold onto this ideal. In the modern era, disappearing without a trace seems like an easier, more accessible alternative to suicide.

Digging through the trash in Shibuya, Tokyo | © Simon Desmarais/Flickr

Japan’s shadow economy

Another factor that tempts people into vanishing is that they know they could survive. The country’s thriving shadow economy makes it possible to disappear and to find work under the table without any identification or paper trails. Many of them try to find jobs as day laborers in a place once known as Sanya, a district of modern day Taito Ward in Tokyo. This area is known for its cheap lodgings, cheap labor, and affiliations with the yakuza, Japan’s largest crime syndicate.

Sanya, Tokyo (in modern day Taito Ward) | © Kounosu/WikiCommons

Threats to the johatsu way of life

Life will become more difficult for Japan’s evaporated people as technology catches up to them. The nation’s Individual Number system (similar to the Social Security Number system) was introduced in 2015 to track people for tax purposes and in the wake of disaster. And the places these vanishing people once turned to for shelter, such as Tokyo’s Sanya, are moving further out of reach due to gentrification and repurposing.

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