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Yoroku: Considering diversity in Japan's capital

In a spot of land in Tokyo's Koto Ward reclaimed from Tokyo Bay lies the ward's Edagawa district. Here one can find a few blocks of dwellings with galvanized iron walls, called "jujo nagaya," or 10-mat row houses. These homes have remained practically unchanged from many years ago. In 1941, the city of Tokyo forcibly relocated Korean residents living in Tokyo to this area.

    Tokyo had earlier hoped to host the 1940 Summer Olympic Games, and had planned to relocate Korean residents in the vicinity for this purpose. Due to the Second Sino-Japanese War, the games never went ahead, but Tokyo still surged forward with the relocation plan, shutting out resistance from residents. Due to the site being located near a garbage incineration plant, it was plagued with flies. But still, a Korean town of more than 1,000 residents was formed there, and the residents supported each other.

    Not too long afterward, on March 10, 1945, Tokyo was struck in a massive wartime air raid. The low-lying areas near the bay were burned down to ashes. The Edagawa district, however, was spared from the flames as people teamed up to extinguish fires. In the end, a huge number of Japanese people who had suffered damage in the raid poured into the area.

    The book "Tokyo no Korian Taun Edagawa Monogatari" (Tokyo's Korean Town: The tale of Edagawa), edited by a society recording the history of Koreans in Tokyo's Koto Ward, leaves us with the testimony of a resident from that time:

    "I guess there were several thousand (people who had suffered damage). We all helped them out, cooking rice for them. We gave them rice balls and unrefined sake." The residents of the Edagawa district didn't hold back from handing out food and clothing.

    Years before this, many Korean residents in the old downtown district of Tokyo had been massacred in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 due to a false rumor that Koreans were mounting a riot. Recently, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike was asked if this massacre occurred. She avoided a direct answer, simply saying, "There are various views." One cannot help but recall that there were residents in the Edagawa district who had extended a helping hand to victims of the air raids despite having been downtrodden by Japanese.

    Separated from the Edagawa district by a single canal is the Toyosu district, where development for the Tokyo Olympics is now surging ahead. "Diversity," a term which the governor has upheld ahead of the games, refers to a society in which variety among people is respected -- without regard to nationality or gender. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)

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