"Forced evictions" ordered by the court -2001.6.1- [English/Japanese]
On the Imminent Forced Eviction of Utoro in Japan -2000.5.2- [English/Japanese]
What's UTORO -1997.3- [English/Japanese]
NEW YORK TIMES -1993.3.1- [English/Japanese]
What's UTORO ?
Jiage (Land Sale)
"What's that? Why in the world would humans come to destroy other humans' homes? Where do they think this is? This is a place where people libe....Go back! Go home! We risk our lives here to survive everyday.This land is more important than our lives here because it was house? then run me over with your bulldozer first!!"
In the morning of February 13,1989,a real estate company and a demolition company converged on 51 Utoro,Iseda-cho,Uji-City,Kyoto with three trucks.As they were about to begin demolishing a vacant house,40 residents came out and surrounded the trucks,yelling and stopping them.
Utoro is located adjacent to the north of the Japan Self-Defense Forces's Okubo base.It is located in a small corner of a residential area in Iseda.Aproximatellly 80 Korean families,consisting of 380 people,live in the 21 square kilometers that comprise Utoro.To get to Utoro,one must take the Kintetsu Kyoto line from Kyoto station twenty minutes south to Iseda station.It is another ten minutes to the west from there.
Utoro is the formal name on the map.Originally,Utoro was referred to as " Utoguchi " in Kanji,or Chinese characters.However,the " -guchi " was mistakenly read as the Katakana " -ro ".Hence," Utoro " became the official designation for the place.
The History of Utoro
Utoro's history dates to World War II,when Korean-only libing quarters were constructed to house workers that were to bulid an airfield there.In 1940,Japan was gearing for an anticipated confrontation with the United States.In order to defend itself,the government planned to construct a huge airfield and factories to produce warplanes.Accordingly,cheap and tough labor was in great demand,Korean warkers were gathered and housed in substandard ligving quarters at the Japan International Aviation Company.
"If we go to Utoro,our family can stay together.Because it is a war-related project,our rations will be a little more.And most of all,we won't be drafted..." About 1,300 Korean workers inhabited these facilities.Kwan Mun Ja,who still resides in Utoro recalls being told to "Live herel" and to "Work here!"
In July of 1945,the warplane factory was demolished by a U.S.bombing raid.Japan's surrender to the Allies meant independence and liberation for the Koreans.On August 15,Koreans in Utoro cheered and celevrated their liberation throughout the night.However,the construction of the airfield was disappeared,leaving the workers without jobs."The Japanese workers disapeared telling us what to do,"says the 85-year old,Kim Im-Sen.
the post-war period for the residents of Utoro like Mun Kwan-ja and Kim Im-Sen began as it was during the war.Living in barracks whose leaky roofs were made of tree bark.Their joy for the liberation was shotr-lived; all Korean workers in Utoro became unemplyed following Japan's surrender.They were literally abandoned by their former employers.The munitions Factory was converted to a civilian industrial producing buses.However,they refused to here any of the Korean workers in Utoro.Rapid economic growth during the Korean War saw the company grow into the Nissan Motor Corporation
Meanwhile,the residents of Utoro constructed what dwellings they could on the site of the old barracks.Abject poverty became the daily routine for these people,as they struggled to detain the barest necessities of life.They would later build more substantial barracks to improve living conditions.
During the Occupation,the residents of Utoro won the right to maintain their dwellings there.The General Headquarters of the Allied Forces came to claim the Utoro,but the residents fought for the right to live there.Finally the soldiers relented.However,their most formidable challenge was to came; in 1962,the Utoro was formally taken and registered by Nissan Shatai.It was later bought by the Nissan Motor Corporation.
Installation of Running Water
In 1985,an arsonist set fire to Utoro.The fire spread quicly,destroying many dwellings and buildings.At that time,Utoro was the only area in Uji city that had neither running water,nor fire hydrants to aid the effort to extinguish the blaze.Nissan Shatai,the land owner, balked on the issue of installing lines for running water in Utoro,insisting that "the people of Utoro are illegally occupying our land.If we let the City install running water in Utoro,it would mean that we acknowledge their right to live there" At the same time,dysentery was spreading quickly in Uji city.The local health clinic declared that the read and brown water in the area's wells was not potable.The residents clamored for safe drinking water;their cries reached to other Japanese citizens in surrouding areas.These citizens made the lack of otable drinking water a human rights issue,and together with residents from Utoro held negotiations with the city administration of Uji.In March 1987,they finally acquired an agreement from Nissan to get water lines installed in Utoro.In January of the following year,there was running water in every residence of Utoro.
A chenge in Land Owners
Around February 1988,suspicious out-of-towners began to wander the streets of Utoro.At the same time,rumors began to circulate among real estate companies that the land of Utoro rested on was for sale.On March 9,1987,the same day that Nissan submitted to Uji the agreement for water lines in Utoro,the sale of Utoro was consummated.Msuo Hirayama,who claimed to be the chairman of the residents' committee(which did not exist at the time),purchased Utoro from Nissan Shatai for 300 million yen.Following the purchase,Hirayama quickly resold it to the developer Nishi Nihon Shokusan.The developer registered this change of ownership on August 12 of the same year.These events went on unknown to the residents of Utoro.In February of the following year,the developer filed suit in the Kyoto district court against the residents alleging an illegal land occupation.
The man responsible for the sale of Utoro by Nissan Shatai,Tohru Matsumoto,a former administration and section and section chief,gave the following testimony in the Kyoto District court,"When I visited Utoro for the land title negotiation,Iwent directly to Mr.Hirayama's house.I neither saw,nor felt anything there.I had never walked around the area..." Nissan Shatai's general supervisor,Shun Shikatani testified that,"At the time of the sale of Utoro,Nissan Shatai's production totals ware down 25%,and profits were rapidly falling.Due to this deficit,we thought about getting rid of our disposable real estate.Once we made a contract with Mr.Hirayama,we did not consider who actually lived there."
Utoro is community where poeple's houses are connected to narrow alleyways.How could they not see these people's livelihood,or their houses? Nissan Shatai's officials did not consult with the residents of Utoro regarding the sale of their land;instead,they conducted business only to salvage their company's flagging economic situation.
The Movement to Protect Utoro
Even as Utoro residents prepared for the battle in court,Japanese citizens founded a supporting group named,"Against the Land Sale! Association to Protect Utoro" in March 1989.The first gathering of this group had over 700 supporters participating,flooding a small community area.It was a first for the people of Utoro;their Japanese neighbors had never visited in the past.Following the gathering,Omoni,or Korean mothers,dressed in traditional clothing,and marched around the Kyoto branch of Nissan Shatai playing Korean instruments.It was a demonstration where Koreans and Japanese joined together and walked hand in hand as one group.It was a red-retter date in the history of the Utoro residents'struggle,and attracted more people to become involved in the movement.
In December 1989,Utoro residents and Japanese supporters visited Nissan Shatai headquaters in Hiratsuka city of Kanagawa prefecture,and Nissan Moter Corporation headquarters in Higashi Ginza in Tokyo,to have negoriations regarding rhe fate of Utoro.This hopoed to gain Nissan's approval of their right to live in Utoro.This was to be in vain however,as Nissan refused all dialogue,insisting that "the land had already been sold,and Nissan no longer has any relationship with the land Owner."
The Testimony of Utoro's Residents
Mun Kwan-ja related what life was like in Utoro both before and after the war."Our barracks only had some poles,so we put galvanized iron sheets around the barracks.To prevent draft,we pasted large bags of used newspapers or cement in the walls and ceilings.Those bags ware heavy and did not dry quickly.They did not stick to the ceilings very well,and often blew off in heaby winds.Oh,it was very hard...Our foods were all rationed.We made grease grounds for fertilizer for the rice,and tiny potatoes into udon(Japanese noodles) and dango(Japanese dumplings) and ate them.Nevertheless,in Utoro neighbors always took care of each other."We have some rice today...We cooked some vegetables." Pelple woud gather together to eat,and when someone came home late at night,someone would ask him/her if they would like something to eat.This mutual support is what helped sustain the people of Utoro,even today..."
"My husband started collecting and peddling scraps to make a living.He worked days and nights.Then he bought a dump truck to gradually prepare for the construction business.We were so absorbed working to raise six children.Fifteen years ago,we rebuilt our home.My husband's dream was to have his mother live in our newly tiled house,but this did not come true.When we finally got running water,we believed that we would finally lead an ordinary life,but then soon thereafter found out that our land was for sale.I thought that I would pass out.Since then,I have been so scared of what would happen next..."This is the testimony of Mrs.Han Bo Kim,who was once chairperson of the woman's department of the Utoro Residents'Council.
Mr.Kim Im-Sen would state that,"Our senpai (foreparents),who worked bery hard and were always yelled at by the Japanese," bakayarou " and " konoyarou (stupid),have already died.But their children and grandchildren have built homes and have been working hard and going to schools.There is no way that we will move from Utoro.We live here..."
The Eviction and Court Battle
The residents of Utoro stated in a document submitted to the Kyoto District court,"After the war,the issei(first generation) ware let go without any compensation,build barracks from the old living quarters of the military airfield,then renovated them into modest homes.We have worked hard to clear and flatten this vacant land,to plant vegetables,install running water and electricity.We have made Utoro a place for Korean people to live.We have done all this by ourselves...We do not believe that the Utoro land rights issue can be solved solely as a question of property rights.This issue must be examined by considering historical,political,and social responsibilities.Even though we have been told to move out,we have neither a place to go,nor can we afford it.(More than ten households amang the 69 indicted are on state sponsored social welfare.) Should we lose,the injustice will catalyze us to resist even with our own bodies..."
The Japanese government and Nissan Shatai are being asked to review their post-war responsibility,as well as the role of corporations and their social responsibilities.However,these sentiments will not be reflected in court,and will not be decisive in the court's ruling.The reality is that without "big-money" players to sway the court,the residents of Utoro are left to struggle with Japan's negative heritage,issues remaining from the wartime.If the verdict rules against the defendants,the residents of Utoro will be forcibly removed,and the legacy of their parents will be plowed under the developers' bulldozers.Ultimately,this would be the end of result of such a verdict,made possible by a "successful" Japanese judicial system.