People wait in line to receive a charity meal in Kamagasaki, Osaka. Once a thriving day-laborer’s town, Kamagasaki today is home to about twenty-five thousand mainly elderly day laborers, with an estimated thirteen hundred who are homeless. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
A customer enters a comic-book café in Tokyo, which also offers cheap accommodations. A third of Japanese workers are now low-paid temps, some of whom hop from one job to another and sleep at twenty-four-hour cafés because they have no money to pay rent between jobs. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
Day labors gather at a laundromat in Osaka, Japan. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
Men mop a floor of a government-sponsored labor center in Osaka. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2009.
Cocoa Aiuchi, 21, prepares for work in the dressing room of a bar in Tokyo. In Japan, a hostess is a young woman who entertains men at bars or clubs; customers pay for flirting, but not sex. Once frowned upon, the job has been gaining popularity among young women. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
A Japanese salaryman sleeps on a train platform in Tokyo. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
A pair of slippers in a cheap motel where many day labors live in Osaka. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
Tadayuki Sakai, 42, worked as a salaryman for a credit-card company for twenty years. He moved to an Internet café shortly after quitting his job, and currently works as a telephone operator and temps at a friend’s computer systems company. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
Cheap sake tabs in a shack in Osaka. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
Japanese businessmen play pachinko after work in Tokyo. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
In Tokyo, a Japanese man waits for a train under LED lights, which are designed to calm people and prevent them from jumping onto the tracks. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and ten thousand suicides since 1997 are said to be related to overwork, according to a government survey. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
Keys at the front desk of a cheap motel where many day labors and welfare recipients stay in Osaka. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
Emiko Teranishi, 61, lost her husband, Akira, who managed a chain of restaurants, from suicide fourteen years ago. Overwork as a cause of suicide is hard to prove, and most family members don’t receive government compensation despite losing their sole breadwinners. Teranishi is currently the president of advocacy group for family members of suicide workers. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.
Commuters make their way in Tokyo. Image by Shiho Fukada. Japan, 2012.

On Sunday, Japan will hold a national election that is likely to result in yet another new Prime Minister—the country’s seventh in the six years since Junichiro Koizumi resigned, in 2006. As Japan gropes for a way to deal with its problems—a prolonged recession, a leaderless political system, the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and a rapidly aging population that the economy struggles to support—the photographer Shiho Fukada has been looking at the symbiotic relationship between Japan’s current political turmoil and its unemployment crisis.
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Shiho Fukada documents the lives of disposable workers in Japan in stories that illustrate the global unemployment crisis and the growing gap between rich and poor that has provoked much turmoil.

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May 16, 2014 /
Shiho Fukada
Photojournalist and grantee Shiho Fukada’s acclaimed portraits of Japan’s “disposable workers”
May 15, 2014 / MediaStorm
Shiho Fukada
Shiho Fukada's portrait series, Japan's Disposable Workers, is now available as a three-part documentary.