"If you take a wrong step even though you've been walking properly, you'll fall regardless of what you've built up until now."
These are the words of a woman in her 30s.
She met her at a “soup” where she distributes lunch boxes and other items to people in need.
She graduated from graduate school and has been working diligently until now.
However, she lost her job due to the new coronavirus, and she said she started to line up at the "soup kitchen".
Since the end of the year two years ago, when the new coronavirus was prevalent, I have been covering the "food distribution" venue in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.
The number of people lined up continues to increase, and in November last year, 542 people, the highest number, made a line.
I noticed something while watching the long queue.
“Office workers in suits and leather shoes,” “well-dressed women,” and “energetic young people.” This past year, partly due to the impact of high prices, there was a line-up of women and generations in their prime that had not been seen before. am.
What the hell is going on?
The 3th winter of corona misfortune.
I listened to the voices that I heard from the “food distribution” site.
(Photographer Yoshihiro Kodama, Press Bureau Video Center)
*The video is 5 minutes and 9 seconds and was broadcast in December.
Data broadcasting is not available.
A park in Ikebukuro that changes its expression
An anime cosplay event was held at Higashi-Ikebukuro Central Park next to Ikebukuro's landmark "Sunshine 60".
It is a typical Ikebukuro holiday scene enjoyed by over 100 cosplayers in bright red and blue costumes, amidst anime songs echoing in the park.
But there are days when things change.
"This is the end of the line. We will distribute bento to everyone, so please don't panic and line up."
At 6pm, hundreds of people fill the darkened park.
At the end of the line of people who gathered is "bento".
This is a “cooking out” event held twice a month by an NPO.
The number of people queuing continues to increase
November last year.
A record 542 people lined up on a day when the temperature was 5 degrees Celsius.
I waited patiently for my turn, clutching the body warmer that the volunteer had given me.
It's been 20 years since an NPO started cooking.
We are active with donations from citizens and support funds from the government.
Originally, we cooked and acted at this place, but we switched to lunch boxes to prevent infection.
The number of people lining up continued to increase little by little each year, and the number of people lined up increased rapidly due to the influence of the new coronavirus.
It has almost doubled from three years ago.
Even in the past year or so, when the city has slowly returned to life, the number of people who gather here continues to increase.
why is it?
Younger generation also to "cooking out"
Looking at the people lined up, I noticed an increase in the number of young people in their 30s and 40s who, at first glance, don't seem to be in need of a living, dressed in suits, leather shoes, skirts and coats.
<Male in his 40s>
A man wearing a popular brand of clothes with beautiful white sneakers.
He has been going to the soup kitchen for three months.
When I asked him why he had to line up at the soup kitchen, he gave an unexpected answer.
"I'm working. I'm a full-time employee."
I was surprised because I had thought that the image of the soup kitchen would be people who were so poor that they had nothing to eat that day.
Don't you need a lunch box?
When I asked him about it, he said, "For the past three years, my salary has been decreasing little by little. I have no idea how much it will decrease."
A man lives alone.
At first, he felt that it was inevitable that his salary would be reduced, but he is worried about the future as it continues to decrease even after three years.
"It's still tough now. But if it gets even tougher in the future, I'll have to start saving money now in order to survive."
<Female in her 30s>
A woman who works part-time with her elderly parents is said to share the lunch she receives with her parents.
"Right now, I'm barely able to live on my part-time pay and my parents' pension. I don't know when I'll be laid off. In the future, I may have to take care of my elderly parents. I live with anxiety and fear every day." He told me.
<A couple in their 40s>
Some couples were lined up.
Couples who have been married for several years are worried that their husband, who works as a temporary worker, will not have a stable job.
“I was working as a temporary worker, but my contract was suddenly terminated. Every time I was terminated, my life became more difficult. .
Many of the people who told me about the situation said that their salaries had decreased even though they were still working, and that they were worried about restructuring.
The working generation, who are worried about the prolonged corona disaster and high prices, are visiting the soup kitchen.
I was looking to change jobs...
In some cases, people who want to change jobs to get over their anxiety about their lives visit the soup kitchen.
<Ms. A, she is a 35-year-old woman>
In one corner of the venue, I met a woman who was talking to an NPO employee.
Mr. A, who visited the park for the first time that day, is 35 years old (pseudonym).
I quit my job four months ago and was living at a friend's house.
It is said that he happened to pass by the park on that day and visited for consultation.
I wasn't going to pick up the bento.
"I still think that if I don't choose a job, I can find a new job. There are many people who are more desperate than me, so I think that such people should receive it."
I should have walked properly
Mr. A graduated from a graduate school at a national university and has worked as a researcher at a cosmetics manufacturer.
However, wearing a mask decreased the sales of cosmetics, worsened the company's business performance, reduced my salary, and continued to eat away at my savings.
I decided to change jobs to get my life back while I still had time to spare.
In order to cut down on expenses, I canceled the apartment I was living in and moved into an acquaintance's house to look for a new job.
I'm looking for re-employment, mainly in industries that are less affected by the spread of infection, but I haven't had any experience in this kind of work, so I haven't been able to get hired.
It was a harsh word that the counselor said to Mr. A.
"If you run out of savings, you'll need life insurance."
It seemed that he was very shocked by the word "welfare protection" that he had never thought of.
"I will decide to find a new job as soon as possible and rebuild my life. I don't think I will come to this park again."
After that, I sent an email to Mr. A, but there was no reply, and I could not contact him.
Volunteer who experienced the same situation "Maybe I'll line up again"
There is a person who had the same experience as Mr. A.
I am Mr. Hattori (29), a volunteer at the soup kitchen.
Until the summer of the year before last, Mr. Hattori was one of the people waiting in line for the soup kitchen.
He said, "The bento I received was very warm. It made me very happy. I'm participating in volunteer work because I want to repay the kindness."
Mr. Hattori was the manager of a restaurant.
Due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection, his business performance deteriorated and customers continued to come, so I decided to change jobs to a different industry due to anxiety and retired.
However, he fell ill and was recuperating for half a year, after which he began to work towards re-employment.
He said he was still in his 20s and was in the prime of his life and thought he would find a job soon.
“I passed 100 companies, but I didn’t get any.
Three months later, he finally got a job as a contract employee at an IT-related company, and was able to live without having to wait in line for a soup kitchen.
Recently, as the infection spreads again, Mr. Hattori says that he feels something when he sees people lined up.
“There are more and more people of my generation waiting in line. Now, anyone has the potential to stand in line.
Mr. Hattori talked while looking at the leftover bento after the “food distribution” that day.
“I might be queuing up again for the next soup kitchen.
At the soup kitchen one month later
On December 24th of last year, the streets of Ikebukuro were busy on Christmas Eve.
On the other hand, more than 500 people were lined up at the park where the food was served.
Among them was Mr. A, who said, "I will never come here again."
When I called out to him with a stiff expression, he said, "I haven't decided on a job yet. My acquaintance who is freeloading is moving and I have to leave within a few days."
Only a few savings left.
I ended up living in a temporary housing called a shelter provided by an NPO.
On the way back to the station after receiving the bento.
Mr. A spoke weakly.
"Even though you've been walking properly, if you take a wrong step, you'll fall regardless of what you've built up until now."
When we parted, I asked Mr. A what he wanted the most right now.
"I want a place where I can stay forever. I want a place where I won't be kicked out."