The introduction begins with an overview of the sources of the study: articles by journalists like Yokoyama Gennosuke and Matsubara Iwagorō, official records, and reminiscences of literary figures. It then notes the dominant motifs of popular late-Meiji writers who saw the hinmin as pitiable, responsible for their own plights, lazy and morally lax—in other words, inferior. That section is followed by a summary of key themes of social scientists, particularly Nakagawa Kiyoshi, who have found a less pejorative, more objective reality characterized by dense housing, low wages, long work hours, and multiple reasons for being poor. The introduction concludes with a summary of the key points that the book will make in its effort to understand how the poor themselves experienced life: that life was grim, that the hinmin were resilient with a strong sense of agency, and that joy and hope were important in their lives.
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