Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Yeah, that is a pretty infestation of them you have right there"

Now, I guess this is subjective depending on where you come from, but with my Swedish eyes Japan has a lot of homeless people. Without having any kind of scientific study to back me up or basically anything more than my own observations during the close to ten years I've been living here in Japan now, I would like to say that they can broadly be defined into three separate categories.

First we have the "normal" type, people who don't have a real place to stay, but still manage to make some money and keep themselves somewhat clean to the degree that it can be hard to spot them since they can blend in pretty good. As far as I can guess I would think that these are people that had a real work, company or such but fell on hard times and ended up on the street. Then there's the "drug abuser" type of homeless person, these are more visible and they tend to be nursing some form of alcohol and even though they are not extremely filthy and/or smelly, they usually seem to care considerably less of their own personal hygiene than the "normal" type. Depending on degree of intoxication these people can range from "no bother at all" to "highly disturbing".
But then we have the most unpredictable type, the "mentally deranged" type of homeless people. These are, as far as my observations go, people who due to some mental disorder, are not able to maintain a normal lifestyle and end up on the street and I guess in some cases any sickness they might suffer from is enhanced through substance abuse.

These type of people are just something you get used to when living in Japan, they're a regular sight in most areas and I would believe that most readers who live in Japan have their own local homeless person in their specific area.

Now, I have one of the homeless that would fall in the third category in my area. I've actually gotten a bit used to him and except for a pretty aggressive smell he doesn't seem to cause any harm and seems to be happy talking to himself. I see him on an almost daily basis and he still hasn't changed his outfit once in all that time. On my way to my commuter train I walk through a "garden path" and he has made that area his nesting ground in the middle of the houses that surround the path. He has chosen a spot where he seems to do most of his sleeping. However, just last week as I was merrily walking home from my great job and approaching his little place and getting ready to take a deep breath so I could avoid some of the odor I was suprised to see the area marked by some cones and a rudimentary "fence" closing off the area with a sign saying "it is forbidden to litter here up to a fine of 10 million Japanese yen". I assume that the family living in the house just where he sleeps got tired of having him there and called the park authorities.

But this doesn't really seem to have shaken my little friend much since the next day I saw him again, this time he had relocated 50 meters down the path and I assume that this little cat and mouse game will continue for quite some time and the authorities will have a hard time catching up on him. I'm looking forward to follow the developments in this little war that has erupted!

If you're wondering, the picture shows the hedged of area where he used to nest.


lina said...

I don't know why but we always met with friendly homeless people when we're vacationing in Japan. There was once in Ueno Park we talked at length with a homeless guy with excellent command of English.Maybe we should be more wary...

But what I see, locals seem to stay away from these folks, from what I observed in the trains. Nobody seems to want to sit beside them. Better for him to have more space to sleep! :D

john turningpin said...

Ran into a homeless guy having a very animated discussion with a tree one time. My friend and I gave him some change. He bowed slightly, mumbled a thank you and went back to talking to the tree.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Don't worry Lina, if they seem ok they probably are but if they are talking to trees you should probably be a bit vary.

Ueno Koen by the way is the premium place to live for homeless, most people there have better housing than when I moved here!

Yoe said...

Hmm the photo looks very much like the path I take to my train in the mornings... and there also lives this man, entirely blackened, and he has not changed his outfit for the 3.5 years I've lived here.

Foggia said...

I love how the authorities use those cones and bars to fence everything off.
The most I've seen was to prevent illegal bike parking.

As in: "Parking bikes here prevent the use of this public space, so we're going to fence this space off for no use instead. Thanks for your cooperation".

Metropolitan insanity.

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