Friday, July 13, 2012

Sign of the Times?

Today, for the first time EVER, a guy approached me in Azabu Juban and said he was homeless and hungry.

He was reasonably well-dressed and spoke to me in very polite Japanese.

I offered him the cheese-filled imagawa-yaki I had just bought to bring home for the kids, but he said, "No, I'd rather have a bento. Do you have any money?"

Nice try. I wished him luck, and walked away.

I wonder why he approached a foreigner? I noticed over the years that there is something about me that makes homeless people approach me -- maybe they can somehow sense (correctly) that I never ignore them, and always speak to them? I don't know.

Maybe he was less shy about begging for money for food (or liquor, or who knows what else) from someone clearly from outside his society? Maybe he thought that many white people in Japan are Christians and are therefore more likely to do an act of charity?

I also noticed something else, walking through Shiba Park at night recently.

In addition to the usual homeless people -- the ones dressed in rags, muttering to themselves, with their belongings in dozens of shopping bags around them -- there are people sleeping on the benches wearing construction-worker clothing. Sometimes pairs of their washed underwear and socks are drying on the back of the bench.

Ah, Japan, where the Lost Decade never ended.

So how does one explain the yield on the benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond falling to a nine-year low?

I guess right now, the rest of the world is just as lost.


Anonymous Chris said...

I experience anyway that Japanese really look down on the poor in a way that makes being poor look contagious like the flu.

Good food offer and booze block ;)

6:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I experience anyway, for what it's worth, is that it is taken for granted that there is a certain level of intelligence in society, and capacity for self-sufficiency, and that it is the mentally ill or incapable that are frowned upon, not disdainfully, but accepted by others that their fate is the lot they've chosen.

My husband tells me that after the war, thousands of young men were seen waiting for buses, or at train stations, wrapped in bandages, missing limbs, etc. but carrying on to keep going.

As for free meals, my family and I were in St. Louis on vacation once, and stopped at MdDonald's when a young man came up to us and said he was hungry. We'd saved some sandwiches for later, and offer them to him. He said, 'no' that he wanted something else and a pop and threw our offering in a nearby trash can.

People that come up to us anymore are ignored. Basically I carry no cash on my person, so whether we're downtown 4th Avenue, East Meridian Street, Michigan Avenue, Broadway, or Ismailovskya Market, 'so sorry, charlie'.

And, my husband says ... but then, He was born right after the war, and has lived in the US for 30 years and says he still doesn't understand the mentality of people of the desert religions.


7:57 PM  
Blogger Susie Eichel said...

I stopped being charitable. I got sick and tired of offering up food and then have it declined in an effort to ask for money.
My sister was a drug addict and would call me frequently for money because she was hungry. I would always offer to make her food and send her home with some. And every time she would decline and then lower the amount of cash she asked for. I never did give her money.

I feel bad because I never know who really is in need. So I just treat everyone the same. They get nothing from me now. :(

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did he have glasses?

There's a guy who's been doing this for years. I've been approached at least ten times at Shibuya and Yokohama stations. He declines food and always asks for money, in polite Japanese, says that foreigners are the kindest people and that he's hungry.

I gave him money once but never again since he declined food.


1:19 AM  

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