Riding the Yamanote with an American friend who has lived in Japan the past four years, I was telling him about how San Francisco’s homeless population, thousands of people with high rates of mental illness, drug addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, make street life so unpleasant for all but the wealthiest neighborhoods. It’s common to see people shooting up, defecating, and ranting. When a homeless man spat on my husband’s face, I think he never wanted to live in San Francisco again.
Then my friend pointed out this guy sitting behind me. Clearly he was homeless and sleeping in the train that continually circles the city. I was amazed by his hand-quilted pants. For a person with few material resources, he has the vision to create an art project of his own pants: safety pins and thread holding hundreds of fabric scraps, and even wrappers and face masks.Very high-fashion, and clearly expressing creativity and dignity in spite of his hardship.
There is no end to people watching in Tokyo’s JR trains and metro.