The Daily Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8247
It is encouraging to read news of a planned crackdown on drunk driving (“Police target drunk drivers,” September 10, 2006). But it is sad that this new anti-drunk driving campaign was motivated only by a recent spate of particularly horrible deaths at the hands of drunks behind the wheel.
I would feel more encouraged still, however, for a crackdown on public drunkenness, period - maybe a public morality campaign targeting the vice of drunkenness. Tolerating public drunkenness as a kind of safety valve for the stresses of society seems to be a feature of Japanese culture. Drunks passed out on the trains, the train station platforms, the city streets, and either driving themselves home, or being driven home by taxi cab, plus walking down the street with a can of vending machine beer in one’s hand are still daily sites here. Drinking, including drinking to excess, are encouraged in Japan, with after work group parties, company excursions, etc. And, I have seen billboards advertising some brand of wine, in English, as “Man’s best friend.”
Alcohol and tobacco are drugs, but legally sanctioned ones that are lucrative for government bean counters. To be drunk means that one has taken an overdose of the drug of alcohol, and when I see a person smoking a cigarette or drinking an alcoholic beverage I know that I am looking at a drug addict.
Is that view excessively narrow and harsh? Maybe. But it is accurate nonetheless.