Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
It is encouraging to read news of a planned crackdown on drunk driving (“Cities toughen penalties on employees’ drunken driving,” September 20). But it is sad that this and other recent, new anti-drunk driving campaigns were 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 in general - maybe a public morality campaign targeting the vice of drunkenness. Tolerating drunks in public seems to be a measure of tolerance. In addition, it passes as a kind of
safety valve for the stresses of society and might be called 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 people walking down the street with a can of vending machine beer in their hands are daily sites here. Drinking - including drinking to excess - is encouraged in Japan, with after work group parties, company excursions, cherry blossom viewing parties, year end parties, etc.
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. It is not normal. And, when I see a person smoking a cigarette, or another drinking an alcoholic beverage I know that I am looking at drug addicts.
Is that view excessively narrow and harsh? Maybe.
Published on Wednesday, October 11, 2006 as “Walking drug addicts among us.”
Fed up with Japanese indulgence of smoking and drinking drove me to a hard line. Alcohol and tobacco are drugs. Regular use of them is an indicator of drug addiction. Because they are legal substances their categorization as “drugs” may be contested, but ... I think it is dishonest to pretend otherwise, and one thing I want my letters to do is to prick and burst dishnonesty.