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Drunks passed out on the streets of Tokyo
June 3, 2014 12:42 PM   Subscribe

photographed for an ad against overindulgence. "After a stressful week, Friday and Saturday are the days when hard-working Japanese men and women 'let their hair down' by taking part in post-work 'drinking until you drop,' says Yaocho Bar Group, which launched the alcohol awareness campaign. Combined with a low alcohol tolerance common among the Asian population, consequences of the wild weekend partying can be less than ideal."

This also occurs frequently in Seoul.
posted by ChuckRamone (44 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why don't they just get in their cars and drive home, like in the US?
posted by thelonius at 12:46 PM on June 3 [19 favorites]


That's an especially attractive group of passed out drunks to have been fortuitously found for this campaign.
posted by deathmaven at 12:55 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I've experienced the roving packs of drunken salary men in suits, weaving about the Shinjuku station, mostly arm in arm so none of them fall onto the tracks. It was almost as weird as the giant ashtray at another station that had caught on fire.
posted by tommasz at 1:05 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I want to believe this happened, and they aren't actors, but I can't.

Also the only photos that come up in a twitter search are the ones from the video.
posted by joelf at 1:13 PM on June 3


This is weird.

If this is a part of the culture, and no one is getting hurt or taken advantage of, I wonder why a bar would seek to shame people out of this behavior. I'm trying to wrap my head around it. It's not like anyone is saying, X people die because of this, or "Stop it Yoshi, you're embarrassing me!" What exactly is the problem, aside from having to side-step drunks?

I don't like passed out drunks any more than the next person, I sure don't like slurring, staggering drunks, but that's my personal problem.

So...what exactly is this all about?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:16 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I just found an article saying this is not a real trend in Japan and probably just a PR stunt, capitalizing on Westerners' lust for weird tales of Asian behavior. I didn't know that when I posted it.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:23 PM on June 3 [14 favorites]


Ruthless Bunny, it strikes me that this campaign is paid for by a chain of bars. Could it be a post-modern commercial for the bar chain?
posted by Sara C. at 1:25 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


Tokyo is the only place where I feel safe enough to pass out drunk, though I've never actually done it. I've seen the stumbling, lurching, half-asleep drunks and I've never seen anyone mess with them until this ad campaign. I don't know, maybe they're well-intentioned, but I find this campaign reprehensible.
posted by GrapeApiary at 1:25 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


having lived in tokyo, the only thing i found strange was the part about this happening more on friday and saturday nights.
posted by ecourbanist at 1:27 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


The debunking article makes this a pretty damn interesting post.
posted by stbalbach at 1:31 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


Yeah, that Medium article pretty well debunks this as a real thing, and more of a showpiece for Ogilvy+Mather Japan, hoping to win an award somewhere. The point about the hashtag being in Roman letters is especially damning.

Not that drunk people don't pass out on the streets, because they do, but it's not a health* and safety issue to do so.

Really, the idea that sleeping drunks are a major societal ill that needs to be fixed is a bit of a stretch. It’s true that passed-out salarymen are a common sight in Japan. But that’s because Japan’s a relatively safe place. Even in Tokyo, you can sleep on the street, and odds are that nobody will bother you — which is why most people don’t seem to regard sleeping on a bench a big deal. Police, who often don’t have anything else better to do, will sometimes wake the person up and send them home in a taxi. Sometimes they’ll even lend you cab fare if you’re broke.

*I'm pretty sure that overall physical health does suffer from drinking that much, but that does not appear to be an overwhelming concern.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:33 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


That Medium article is really spot on.

Maybe this is a better comment for MetaTalk, but I wish OPs could append amendments to the FPP to add value to it, instead of having it just sit in the comments.
posted by kyp at 1:44 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


People totally sleep out in Tokyo and other cities. I've done it myself. And it's not just for drunk nights, it can be that you've missed your train or stayed out so long that there is no point in making the trip back home before you have to be back at work. You find someplace exposed, actually, like a boulder in a park, and with plenty of other sleepers around because it's safer that way. There's always plenty of ambient light and city noise, but it's very easy and safe to drop off.
posted by jfwlucy at 1:46 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


What an oddly perky tune they chose to play.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:47 PM on June 3


Hope I'm not being too threadshitty here but I don't think the reasons for this are purely because of how safe Japan is. I think there's also an element of how Asians process alcohol, which is often not well at all, considering that about 50% of Asians have the gene for the alcohol flush reaction. After reading the Medium article, I did find this to appear manufactured, but it was believable at first because it really is a pretty common sight in East Asia considering the drinking culture.

But, yes, I agree with kyp that amendments would be a nice feature.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:52 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


This is a little too close to using a marker to fuck up the face of a drunkard at a party*. I have always considered this cruel.

* Among most of my friends the rule is you are passed out if your forgot to take your boots off.
posted by poe at 1:57 PM on June 3


Wait, so if your shoes are off, I'm allowed to draw on your face?
posted by Omnomnom at 2:04 PM on June 3


And it's not just for drunk nights, it can be that you've missed your train or stayed out so long that there is no point in making the trip back home before you have to be back at work.

The guys that pass out on the train station stairs and stuff though...they're probably drunk. If we missed last train, usually it was sleep in a park or an internet cafe, because they often have sofas. But you gotta pay at the end I suppose.

I remember when my sister was visiting me in Kanagawa, we came home (pretty drunk ourselves, I might add) and there was a guy asleep on the stairs of my building. Like, his back was across 4 or 5 steps, it did not look comfortable at all. I hadn't encountered this before, and it was far from any train station, so we made the mistake of waking him to see if he was OK. He was not happy. Fuck him, though, I couldn't even get into my building because of where he was lying. Bad form, drunk dude, I hope you had a terrible hangover.
posted by Hoopo at 2:06 PM on June 3


Tokyoite for the past decade here. I can assure you that this is a very real phenomenon, though not a plague of epic proportions. You see drunk salarymen passed out in trains and on the platforms most often. More often I'll see street pizza and have to jump over someone's half-digested ramen from the night before.

Blaming the individual drunks is kind of beside the point. The real problem is the business culture in Japan, which essentially creates this. Passing out on the street is just a symptom. It differs slightly company by company, but often the salaryman is expected, after working a 10-hour day, to go out drinking with officemates for hours more. This pressure to go out is the real issue.
posted by zardoz at 3:10 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


This is what the other pill does.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:19 PM on June 3


i for one will confess to having woken up in coney island at the end of the line on the Q train to discover myself the participant of a group slumber party with a bunch of strangers.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 3:40 PM on June 3 [6 favorites]


This is an odd advertising campaign, because in the weirdest way possible, they want you to drink.

Attractive people, looking well-off, enjoying the drinks...

Yeah. You too can be a bougie boozer!
posted by hal_c_on at 4:01 PM on June 3


Police, who often don’t have anything else better to do...

I feel so lied to by all those Yakuza movies.
posted by Sara C. at 4:33 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


In another thread or two this came up recently and mentions of "side-stepping puddles of vomit in Tokyo" were made by more than one MeFite living in Japan. That could be pretty terrible and a possible health or just general cleanliness issue for the city's image, but could be exaggerated.

That certainly happens everywhere where bars and streets converge, it's just a matter of degree...
posted by aydeejones at 4:56 PM on June 3


The debunking article makes this a pretty damn interesting post.

I agree. It felt like it was reaching a bit/uninformed when it tried to make the "low alcohol tolerance is totally a myth white people invented" point, but it put up some pretty damning evidence.

It ratchets this up to a new level of bizarre and fucked up for sure.

From the medium post though: I also have a hard time believing that a place that has two-hour all-you-can-drink specials would be worried about binge drinking.

And neither am i. Shit, i know where i'm stopping if i'm ever in the area.
posted by emptythought at 5:00 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


So...it's as bogus as I thought it was. Good to know.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:52 PM on June 3


Ruthless Bunny et al, I don't know why that "debunking" article has such a sway on you guys, but rest assured this is a very real thing and it happens every single day in Tokyo. Somewhere right now (well, early morning and late night anyway) there is a drunken, passed out salaryman.

I agree. It felt like it was reaching a bit/uninformed when it tried to make the "low alcohol tolerance is totally a myth white people invented" point, but it put up some pretty damning evidence.

Asian flush is one term for this, which comes from the people's skin turning red when drinking, even just a little. My wife is Japanese and has Asian flush; one or two drinks and she's as red as a beet and three sheets to the wind. Something like a third to half of East Asians lack the enzyme that breaks down alcohol.
posted by zardoz at 8:35 PM on June 3


i at least, and it seems most others weren't disbelieving people passing out like this wasn't real. Just that this video and anything depicted or stated in it was anything but a staged joke full of actors.

The only real thing here is that people pass out on the street.
posted by emptythought at 8:43 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I can find almost nothing in Japanese on the net about this campaign. (A total of 126 hits for "八百長" "nomisugi") The only stuff I can find has no quotes from any other Japanese sites, no quotes from anyone at Yaocho, no quotes from anything except the ad itself and western media sites like Mashable and Russia Today.

Plus, the whole tone of the thing ("As honour is paramount in Japanese minds, we decided to shame people into behaving") doesn't sound Japanese, it sounds like how westerners imagine Japanese.

Plus, Japanese are extremely focused on privacy, and on "portrait rights". Go check out Japanese wikipedia: you will find almost no photographs of people. Sites which contain pictures taken on the streets have the faces of people blurred out. Google encountered tremendous resistance when it rolled out Street View. I'd say only in the last two or three years have people started using photos of their faces as their Facebook profile photos. Back when Mixi was the dominant social networking site, people not only didn't use photos of their faces, they didn't even use their real names. The decision to make an ad campaign focused on drunk people who don't even know they are being photographed A) would run afoul of portrait rights law, and B) would piss off pretty much everybody, not just the folks being photographed.

The Kotaku article discusses that as well.

My guess is that the idea came from a non-Japanese guy working at Ogilvy. It reads like someone who knows enough about Japan to recognize the "drunk guy on train station stairs" trope, so someone living here, but not enough to know (or care) about the privacy rights issue, and who still has a fairly orientalist take on Japan.

zardoz: "I don't know why that "debunking" article has such a sway on you guys, but rest assured this is a very real thing and it happens every single day in Tokyo."

Did you read the debunking article? It says nothing at all about the phenomenon of people drunkenly sleeping on the streets. It's a debunking of the ad campaign.

aydeejones: "In another thread or two this came up recently and mentions of "side-stepping puddles of vomit in Tokyo" were made by more than one MeFite living in Japan. That could be pretty terrible and a possible health or just general cleanliness issue for the city's image, but could be exaggerated."

It's not exaggerated, but I'd guess it depends what you're comparing it to. (The only cities I've lived in where walking and public transportation are the main means of transportation have been Japanese cities. Perhaps in non-Japanese cities where people don't drive it's the same, I dunno. But I certainly never encountered the street-pizza thing in Houston or Los Angeles)
posted by Bugbread at 8:48 PM on June 3 [8 favorites]


Yeah, sure, "Asian flush" is a real thing for a subset of the population but there are tons of people who can process ethanol just as efficiently as Caucasians.

The liver is a wonderful organ capable of continually producing detoxifying enzymes, and since enzymes are catalysts (they don't get "used up" for every molecule of ethanol it turns into acetaldehyde), its easy to build up tolerance via increased rates of elimination.

There's also a central nervous system component where chronic exposure can change cell surface receptor (all kinds, GABAARs are pretty major) levels promoting protection from the effects of blood ethanol levels as well as more generalized network connectivity changes that arise from chronically compensating for ethanol-disrupted network activity.

I'm HongKongnese, am drunk, and could probably drink in the top 10% 5% of Metafilter in my weight class.
posted by porpoise at 8:57 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


You know what...Yaocho didn't even post the ad on Facebook until after the campaign started, right? And it's far from "one of the biggest bar chains in Tokyo". It has a total of two bars. And the whole campaign seems to be "show us a picture and you'll get a free shot of tequila".

So, new theory: Ogilvy made this as a "proof-of-concept" or "aiming-for-ad-award" or whatever, without consulting with Yaocho, or maybe as far as "Can we use your logo in an ad we're making for a design contest?". Then after the fake ad starts getting traction on the net, Yaocho decides "Well, I guess this is taking off overseas. It's kinda free advertising. Put a link up on Facebook, and, I dunno, give people a shot of tequila if they do whatever it said in that video."
posted by Bugbread at 8:58 PM on June 3


But I certainly never encountered the street-pizza thing in Houston or Los Angeles

Oh, it's alive and well in Los Angeles. Usually in areas that are more walkable and associated with nightlife. I dodged one on Hollywood Blvd. outside the IOWest improv joint just last weekend. I think it might have been on Chris Farley's walk of fame star. That's a tribute, for you.

I saw it constantly in New York City, too. It's definitely not unique to Japan, at all.
posted by Sara C. at 9:03 PM on June 3


Sara C.: "Oh, it's alive and well in Los Angeles. Usually in areas that are more walkable and associated with nightlife."

What about residential areas? That may be the difference. You can find street pizza pretty much anywhere here, because people are just as likely to throw up walking home from the station near their house after drinking as they are walking to the station near the bar. I mean, true, you find more puke in Shinjuku than in the suburbs, but I never saw any street puke in Eagle Rock or Pasadena in the three years I was there, and the last puke I saw in Kawasaki was four days ago.
posted by Bugbread at 9:07 PM on June 3


(Also, yeah, I don't think anyone thinks it's really unique to Japan, just that it's more common in pedestrian-oriented Japan than in the more automobile-oriented US)
posted by Bugbread at 9:09 PM on June 3


No, but in New York, where nobody has cars, there's vomit everywhere.

It's not New Years Eve in Manhattan if you don't see some girl with her ass hanging out of a sparkly minidress bent over puking on the sidewalk.
posted by Sara C. at 9:09 PM on June 3


emptythought: "From the medium post though: "I also have a hard time believing that a place that has two-hour all-you-can-drink specials would be worried about binge drinking."

Shit, i know where i'm stopping if i'm ever in the area.
"

Most of the bars in Japan have "two hour all-you-can drink" things.
posted by Bugbread at 9:12 PM on June 3


I saw it constantly in New York City, too. It's definitely not unique to Japan, at all.

Sure, people get drunk and puke everywhere. I've been to both Japan and NYC, and in Japan it's super-not-uncommon to see salarymen drunk and passed out on the train. I have a particularly vivid memory of a guy asleep with his head on his arms, face down, and a pool of saliva accumulating on the subway car floor between his knees. There's a definite cultural thing about this specific thing (I think I remember reading, or being told, that there's a machismo element to going out with other dudes and drinking your face off, though when I went out there wasn't a whiff of that, which may be because I didn't go out on the town with people I worked with). I can't remember encountering anything like that in NYC, though I'm sure it does happen, but probably not for the same reasons or with the same frequency (or among the same demographic).
posted by axiom at 9:22 PM on June 3


Yeah, in NYC there's lots of puke, but it's generally assumed that the person passed out on your front stoop (also totally normal thing to have happen) is homeless or has a severe substance abuse problem that puts him outside the mainstream of society.

Though I did once see a finance bro stone cold sleeping it off at a table in Starbucks at 7 AM.

I totally believe that the sleeping in public thing is a Japanese phenomenon, though -- I was just clarifying about the "street pizza", which, yes, is seen anywhere people ever walk while drunk.
posted by Sara C. at 9:24 PM on June 3


Yeah, sure, "Asian flush" is a real thing for a subset of the population but there are tons of people who can process ethanol just as efficiently as Caucasians.

That "subset" is a third to half of Chinese and Japanese people, so it's a pretty darn big subset. This article gets into the genetics pretty deeply.
posted by zardoz at 10:52 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Shame Society vs Guilt Society. It's no small subject but a society will use what works. We look at Asian countries through the wrong lens if we don't recognise our own Judeo-Christian cultural bias. It is of course a universal truth that Americans are shameless :)
posted by vicx at 1:07 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


vicx: "Shame Society vs Guilt Society."

Go ahead and read what it actually says in that "Shame Society" article about Japan. Like I said, that bit about "As honour is paramount in Japanese minds, we decided to shame people into behaving" doesn't sound Japanese, it sounds like how westerners imagine Japanese.
posted by Bugbread at 1:31 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Bugbread, I agree :/ and this is the wrong thread to drop those labels anyway. Lets just say those labels are hyperbolic. However when I think about cultural differences across the entire world, I think we must have cultural baggage. In addition I have to imagine that the forces of technological change are smashing those cultural biases to pieces so that it is possible to have heavily culturally fractured societies where there are enclaves of new world culture and conservative culture living side by side. Now I will read your blog :)
posted by vicx at 3:16 AM on June 4


Eh. Re: Vomit and NYC vs Tokyo. I've lived in NYC off and on for a decade, lived in London for a bit more than two years, and have probably spent a month in aggregate in Tokyo. London you see more drunks on the train, but in that one month in aggregate in Tokyo I'm pretty sure I saw more actual people vomiting on the subway than I have during my time in NYC or London.

Last January some dude just casually vomited into his hands at like 5:30 on a Thursday as he was sitting next to my wife.
posted by JPD at 5:30 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Being roughly half German and half Scots-Irish, genetically speaking, and being a man of some heft, drinking in Japan was...weird. They aren't kidding about ethnic Japanese and an "interesting" relationship with alcohol. Yeah...it's not a Fri/Sat thing. In my experience it was Mo-Fr night, because apparently the expectation was that every work day was capped with team drinking at the local bars. I could drink vastly more than most of the folks I dealt with and maintain a degree of coherence. There seemed to be a very bright line between "be completely in control" and "being completely fucked up beyond this point is fine". Many a night ended with me, the Ugly American, herding cats trying to get a pack of incoherent, blind drunk salarymen onto a train back to wherever they called home. Vomiting was often involved.

Scary thing was that these folks would be back in the office, bright and early, in a much better mood than me.
posted by kjs3 at 9:44 PM on June 4


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