Man killed in 'street sleeping' epidemic causing chaos on Japanese island

A man has been killed in the road amid a ‘drunk street sleeping’ epidemic on a Japanese island.

The 75-year-old was run over at around 3am yesterday in Tamagi Funakoshi, Nanjo City, Okinawa.

He was apparently sleeping in the street when he was hit by a university student’s car.

Police have not said the unemployed man was intoxicated, however Okinawa has been battling ‘alcohol-fuelled somnolence’ for years.

The 21-year-old student driving the car told police: “I found an object lying on the road and tried to avoid it, but I felt like I was riding on something.

“When I stopped the car and confirmed, a man fell down in the centre of the road.”



The unconscious man was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police are investigating why he was in the road, with an autopsy set to take place.

Last year, Okinawa officers dealt with more than 7,000 cases of ‘rojo-ne’, a Japanese phrase meaning ‘sleeping on the road’.

The phenomenon is believed to be caused by Okinawa’s warm tropical climate and the popularity of alcohol on the island, the Japanese newspaper Mainichi reports.

A powerful Okinawa spirit called awamori has been partly blamed for the drunkeness.

Some intoxicated men and women have even stripped naked on the ground under the mistaken belief that they are home.

Local police chief Tadataka Miyazawa said: “I didn’t even know the term ‘rojo-ne’ before coming to Okinawa. I think it’s a phenomenon unique to Okinawa.”

Some of the ‘street sleepers’ apparently use curbs as pillows because they are cooling in the heat.

The authorities have revealed that three men died in Okinawa because of the epidemic in 2019.

A 63-year-old man, who was apparently asleep in the road, was fatally run over in Uruma city in 2018, the Okinawa Times reports.

In 2017, a taxi driver killed a 37-year-old teacher in Yonabaru town and later told police he did not see the ‘sleeping’ man.

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