What's in the bag?

By William Wetherall

An unpublished sidebar written for
The Japan Times Weekly

Filed 30 January 1988
Posted December 2002

Most vagrants lug around shopping bags that contain their few personal belongings, a supply of food, and reading matter that can vary from pornographic comic books to classical literature. They may have money, too.

Take Hirobumi Maruyama, a jobless itinerant construction worker with no fixed address on 19 August 1980, when deranged and drinking he set fire to a bus in front of Shinjuku station and killed or injured 20 people. Maruyama had been living in Tokyo for several years and had once stayed in San'ya.

A week before his crime, Maruyama had quit a job as a day laborer at a construction site in Setagaya ward where he also bunked. He had worked around 20 days and earned about \70,000, and after quitting he had loitered around Shinjuku and slept outdoors or in the station.

The paper bag he was carrying when arrested held a relatively new blanket, and scraps of food he reportedly had picked out of garbage cans, including about 30 small pieces of fried chicken, some crushed bread, and decaying fish. He was also in possession of 23,172 yen in cash, and a bank deposit book showing a balance of 255,617 yen.