Ah, homelessness! Most people think of it with horror, not as a condition to be aspired to. A few people – a very few – are different. Without them life would be duller. Weekly Playboy (Nov 16) investigates “positive homelessness,” and, sure enough, finds individuals who bless the day they became homeless, however traumatic the descent was at first.
We start with Keigo Sakazume, 30. “I was looking forward,” he says, “to getting Valentine's Day chocolates from the woman I was living with.” What he got instead was goodbye; she was tired of him, he was dismissed. “And so it was that one snowy winter evening in mid-February 2014, I became homeless.”
Perhaps he could have negotiated a stay of execution, but, evidently an unconventional sort, instead of feeling sorry for himself, he saw a challenge to rise to. For a few days he stayed with friends, but “I only have so many friends,” and he found besides that, posting his plight on Facebook and elsewhere, he drew a sympathetic response – a fairly massive one. People offered him meals, accommodations. He would say, “Is there anything I can do for you in return?” He was a qualified teacher of cooking, so cooking was one service he could perform. And in any house, there’s always something that needs doing – “I became a jack of all trades,” asking no money in return, just a meal and a night’s lodging.
“I’ve never been happier,” he says. He’s freed himself from the money economy. “I say, ‘Use me as you please’ – which sounds like slavery,” but isn’t voluntary slavery freedom by another name? And grateful “clients” have offered him unusual tokens of gratitude – a motorcycle, a tent, a sleeping bag, even a car. “I used to think you can’t live without a house.” Discovering you can “has cast a whole new light on human relationships.”
Makoto Kotani is Weekly Playboy’s Case 2. He’d been trying to make it as a comedian, but at 32 had to face the fact that things weren’t going well. His comedy team broke up. A friend suggested he hit the road penniless and see what happened. Inspiration was the goal, and inspiration he found – though in rather an unexpected form.
His state was not enviable. He was eating convenience store refuse and sleeping rough on cardboard. Like Sakazume, he tweeted and posted, and drew a sympathetic response. His situation evolved similarly – odd jobs in return for whatever the recipient felt like giving (though Kotani did charge a fee: 50 yen).
What tasks didn’t he perform? He weeded lawns, painted walls, helped people move house. If someone was depressed and needed someone to talk to, he listened. If an artist needed a nude model, he took off his clothes. Once or twice he was sent abroad on errands.
Then one day came a puzzling request. A woman in Nagoya wanted to “play tag.” So from his home in Osaka he traveled – at the lady’s expense – to Nagoya, where he found that “playing tag” meant just that, nothing more or less. So they played tag. The next day she took him with her to Osaka. She was an event planner by trade and had business there. He mentioned having friends in Tokyo who were having a drinking party; he’d go if he had the money. She offered it; he invited her along. She said, “I’m not interested in dating, I’m interested in marriage.
“Okay,” said Kotani, “let’s get married.”
They made it official in a Tokyo ward office. Later came the wedding – at an amusement park rented for the purpose with money raked in via crowd funding.
So they’re married. But he’s discovered the life he wants to live, and marriage won’t distract him from it. He continues to rent himself out, as it were, for 50 yen a day plus fringe benefits, while his wife lives with her parents.© Japan Today