Living downtown as I do, it’s not uncommon to see homeless men rummaging through the garbage in search of empty cans. Some of the more industrious of these vagabonds can amass such a stash of crushed cans—all crammed into large plastic bags and lashed together on the backs of bicycles—that from a distance they can look like camels accoutered for an expedition.
It always made me wonder how much a vagrant could earn in this manner so I was delighted when a local news program did a story on the city’s homeless.
One kilogram of used cardboard, according to the reporter, can be sold to the scrapyard for about seven yen, or just under a buck (US), meaning that even the most determined homeless man can only earn about two hundred yen ($2.50) a day. Every kilo of aluminum cans, on the other hand, brings in ¥140. After collecting cans all day long, a hobo might make about ¥1000 ($13), or enough to buy a bentô and perhaps a couple cans of happôshu.
A friend told me that one of the happier moments in a homeless man’s foraging life is when he comes across an alluminum alloy wheel for a car. One wheel in good condition can be sold for about ¥500 ($6.40).
 At today’s exchange rate, one dollar equals about 77 yen. Hallelujah!
 Happôshu (発泡酒, literally “foaming alcohol”) is a low-malt beer-like beverage. Dreadful stuff, but, as the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers.