Shibuya Panhandling


I have always been proud to say, "There are no beggars in Tokyo." But two incidents in the past month have made me a liar.

The first took place at Shibuya station a couple of weekends ago. Tod was buying a ticket for the Hanzomon line. When I looked to see if he was done, there was a balding man dressed in grey pants and a blue jacket talking to him. He looked like a do-gooder trying to help a confused tourist with the machine. I saw him talking to a different foreigner as we went thought the wickets a few minutes later. When I asked Tod about their conversation, he said the guy asked him for 500 yen. In English.

The second incident was also at Shibuya. As we passed along the street from the Hachiko side to the Toyoko side of the station last night, a filthy, dreadlocked rag-man got a bright look in his eyes and shambled in our direction. I watched in my peripheral vision as he walked along with us for a couple of steps, face angled toward us in a hopeful way, before he gave up and stopped. He didn't try this with any of the gazillion Japanese also walking along that way.

So it seems that foreigners are being targeted by panhandlers in Shibuya. Has this happened to you? What did you do?


Happened to us in Shinjuku station a few weeks ago. A fairly dishevelled older man with matted hair couldn't speak even when I asked him what was wrong and he put his hand in his pockets and pulled out a few coins and jingled them around. I was on the phone to my mother at the time so I wasn't able to concentrate on him so I just waved him away and told Ash to watch the shopping bags as the guy was looking at our stuff and I was diistracted. I thought later that it would have been better if I took him to a kiosk and bought him a sandwich. That is what I will do if it happens again. I too thought we were being targetted as we were foreign.

The foreign guy wanting 500 yen - I had read a website a while back where some guy was boasting that he can make quite a bit of cash from targetting foreigners at train stations claiming a lost wallet and needing the train fare to get home - yadi yadi yadi. But the article I read said that the guy mainly targetted (foreign) mothers with prams in the Hiroo station area.

I don't believe in giving cash but certainly sandwiches or onigiri donations I would feel fine about as long as the person looked genuinely hungry.

This happened to me years ago in Shibuya. I took an overnight bus to Shibuya and went into the JR station after I arrived. As I'd been on the bus all night, I really needed to use the washroom! A (male) panhandler followed me into the ladies room and asked me in English for money. I was shocked and a bit scared as it was only 6:30 in the morning and there was nobody around. I didn't give him any money and he left, but it was a bit frightening for me. I'd only been in Tokyo a couple of times and didn't speak any Japanese so I couldn't even complain to the station workers.

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  • Helen: This happened to me years ago in Shibuya. I took read more
  • T: Happened to us in Shinjuku station a few weeks ago. read more