Local police in Okinawa, Japan are at the ends of their hairs and clueless on how to keep people from sleeping on the road while intoxicated. In 2019, the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa recorded 7,000 cases of inebriated locals passing out on the road resulting in deadly accidents.
The phenomenon known to the Japanese as "rojo-ne" literally translates to "sleeping on the road." The Okinawa Prefectural Police seem to be the only police force in Japan keeping track of these cases without anything to put their finger on for its increasing occurrence. Some say, it has something to do with the warm climate while others blame the easy-going nature of local residents who seem to find no bother in it.
The prefectural police chief Tadataka Miyazawa says, "I didn't even know the term 'rojo-ne' before coming to Okinawa. I think it's a phenomenon unique to Okinawa."
According to an article in Japan's national daily, The Mainichi, there had been around 7,221 calls related to locals sleeping soundly on roads in 2019 alone. This has caused a total of 16 road accidents which included these sleepy boozers being run over by passing vehicles. Not only do they doze off on the sidewalks, but also on the main roadways where three men have slept to their rojo-ne deaths that same year.
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Okinawa authorities had 2,702 calls between January and June this year. The number of calls were slated on the same count in 2018.
As night time entertainment continues in some areas, rojo-ne troubles have leveled up to theft/robbery and fights between people who try to rouse and wake these boozed up individuals.
Many residents have been known to have a boozy affair with "awamori" Okinawan liquor and find the curb to be a cool and comfortable place to pass out on. Some intoxicated women have also been reported in a state of undress on the road thinking they probably made it home.
Local police have pooled efforts to raise awareness on this issue citing the dangers it poses for both the sleepers and drivers who can easily run them over at night . Some are woken up and asked to go home while others are taken into temporary custody if they are too drunk. However, authorities say improvements on the matter are yet to be seen.
As part of their awareness campaign, the Yaeyama Police station even held a photo exhibition on rojo-ne at the city hall in December of 2019.
Tatsuo Oshiro, head of prefectural police's traffic section says sleeping on the road is a road traffic violation where offenders can be charged with a penalty fine amounting to £356. They are planning to make arrests as a last ditch effort which currently sits on the discussion table of the Public Prosecutor's Office.