The Birds

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As I sit here on a beautiful, sunny Monday morning in Tokyo, I am serenaded by the gentle singing of the birds. It’s a wonderful chorus. We have the Double Barred Finch, the Tree Sparrow, the Japanese Wood Pigeon, and even the Japanese Carrion Crow (known by its scientific name of Japonicus Corvus Garbage Collectus). It’s the crows that I have a special place for in my heart. The crows are everywhere here in Tokyo. You can’t escape from them. I hate them. They are driving me crazy. They should all die.

While the other birds are all chirping their songs of merriment, the crows are “Caw, cawing” to alert the rest of their low-life rabble that today is garbage collection day, and that means that piles of burnables and raw food are just sitting out on the street, in government-approved garbage bags, just so the crows can swoop down and rip them open and toss rotting vegetables onto the roadway and on the sidewalks. What a disgusting mess!

It really gets bad when they find a particularly pleasing bounty of foul-smelling rubbish and then start arguing over who gets first dibs on ripping the bag open and taking that particularly delectably decomposed animal or vegetable carcass away, just so they can drop it on my balcony. Then they start bickering over who has to go rescue the flotsam and jetsam from my place.

I look out the screen door and wonder What the Hell is all that racket about? There are about eight crows sitting on the power lines all looking at me, screaming their heads off. Oh God! Just one B-B gun, or If I could just get my hands on one of their necks… They are so close, yet so far away! I try many tactics to scare them away. Nothing works. Crows in Japan are not afraid of people in the least bit. They know that people here will not harm them. Smart-ass little…. I can’t figure out why they are hanging around so close to my balcony. Once again, I try to scare them away by acting like I’m going to throw something at them. No good. I’m in pain. I think I just threw my shoulder out.

Their screaming goes on for 30 minutes. Then I see one of them hopping on my balcony. This guy has a death wish! I run over and shoo him away. Then I finally see the object of their desires; they’ve dropped a particularly putrid persimmon on yon balcony. I dispose of it. It’s vile, all stinky and squishy and seems like… Yeech! I have to think about something else as I scrub my hands several times then apply rubbing alcohol.

The Crow Problem in Tokyo is out of control. There are many reasons for this. First off, the crows will eat whatever garbage is tossed out by humans. So the crow population is exploding. The Japanese try to stop the crows by putting up nets over the garbage bag piles, but it doesn’t work. The crows just find a weak spot and exploit it. Next thing you know, there’s a rancid pile of egg shells, wet used tissue, malodorous fruit and veggies, chewed chicken bones, empty cans of cat food, etc., all lining the street in front of your place.

Some people, and I’m not making this up, have resorted to putting up “Scare-crows” to, well, scare the crows. I don’t see where this has been too effective either. The crows have been known to attack children who come too close to their nests. The crows attack cats! The public demand for action reaches a fevered pitch! The Tokyo Metropolitan Government decides to take action towards reducing the numbers of crows.

Now, it seems to me, that there is a pretty simple way to handle this situation. But, no! This is Japan. We just can’t be blasting crows outta the air — Oh, but wouldn’t that feel good? So what does the government do? Well, they spend Gad-zillions studying the problem. Then they start trapping the crows. What do they do with the crows they trap? Well, they then pay to ship them to a neighboring prefecture. Brilliant!

Well, not quite, the head-honchos of the neighboring prefectures already have their own crow problems, so they don’t want the crows. So, Lenny & Squiggy, who are in charge of animal control here in Tokyo, decide to take the crows a few hundred miles out into some country area and let them go there. That works for about a day and a half, as the crows can fly (funny that) and make their way back to Tokyo in time for tomorrow’s all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.

So that’s the Crow Situation here in Tokyo. They are out of control, but the Japanese don’t want to kill the birds (probably because of Buddhism) — I’ll bet Buddha never had to deal with a dozen crows screaming early in the morning stealing his garbage. So the Japanese are terrified of the crows and the crows know it and are King of the Hill… That is, excepting when I’m around.

The crows fear me. And so do my neighbors… They have seen me “throwing air” at the crows. They probably all think I’m crazy. Well, of course I am. Those crows are everywhere and they are driving me nuts.

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has the distinction of being fired from every FM radio station in Tokyo — one of them three times. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, is now on sale.

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