A Japanese Urban Legend

by Buzz on 28/01/2013

I live in Osaka, Japan and often use the subway to go to work in the morning.  One day, when I was waiting for the train, I noticed a homeless man standing in a corner of the subway station, muttering to himself as people passed by.  He was holding out a cup and seemed to be begging for spare change.

A fat woman passed by the homeless
man and I distinctly heard him say, “Pig.”

Wow, I thought to myself.  This homeless man is insulting people and he still expects them to give him money?

Then a tall businessman went by and
the homeless guy muttered, “Human.”

Human?  I can’t argue with that.  Obviously, he was human.

The next day, I arrived early at the subway station and had some time to kill, so I decided to stand close to the homeless man and listen to his strange mutterings.

A thin, haggard-looking man passed in front of
him and I heard the homeless guy mutter, “Cow.”

Cow?  I thought.  The man was much too skinny to be a cow.  He looked more like a turkey or a chicken to me.

A minute or so later, a fat man went by
and the homeless man said, “Potato.”

Potato? I was under the impression that he called all fat people “Pig”.

That day, at work, I couldn’t stop thinking about the homeless man and his puzzling behavior.  I kept trying to find some logic or pattern in what he was muttering.

Perhaps he has some kind of psychic ability, I thought.  Maybe he knows what these people were in a previous life.  In Japan, many people believe in reincarnation.

I observed the homeless man many times and began to think my theory was right.  I often heard him calling people things like “Rabbit” or “Onion” or “Sheep” or “Tomato”.

One day, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to ask him what was going on.

As I walked up to him, he
looked at me and said “Bread.”

I tossed some money into his cup and asked him if he had some kind of psychic ability.

The homeless man smiled and said,
“Yes, indeed. I do have a psychic ability.
It is an ability I obtained years ago.
But it is not what you might expect.
I can’t tell the future or read minds
or anything like that.”

“Then what is your ability,” I asked eagerly.

“The ability is merely to know the
last thing somebody ate,” he said.

I laughed because I realized he was right.  He said “Bread.”  The last thing I had eaten for breakfast that day was toast.  I walked away shaking my head.  Of all the psychic abilities someone could have, that one must be the most useless.

(found in various places
along the InterWebs, but I
first encountered it here)

buzz@buzzdixon.com

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