I was always raised to believe that we should help our fellow man. If someone is struggling, we should assist. If someone is in trouble, we should help. If someone drops something, we should pick it up for them.
But after years in Tokyo I have learned that this is not the case.
Speaking more accurately, it would be safe to say that this is not the case if you want to live a normal and happy life. Time and time again I have been through experiences that have proven to me that helping other people in Tokyo is more trouble than it’s worth. I have seen countless examples of this in a wide variety of situations ranging from being detained for three and a half hours after trying to help a woman who was suddenly grabbed by a guy on the train (while other ‘Japanese’ who helped were released within minutes), to having the better part of my afternoon eaten away because I decided to turn in a wallet I found on the ground.
And that’s where we will start this post. A seemingly harmless wallet. Sitting on the ground. I see it. I stop. I think. And then I make a terrible decision… I think to myself “whoa… a wallet. That’s pretty important… I better turn that in!“. (stupid, Stupid, Stupid).
It was a Sunday morning around 11 am. I’ll never forget that because I was on my way out to meet some friends that I hadn’t seen in years and we were going to have lunch together at noon. I was on my way to the station when I found a simple black wallet laying on the ground. With the koban (police box) being only about 100-200 meters away, I thought I would quickly drop it off before I hopped on the train. So I picked it up, and swung into the koban.
The initial reaction of the police was to greet me with a smile and to clear off the table where they keep the map, probably assuming that I was there to ask directions . Anyone who has spent a long enough time in Tokyo, will tell you that the police are always much more friendly if they think you’re a tourist (For more tips on how to deal with Japanese police, please subscribe and wait for my post Japanese Police).
But the moment that I presented the wallet and began to explain (in Japanese) that it was found on the ground roughly 200 meters from here, things changed. For the most part, the majority of the officers were seemingly fine with the situation, however 2 of them stood staring at me as if I had just committed murder.
One of the nicer officers pulled out a form and asked me to take a seat. He had me fill out the form with my name, number, address, and details about where the wallet was found. All of this was simple enough, but part way through, one of the less-than-happy-to-see-me officers came up and picked up the paper. He took a good long look at my name and asked me to present my foreign registration card. As I went to hand it to him he quickly and aggressively snatched/swiped it out of my hand, bent it back and forth, checked the hologram, and then proceeded to call in a check on me.
Needless to say I was shocked. But since I knew nothing bad was going to turn up, I sat back and waited.
And while I waited he went into the back. He still had the lost-item-form that I had filled out, and was looking through a shelf of binders. Finally he pulled one out, and pulled it down. He then asked me if the address I had written down was my real address. I told him it was, and he replied with “Then…. if that’s the case, please point out your house to me on this map”. I did this with ease, and he proceeded to drop the binder on the table in front of me and flip through the pages. Finally he stopped at one that seemed somehow familiar.
“Is this your house?”. he asked.
“Yea”, I responded.
“Then which one of these rooms is yours? hmm?”, he said with a bit of a sarcastic tone.
“My room number is on the damn registration card. Figure it out for yourself.”, I replied with just as much attitude as he gave me (in retrospect, probably not one of my better ideas, and there’s a good chance I made things more difficult for myself by doing so)
“So you don’t know? You can’t point it out?”, he snapped back at me. Clearly frustrated with the attitude I had fed him.
“It’s this one, ok.”, I said pointing to my room.
He spent the next 5 or so minutes filling out some form from that binder, while looking at my alien registration card. After which he spent the next 10 minutes on the phone with the binder, the paper, and my card in front of him. Needless to say, I was getting pretty stressed out.
I had already been in this koban for about 20 minutes now, and I was pretty sure I was going to be late.
Finally, he came out from his desk in the back, and dropped a form that had a series of empty boxes and a pad of black ink in front of me.
“One by one, put your fingers in the ink, and then mark your fingerprint in the corresponding box”, he said as if I had just been arrested or something.
“Is this necessary? Do I really have to do this?!”, I responded as I got more and more irritated by the situation.
“Are you trying to hide something?”, he shot back in an antagonizing manner.
“Whatever, this is BS”, I mumbled as I started to mark my finger prints on the page.
At this point I was about as upset as I could be, and to make matters worse, he didn’t even bring me a tissue to wipe my hands with.
Finally, I asked him to get me a tissue, and he laughed with a “hmmphh” and walked away…
After 2 minutes of wondering if he was coming back, he came back and dropped a single tissue onto my lap.
“I need to confirm that you don’t have any dangerous items on you. Would you empty your pockets and allow me to pat you down?”, he asked in a tone that made it clear that I didn’t really have a choice.
“Yea yea, whatever. Just hurry up”, I said trying to stop my hand from clenching into a fist with frustration.
I emptied my pockets, and even let him empty out my wallet onto the table (which he later mad me clean up).
“You don’t have your passport on you?”, he asked as he patted me down.
“Do you? Who carries their passport with them 24/7!?”, I spit out without a thought.
“What type of visa are you on?”, he asked. Now looking me right in the eyes.
I told him my visa type and pointed out once again, that such information can be found on my alien registration card which he still held in his hand.
“But you don’t have your passport on you?”, again he wasn’t even looking at me.
“Are you kidding me?! Like seriously. Is this how you treat everyone who turns in lost property?!”, I practically yelled at him.
“So then where is your passport?”, he asked completely ignoring my explosion.
“Hmmm… I wonder where it could be. Maybe… Home. Where the hell else would I leave it!?”
“Ok. Well, you claim to live around here, so why don’t we go get it.” he said back to me.
“Why the hell do you need my passport anyway?”
“Because I need to see your visa stamp and verify that you are here legally”, he said with a bit of a grin on his face.
“Listen, I need to go. I am already late for meeting someone”
“I need your passport. So let’s go” he said, gesturing towards the door as he exited the koban.
I figured that sitting here arguing with him wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I decided to get up and walk with him to my place. Another officer accompanied us, and as I walked down the street, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself what my neighbors would think if they saw me being escorted by 2 uniformed officers.
We finally arrived at my house, and they followed me right into the building. In fact if it wasn’t for a slightly similar incident several months before, they would have managed to step right into my room. But this time I knew that they didn’t have the legal right to enter my actual room and managed to hold them at bay with the fact that I knew that.
I stepped into my room and closed the door behind me, and yet our fine officer had the nerve to open it right back up.
“Close the f***ing door! I’m not cooling the whole building!”, I snapped at him from inside. Hoping that he wouldn’t notice that I didn’t even have the cooler on right now.
It’s not that I had anything to hide, but rather I just couldn’t bring myself to a point where I didn’t want to piss him off at least a little.
I quickly emerged from my room with my passport, and before I could even present it to him, he reached down and snatched it out of my hand.
We made our way back to the koban, and he kept my passport in his hand the entire time.
When we got back, he asked me to take a seat, and he went into the back, sat down, opened up my passport, and picked up the phone.
For the better part of an hour I sat. He spent 5 minutes on the phone, 40+ minutes talking to the other officers and looking through binders, and then another 2 minutes or so on the phone.
Finally he came out and literally tossed my passport and foreign registration card onto the table in front of me and then pulled up my lost-item-form.
“What was in the wallet when you found it?”, he asked as he stared right at me.
“I don’t really know. I only looked briefly to check if it was discarded or dropped”, I said calmly.
“So you didn’t take anything from it?”, he asked, absolutely flooring me with the directness of his question.
“You checked my pockets right?!? You even went through my wallet. Does it look like I took anything?! SERIOUSLY, What the hell is wrong with you?!”, I practically yelled.
“hmmph. haha. relax relax”, he said with a condescending laugh. He was obviously pleased that he had gotten the better of me.
After about another 10 minutes or so of confirming my story of where and how I found the wallet, he finally told me that I was free to go in a tone that would imply that the whole thing was no big deal.
Now… For the sake of getting The Japan Rants up and running, I will stop this post here for now and add my personal thoughts and reflections at a later date. But Don’t let that stop you from tossing in your thoughts now~