The friendly policemen in Japan
With a face like mine living here in Japan, life went/goes on pretty much ‘undisturbed’… While a student here in the late 1980s, I hanged out with some buddies from Ghana, US, and Brazil. While I went on with life quietly, policemen came by and stopped my Ghanian friend… ‘hey, where did you get that bicycle?’ Not once, but several occasions, apparently… In the supermarket, a young kid yelled out to his mum upon seeing my friend from US (of German ancestry) shopping… ‘kaa-chan, gaijin ga tofu wo katte imasu!’ (literally, mum, look! a foreigner buying tofu!). As a faculty member and international student advisor these days, I have had a student from India telling me the same story with the policeman bugging him about how he got that bicycle.
Last week, I had my first taste of such an encounter with the police. I went for lunch at one of my favorite ‘nomiya’ (Japanese drink-joint) that dishes out great seafood lunches. As usual, ‘aji’ (mackeral?) sashimi it was, and man, simple and super-delicious is all I can say about the meal. Satisfied, I rode my wife’s bicycle back to the university. Back home during dinner, my missus blurted out… there was a call from a policeman… Huh? I looked up, eyes darting… ‘He asked if my bicycle was stolen’… Huh? My eye brows raised sky-high by now… He saw a bicycle with the original lock broken and he tailed the rider to the university. He must have recorded the anti-theft registration number of the bicycle and made a check on the computer system. He called my mother-in-law who lives in Kanagawa (near Tokyo) and gave her a big fright… ‘what is happening to my daughter?’ kind of thing… then, the follow-up call to my missus to deliver another fright… ‘No, my bicycle was not stolen’, stressed my wife. And the policeman at the other end of the phone, ‘but the original lock was broken’…. ‘That was my husband riding my bicycle’… ‘You mean, the tall guy?’ And my wife, ‘Yes!’ and kachang! goes the phone back to the hook… The straight-forward way was probably to confront the suspect on the spot, the suspect being, me… but I think it would be quite risky for the policeman to do so because of that ‘face’ of mine… no?
The policemen in Japan are normally friendly and helpful. (See this post by my ‘comrade-in-peace’, the Moody Minstrel who is fighting his own battles in different part of Japan). Sometimes, I have a feeling that the policemen here have a little too much time on their hands and they look for some easy targets, just to score some bonus points perhaps? My wife’s bicycle is but a cranky piece of metal… we bought it ages and ages ago, and it is now squeaky, noisy, rickety, and no one in his/her right state of mind would ever want to steal that piece of, although still a bit useful, junk?…