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Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005

THE ZEIT GIST

The law and you

More reader experiences with Japan's boys in blue

Cheeky thieves

My wife and I operated a cram school for about five years in a small city in rural Japan.

One night, around at the end of the month when school fees are normally collected, someone broke into our house and stole about 200,000 yen in cash from our living room.

We notified the police, who came immediately.

An inspector and two detectives showed up with several uniformed police officers in tow. They dusted for fingerprints all over the house, snapped photos and interviewed my wife and me. The team that came to the house was friendly, sympathetic and professional.

After finishing his work, the inspector said, "Yeah, this area has always been the target of burglaries." I was surprised by his comments -- our business was located less than two blocks away from the police station. -- Nevin

Noise complaint

I stepped into a koban in Ginza last week. A rightwing "sound truck" was crawling down the street playing the 1930s fascist hit parade at ear-splitting volume -- just as one had awakened me in Nerima-ku at 7 a.m. that morning -- and I stopped to ask the cop if Japan didn't have a law against playing music this loud in public.

"What music?" he replied. I pointed out the truck and told him that Japan does in fact have a law against this and asked why he wouldn't enforce it.

"I'd have to measure how loud it is," he said, not looking like he was about to -- and he didn't. It was loud enough that we both had to shout to be heard.

I've been in plenty of bars and clubs where the boys in blue have stopped by and told people to turn it down.

Why can't they manage to do this with the rightwingers?

I urge everyone to start bothering the kobans wherever they see/hear these sound trucks. There are indeed laws on the books regarding exceeding certain decibel levels at certain distances, and these trucks are flaunting them. Perhaps a flood of complaints from the citizenry may lead to some enforcement.

Not all bad

While readers' experiences with the police here printed last week made for an entertaining, sensationalistic, newspaper-style reading experience, it seemed a bit too one-sided.

I've lived in Japan for 10 years and have had countless "good" encounters with Japanese police officers. I suspect my case is not too unusual. Maybe this other side of the story doesn't sell as many newspapers, but nevertheless I think you owe it to your readers to tell it. -- Daniel

Bright side of the law

The only experience I've had of the police in Japan was a good one.

I was riding my motorcycle up to a stop light, somewhere between Takasago and Himeji, between the curb and line of cars -- possibly illegally.

A car turning into a business right in front of me cut me off. I braked and slid right into its side door. I bounced off the car, breaking two ribs and landed on the pavement.

The police were called and they arrived post haste. They questioned me about how fast I was going and reviewed the dent in the car and the damage to my bike. He surmised that I was telling the truth and proceeded to give the car driver a severe tongue lashing. I felt bad for the driver of the car.

The policeman determined that the driver was 100 percent at fault, which helped no end in securing my financial compensation.

That is my only police story in my eight years of living in Japan. -- Lee

Witness weirdness

I work for the U.S. military and was living in Zama city. One night, I was coming home late from work when I noticed a figure crouched between my car and the sliding window/door of my living room, peeking into the window.

My wife was home alone at the time and needless to say I was concerned about a suspicious person prowling around my house. There is no chance that it was just a pedestrian since my house was at the end of a dead end street.

I asked the guy what he was doing and he ducked behind my car. After coming around the back of the car he then tried to run past me. I grabbed him and in an even louder voice asked him what he was doing (in Japanese to be sure he understood).

He said "Nothing, nothing, sorry." At the time I did not know if he was alone, or if there were others so I had to make a choice. Do I hold onto this guy or go check on my wife (he was struggling with me pretty violently at this point,trying to get away)?

I chose to check on my wife, so I gave him my best roundhouse kick to the midsection, screamed at him to get the hell out of there and went inside the house. My wife was unaware that anything had taken place.

It seemed the guy was a Peeping Tom, but when the police arrived (my wife called them) they said that even if I had held onto the guy until they arrived there was nothing that they could do about it.

The reason for this, they said, was because they themselves did not witness anything. I've never heard anything so ridiculous.

It seems, according to these cops at least, that you can get away with any crime, even with witnesses, just so long as none of those witnesses is a police officer. -- Jeff

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