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Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009

LIFELINES

Cycling after drink may mean five years in clink


By ANGELA JEFFS AND KEN JOSEPH JR.

Riding under the influence

C.F. in Hiroshima wants to know about the revised law on riding bicycles that went into effect in June 2008. He has heard that police can arrest anyone if they have had a few drinks and are caught riding a bicycle home.

"Is there a specific law concerning this and, if so, how are the police enforcing it? My coworkers have suddenly become hyper-vigilant about this after work-related nomikai (drinking parties) of late, and I simply would like to know the facts, but can't find much about it online."

Naturally, driving a vehicle under the influence is a serious problem and should never be tolerated. But C.F. is wondering about the consequences of riding a bicycle after just a drink or two.

There is mention of cycling under the influence in a PDF in English about the revised law at www.jitco.or.jp/download/data/leaflet_English.pdf. Sponsored by the Japan Traffic Safety Association and the National Police Agency, it begins by concentrating on the fact that under the Road Traffic Law bicycles are classified as minivehicles.

Page 1 concerns riding bikes on sidewalks and the wearing of helmets. Page 2 covers five rules, which include: not using mobile phones or carrying open umbrellas while in motion; a fine of ¥50,000 if found guilty of riding double on a bike; and what is legal regarding adults riding with small children.

As for drunken bike-riding, C.F. needs to know that it is prohibited by law, as of course is drunk-driving of cars, motorbikes, etc. The penalty for being caught riding a bicycle while inebriated is imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of a maximum of ¥1 million. No joke.

A true story: A non-Japanese friend was stopped several years ago while riding home after midnight in central Tokyo for not having her lights on. She argued (having had rather too much to drink) and, according to the arresting officer, kicked him.

She spent a very unhappy week in the Akihabara detention center, allowed to speak only in Japanese to visitors, which was not easy as her language ability was limited. She was locked up with women accused of drugs offenses and prostitution, which all proved quite a shock to the system for her.

She was let out, but only after admitting the offense and apologizing. It had become clear that as long as she continued arguing and denying the offense, she would not being going anywhere. Admission of responsibility (whether guilty or otherwise) and an apology go a long way in Japan. It's something to remember. (A.J.)

Gold in transit

Robin realizes that he is not asking a very common question, but he has tried in vain to get any answer from the beloved Japanese bureaucracy.

"I want to bring in some investment gold bars that I have bought in the U.K. — all above board and with the paperwork — into Japan." Entering Japan recently, Robin did not see anything on the customs form regarding gold — only actual cash, notes etc. "Will I have to pay any tax?" he asks.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the procedure is very simple. If you are bringing in over 10 kg of gold you have to fill out a form — called the shiharai shudan to no keitai yunyu shinkokusho — at customs. Although the name is long and sounds a bit daunting, the form asks only where you are coming from and how you obtained the gold. There is no tax to be paid on gold bars — they just want you to register any amount weighing over 10 kg.

If you need any more information, contact the Finance Ministry on (03) 3581-4111 and ask for the Kanzei Kyoku. We found the staff there to be very helpful. You can also check out their Web site at www.mof.go.jp.

Do any of our readers have any experiences of bringing gold or other financial instruments into Japan? (K.J.)

Angela Jeffs is a freelance writer and writing guide (www.thewriterwithin.net/). Ken Joseph Jr. directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com and (03) 000-911. Send questions to community@japantimes.co.jp



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