Petty theft in Japan

Petty theft in Japan

It is not fair to use minor incidents to portray the behavior of general population in any country. But right or wrong we tend to do that. I gained some impression about the basic integrity and honesty of Japanese people from the experience one of my colleagues had many years ago.

He worked in a Japanese Laboratory for a year. Just after completing a month, he found a thick envelope kept on the desk near his seat. He opened it and found some papers and bundles of Japanese cash amounting to the exact monthly fellowship due to him. The documents neatly explained how the accounts department arrived at the total payment.

He was shocked. The prospects of losing the cash due to possible theft unnerved him. If that happens, he will have to borrow money for his maintenance and upkeep till his next fellowship is paid, thirty days later.

When his other coworkers came, he brought his insecurity to their notice. In spite of giving a long winding explanation, his Japanese friends took time to appreciate the issues he raised. In their workplace, it is very common for people to leave money or other costly items on the desk. They told him that it is very common for people to forget their purses or other belongings at common places such as railway waiting rooms or bus stations. They will remain there till their owners return to take them back.

Recent examples show the changes coming in Japanese society.  Yesterday (30 January), Japan Today News, a leading news paper reported that police in Tokyo are investigating a series of thefts of train hand straps reported by several railway companies in the capital since last November.

Fuji TV reported Police as saying that Tokyo Metro complained that three hand straps had been stolen from trains on the Hibiya subway line between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

This is not all. According to Tokyo Metro, thieves have stolen another 80 hand straps from trains on the Hibiya, Fukutoshin and two other subway lines since early December.

“Tokyu Dentetsu, the operator of the Tokyu Toyoko and other lines, has also reported about 200 missing hand straps since last November, while 50 have disappeared from Odakyu line trains since December, Odakyu Railway said.”,  Japan Today reported

Thus the present score of missing hand straps from all railway companies is 330. Thieves have used tools to loosen the screws while riding on the trains.

Surprisingly, no passengers have reported seeing anyone taking the straps on any of the trains.

Police believe they may have been stolen for resale; presently they are investigating Internet auction and other sale sites.

Here is a sample of Readers comments:

Moonraker “Somebody strapped for cash.”

rainydayJAN. 30, 2016 – 08:55AM JST

Train stuff like that has collector value, I have seen them fir (for) sale at model railroad conventions and shops. When a train company retires a train they usually sell off all the little bits to collectors, so most of them are legit, but I am guessing this guy is planning on selling them in that market.

Wc626JAN. 30, 2016 – 09:14AM JST

Those nasty things carry so many germs, who’d want to steal those straps?

DaDudeJAN. 30, 2016 – 12:53PM JST

May be shipped to neighboring country…

Kind of reminds me when people were stealing slides and swings from playgrounds a few years back because China was paying big for metal.

A reader who claimed that such hand straps have considerable value in antique shops was correct. I realized it when, as he suggested, I googled for “subway strap” and “JDM”! I found that it costs $28.20 a piece in an e-bay outlet which declared: “only two are left and 12 sold”!

Yesterday, Japan Today News reported the arrest of a man in Hiroshima for the theft of more than 80 pairs of men’s shoes. The arrest of a 25 year old man on suspicion of breaking and entering into an apartment where he stole two pairs of men’s shoes led the police to the suspected thief’s apartment where they recovered more than 80 pairs of men’s shoes not belonging to him.

According to the daily, police quoted Kawazoe, a company employee, as saying that he got turned on by the odor of men’s shoes. He also confessed that  he broke into the same apartment in Higashi Ward twice last November and December and stole two pairs of men’s shoes—the charge on which he was initially arrested.

“The guy has just got to be well-heeled by now” a reader commented!


About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
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