In mid-January, female TV personalities Yu Hayami, 50, and singer Iyo Matsumoto, 51, were in Kyoto shooting a travel program with a TV crew when they entered the space between rail lines. Soon afterward the signal at the crossing sounded to warn of an approaching train, and the two fled in mock panic.
Matsumoto later posted a photo on her blog, which can be seen here.
The two underwent questioning at the Kyoto Police station in Ukyo Ward, after which they were charged with violation of the Railway Operation Act, a misdemeanor.
Actually, notes Shukan Gendai (March 4), Japan has all kinds of laws, statutes and ordinances -- some, such as public urination, quite well known and others somewhat obscure -- the violation of which can land a person in various degrees of trouble.
And speaking of public urination, on Feb 7, the Osaka High Court ruled on the arrest of a man who was caught in the act in a parking lot in December 2015. While justice in this case was certainly not swift, the court reversed the ruling of the lower court and handed down a guilty judgment, fining him 9,900 yen.
The offender had pleaded innocent, insisting that the wording of the law specifically banned the act in "on roads, in parks or other public gathering places." The court, however, stated that "a parking lot, being a place where people can walk, is akin to a road."
Another activity that can get you in trouble is the "crime of cutting in line," say, while waiting for a train or bus. If the authorities judge the act to have been accompanied by rough behavior, such as pushing, they can exercise their option of prosecuting it as an act of violence or intimidation.
There is also a stipulation against the crime of pursuit, such as persistently hounding a woman walking along the sidewalk. Even if it's not outright stalking, the act is illegal and can lead to arrest and prosecution.
Shukan Gendai's writer was also surprised to learn that if a store clerk or merchant mistakenly returns too much change from a purchase, the recipient is duty-bound to return the excess. Not to do so (when aware of the difference of course) can be treated as fraud.
Some of the other petty crimes and misdemeanors mentioned in the article include:
Smacking the head of a subordinate at the office as a form of tough love (think of Mark Harmon in the "NCIS" series). Assault, or possibly causing bodily injury.
Riding a bicycle one-handed while holding an umbrella. Prosecutable under the traffic law.
Groping a female co-worker's buttocks. Imprisonment from six months to 10 years.
Demanding a store clerk apologize for some infraction by "dogeza" (kneeling and touching his or her head to the floor). Illegal coercion.
Falsifying receipts in order to inflate expenditures. When treated as forgery or embezzlement, can be punishable by a prison term of between 3 months and 5 years.
Discarding a cigarette from the window of a car. Violation of the Traffic Control Law. (Same goes for drink cans or other objects.)
Abandoning a live pet. Fine of up to 1 million yen.
Carrying a screwdriver in one's possession. Unless able to provide a convincing reason, it can be assumed to be a tool for housebreaking and prosecuted as a misdemeanor.
Cheating on an examination for occupational certification.
Purloining towels from a hotel. If the hotel chooses to pursue it, it would be theft. Likewise for giving away a pen that is company property.
- Tapping into a train station's electric outlet without permission. Treated as theft. There have been cases of people caught recharging their electronic devices being charged for as short a time as 5 minutes (or the equivalent of about 1 yen worth of electricity)