One of the biggest aggravations with which law enforcement and rescue personnel are forced to deal are pranksters who call in false emergencies. Referred to in Japanese as kyogen hanzai -- literally “crazy speech crimes" -- they can be prosecuted, usually as misdemeanors, when and if the perpetrators are apprehended.
Probably the most extreme example in recent memory took place in the late 1990s. A man residing in the Shonan district of Kanagawa Prefecture had separated from his spouse, and feeling lonely one evening began hitting the bottle. Then for reasons that were never fully explained, he picked up the telephone and called the Japan Coast Guard, to claim that he had been strolling on the beach at Hayama, and saw half a dozen foreign frogmen, speaking what sounded like Korean, coming ashore from a rubber dinghy.
Whether it was the urgency in his voice or his detailed description of the frogmen, the person who took the call sensed that Japan was in the process of BEING INVADED, and calls the Maritime Self Defense Force base at nearby Yokosuka and the Kanagawa Prefectural Police went on full alert. Soon sirens were blaring and the skies above Hayama resounded with the thump-thump-thump of helicopter rotors.
When the caller was tracked down and drunkenly admitted with embarrassment that he’d made up the whole story, the authorities breathed a sigh of collective relief -- until someone tallied up the estimated costs for responding to the alert. They were considerable.
Last Saturday morning, April 15, J-Cast News reported, sirens went off in the vicinity of Maita Station on Yokohama’s municipal subway line, as numerous fire and rescue vehicles rushed to the scene.
According to a station worker, someone had dialed the 119 emergency number at 9:20 to report that “a toxic liquid had been flung in the station” and “about 60 passengers had collapsed.”
The emergency vehicles, manned by approximately 120 rescue personnel, promptly responded, and confusion briefly reigned. Soon afterwards a chorus of tweets began.
“What the hell’s going on?” one tweeted. “Rescue workers are on the scene. Has something happened?” another transmitted. “Something about poison being spread at Maita Station. I see ambulances and firemen all over the place,” tweeted a third.
According to a real time search in Yahoo Japan, for a short time “Maita Station” had gone viral. A subsequent search of the station and environs, however, failed to find anything suspicious. Authorities made a thorough search of the premises, but found nothing, leading them to ultimately conclude that they had been the target of malicious mischief.
“Fortunately,” a station worker told J-Cast News, “the train schedules weren’t affected.”
While such pranks are infrequent, Kanagawa Prefecture may be developing a reputation as a place where boys, and men, are in the habit of crying wolf.© Japan Today