Lost and found in Tokyo and London

By Henry Hilton

The big lump of heavy metal was squatting there on the edge of the pavement. On an early morning in Azabu a fortnight ago, I hesitated and then gingerly picked up what turned out to be an abandoned collection of huge keys complete with a smart leather tag.

As luck would have it, at exactly the same moment, a policeman sauntered past. Attempting to sound as casual as possible, I explained what had happened and asked if he would accept the keys from me. That quickly proved impossible. Since he belonged to the diplomatic protection squad, he could under no circumstances be distracted from his more important tasks and I was left with the loot.

Cops with the responsibility of safeguarding the South Korean cultural center from the risk of firebombing by nutters on the other half of the peninsula understandably have little time to bother about the seeming trivia of mere lost keys. He did, though, suggest that I leg it over to the nearest police box and report my findings to the guys there.

This I did and after signing forms and giving my name, address, phone number and showing the man in charge a name card, I patted myself on the back and said I had done my good deed for the day.

Since two massive items were clearly marked with the logo of the XYZ multimedia empire -- all names have been changed to protect the person involved -- and they were accompanied by the same individual's Toyota car key, this seemed to me part of his corporation's crown jewels. The keys would have opened the front door and perhaps the vaults as well; this wasn't a case of handing in the dinky 250 yen thing that opens the petty cash box.

My mind then went back to a month earlier when I had been in London. After completing some research in the British Library, I had put my backpack on the ground by the bus stop at King's Cross. Within a split second, I felt something brush my leg and the bag was gone. I lost my papers, diary, glasses, tickets, money and whatnot -- in fact everything but my credit card that fortunately was secure in my shirt pocket.

For weeks afterwards, I would telephone and visit each and every police station in central London on the off-chance that someone might have kindly found the bag and handed it in. Of course, I never thought the odds were much better than a hundred to one and nothing ever turned up.

Since the XYZ group continues to thrive throughout Japan, it seems reasonable to assume that the senior executive was able to collect his corporate keys from the police box and then drive his retrieved car home. It would have been nice, though, to have received a phone call from his secretary, since the great man would probably have been much too busy to deign to actually speak to me in person.

Even better, of course, would have been half a dozen CDs from the group's bulging music shelves or a couple of bottles of Aussie plonk to show a token of appreciation. No such luck. If you lose something precious in London or alternatively find something valuable in Tokyo and bother to hand it in, the result is probably going to be the same. Don't expect anything. Metro-man in the world's busiest cities has no time for sentiment.

© Japan Today

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My My My. Where to begin here.

The author is simply another "look at me look at me" schmoe who wants to get the Nobel Prize simply for doing the right thing.

First off, is it was a set of Keys. Keys. Keys. Thats it. Not a diabetics important insulin. Not the cure for cancer. Keys. Probably belonging to a Janitor, not the "super exec" he fantisizes was going to give him the proverbial reach-around.

The cop who wouldn't abandon his shift or shirk his duties of guarding an area to spend hours filling out a report regarding a lost set of tumbler actuators, kindly refering him to the proper source was obviously a fool! Couldn't the idiot see that the cure for cancer was behind some lock no doubtedly opened by these very keys!

Oh, the humanity.

No phone call. No wet kisses. See if he ever does the right thing again! Why bother when you can't get an award for being mediocre.

Grow up. Get a life.

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I just noticed it was Henry Hilton! Wow. With his previous "commentaries" I never would have guessed he was an attention hound! (please understand I was being sarcastic)

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this was certainly a waste of space & so is what I am typing here........

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What was the point of that piece of rubbish. Just don't see the connection between London and Tokyo.

Just call me dim-witted but I want those minutes back for reading that drivel.

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You know.... when you do the right thing and EXPECT something,ANYTHING, for it... it is no longer the right thing.

Yes, a thank you is in order. But, not everyone is raised like that. It still doesn't mean that you shouldn't do the right thing at all times.

And when I say "you shouldn't...", I mean "those that do the right thing even when noone is watching"... Unlike you Henry.

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I have handed in a wallet, a bag and 2 dogs to the police in Japan. Each time I have received a call from the owner, once offering me a cash reward.

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I'm sure most Japanese citizens would have sent a thank you note, but the article mentions it may have been a music or media industry executive. That, in itself, should be explanation enough. As someone who has dealt with chaps at these levels, I'd think its a reasonable bet that any form of thanks would not even have occured to them.

Worse is the fact that the author himself has enough indignation to write an immature article about it.

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What a waste of an article. Why oh why would anyone consider writing this. Just hand the keys in and forget about it, much like you pick up trash, put out cigarette butts, and give 1yen to a charity box. It should be a given and hopefully if you drop something one day you'll get it back too.

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Since two massive items were clearly marked with the logo of the XYZ multimedia empire—all names have been changed to protect the person involved—and they were accompanied by the same individual’s Toyota car key, this seemed to me part of his corporation’s crown jewels.

And no one in Japan carries around logos of famous multi-media empires or drives expensive Toyotas. In fact, I can only think of one human on the entire archipelago that even matches this description. </sarcasm>

Oh, wait. Never mind. I just realized half the country drives a Toyota and the other half have BMW logos on their key chains.

In other words, I agree with the other posters. I WANT MY 4 Minutes BACK!

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I dropped my wallet yesterday as I left the station on my way to teach a private student. I didn't realise it until I accepted the cash payment after the lesson, at which point the student insisted on accompanying me to the station to talk to the staff.

The wallet was there, and both the staff and student were happy to receive my profuse thanks.

All people involved probably felt some pleasant emotion - relief on my part, and I'm sure the anonymous person who handed over the wallet felt a certain self-satisfaction.

There - I've managed to outdo the original article in terms of value and meaning.

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thanks for the insight Henry, go back to sleep

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I agree with other posts here. If you return something someone else has lost, your "reward" is simply the expectation that if you lose something it will also be returned to you. This is the social contract among civilized people (and one of the very nice things about Japan). To receive anything more is a happy bonus, to expect it is greed and selfishness.

If something is returned to me, on the other hand, I will look for an appropriate way to show gratitude.


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I think the choice of title is a bit misleading - after all, his bag wasn't "lost" in London, he was careless and had it stolen. While I don't think he deserved that, I lived in London for years in some good and not-so-good parts of town and I never had anything stolen or burgled, never ran into any kind of physical violence or (for that matter) lost anything of great value. Considering how unlikely you are to lose something and get it back in London or most other world cities, I'd say that the complaint about not getting thanked for returning something in Tokyo seems both rather petty and misdirected. After all, the norm is that you get most things back here - and normally if you hand something in you get thanked.

Virtue should be its own reward

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Virtue should be its own reward

Yes it should. Although I did give a bottle of sake to the man who rescued my green iguana after she got out in winter.

I'm befuddled by Mr. Hilton's dismay at not receiving proper thanks being increased by who he imagines the owner of the keys to list items he deems appropriate compensation is just gauche, and I'd hope a poor attempt at humour.

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These days you have to check a box on the "found" form to allow the police to release your personal details to person who claims the item.

I could never imagine someone being tacky enough to tick the box. Now I can.

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