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My first run-in with the police

97 Comments
By Jahrine Myles

Cycling is a big part of my life here in Japan, so big in fact that I own two bikes, one I keep at the train station in the town I teach at and the other I keep at home for getting around Sendai.

I generally adhere to the rules of the road, but one recent Wednesday evening, I was riding back from Jusco with my husband when, tired, wet and hungry for the fried nastiness in my bike basket, I did the unthinkable; I cycled over a crossing on a red light. My husband protested at first. "Jesus, are you trying to kill me?" I heard from over my shoulder (it was a pretty big crossing and the roads were busy), but the light had just turned from green, so he followed me across.

We were on our merry way once more, when the next thing we know, a police car is alongside us, lights flashing, sirens screaming and "stop please" blaring out of the megaphone.

"It’s because you don’t have a light, "I said to my husband. We stopped and watched as two police officers, both male -- one in his 30s and the other in his 50s -- got out of the police car. They didn’t introduce themselves, so for the sake of the narrative, let’s call the younger officer Baby-face, and the older officer Ed.

"Konbanwa," said Ed.

"Konbanwa," we sheepishly replied, heads bowed like naughty school kids waiting for a telling off.

"Light was red," he said in English, and pulled a notepad and pen out of his shirt pocket.

We apologized a million times and tried to come across as otherwise law abiding gaijin. Neither officer looked very impressed. Baby-face was shining his torch over our bikes and scowling, Ed was staring at me; maybe he was thinking about how to ask the next question in English.

"Do you understand Japanese?" he asked in Japanese.

"Only a little," I replied, also in Japanese. They exchanged another unimpressed look.

He seems to speak a bit of English, though, I thought, what a relief. This relief was short-lived however, as he proceeded to ask the next load of questions in very fast, very quiet Japanese. Terrific.

He asked to see our gaijin cards. We handed them over. He questioned why there were two addresses written on them, one on the front and one on the back. We explained that we had moved apartments. Baby-face asked where we had been. We told him: shopping at Jusco. Ed seemed suspicious at this.

"It’s very far to Jusco from your apartment," he said, his eyes narrowing (it’s 15 minutes by bike). We were beginning to feel like they had an ulterior motive. Either that or they were messing with us. By now, we had been standing there for about 15 minutes in the drizzling rain, the kind of rain that looks harmless but actually soaks you and makes you hate life. We wanted this whole thing to be over with so we could go home and eat. No such luck. The officers put their notepads away, then muttered something to one another.

"So, you are both English teachers. How much do you make a month? What is your salary?" asked Baby-face. My husband and I looked at each other: What the hell did that have to do with anything? "It’s none of your business, mate," I wanted to shoot back, but we weren’t really in a position to deny them any information. I got the impression that we were expected to answer any questions they felt like asking. So we told them. My husband wrote it down on the back of his hand as we were too stupid (or flustered?) to work out how to say it in Japanese.

"Hmm," was their response to the sum. Again they muttered to one another. Then Ed shone his torch into the basket on the front of my bike, pushed aside the top of the Jusco carrier bag and had a look inside.

"Hm, delicious chocolates," he said. He looked disappointed.

"Uh, yeah," I replied, wondering what he thought he would find. A severed head perhaps.

"Okay, thank you," said Ed. Finally. We thanked them, and apologized some more. We were about to cycle off when Baby-face said: "influenza," and gestured with his hand over his mouth. We nodded and said goodnight, unsure of what he was suggesting. Did he want us to wear masks constantly? And if so, why wasn’t he wearing one? Unless he was suggesting we should wear masks as we may be infected, even though we haven’t been outside of Japan for a year, and we told them so in the interrogation. We were too tired and wet to make a fuss about it at the time, so we rode off home. So ended our first run-in with the Japanese police.

I’m not really sure how I feel about the whole thing. A part of me thinks that they were just doing their jobs and that I’m a complete tool for crossing on a red light in the first place. But then I think about the questions they were asking and wonder if they would have asked them to a Japanese person. As for the influenza comment, well that just confuses me. Whatever they were implying and whatever the reasoning behind some of their questions, I’ll be waiting for the green man in future.

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97 Comments
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"I’m not really sure how I feel about the whole thing. "

Start with grateful. Grateful you didn't get run over while running a red light. Grateful that you didn't get a ticket after having a cop see you break the law.

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Sounds like the policemen were bored and lonely, and just wanted to talk to someone.

whatever the reason, expect more chats with the police in the future.

I also hate it when cyclists think they don't need to obey traffic rules/lights. This week, an oyaji insisted on cycling right in front of me when I was crossing the road, even when the pedestrian lights were green. I only wished he not only swerved, but lost his balance and fell flat on his face.

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Wow! Cool story! Sendai huh? All I know about Sendai is that it is a hard core inaka (country side) and that every weekend the local looser youth there have a grand time making noise and the police chasing them all around Sendai station. What horrible noise, never ever want to go there again!

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Wow is right. Stupid story though... Not sure what the point was. Or why any one of us would care that the author was stopped for a traffic violation and then got off with a warning... and then whined about it.

God forbid they do their jobs.

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Next time ask for their ID card and have the names written down. And next time obey the traffic law, as going to court over this seemingly bagatelle will be real new experience.

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A part of me thinks that they were just doing their jobs and that I’m a complete tool for crossing on a red light in the first place.

That part of you thinks right.

But then I think about the questions they were asking and wonder if they would have asked them to a Japanese person.

Probably yes.

I’ll be waiting for the green man in future.

So, their strategy worked, without them having to fill in reams of paperwork and without you two having to spend hours in the police station.

Can't see what you have to whine about, personally.

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cops got what they were after, free engligh lessons, you & hubby have been had!!!

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maybe I shud scam you for some errr english lessons as well ha ha oops

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Lucky you speek native english and white skin? make police to practice free english lessons...^^

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cleo has it spot on - nice to see the cops doing their job.

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On a 1-10 encounter with J police I give this a 2 .

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As a driver in Japan, no matter what you do, cyclers are always right and if you hurt one, you get arrested eventhough it wasn't your fault. People like you should have been arrested. Those cops have not been doing their jobs properly. A lot more laws should be implemented for cyclers, some of them are just recklessly zooming right in front of you out of nowhere. I would like to see them walk with their bicyvles over pedestrian crossings.

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If you got pulled over for doing nothing (like I used to in my old town) I might feel bad for you. Of course you DID break the law and even your husband had enough sense to know how stupid you were. almost all cops I have dealt with here or back home ask stupid questions and have a holier-than-thou attitude. If you break the law, you deserve to have to listen to their stupid questions.

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I've been stopped 3 times on my bicycle for minor offences (though none as reckless as crossing a major junction on a red. Hell, it's dangerous enough crossing on a green, given many J-drivers' attitude to red lights.) Being polite and co-operative ensured that my only penalty was having to feel sheepish and endure seemingly pointless questions. I think these are designed to test your attitude. If you get wound up and rude, you get a ticket. Although I sure it's a questionable legal practise. On the whole I can endure pompous attitudes from the police. It's JT-posters who adopt a stance of 'be thankful, lowly law-breaker, that the magnanimous J-police didn't smite you' who rile. I cycle to work most days and see dozens of red-light offences each time, sometimes within sight of a J-police car. Why is the law applied so haphazardly?

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Japanese police sometimes have nothing better to do. I have the same issue with police, if I even look at their car they turn around and start following me.

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Most Likely the "Influenza" comment was more of a warning and trying to tell you to be careful..

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"Uh, yeah," I replied, wondering what he thought he would find. A severed head perhaps."

If that J-cop had actually found a severed head, he probably would have thrown up right there.

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Ok now can we have the real story please

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If you have come longway into japan for work or whatever, please dont break the law or the social order in this country. its realy good for other gaijin reputation. Japnese police are not stupid they are too polite. dont mistake it.

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you can't get a ticket for bicycle violation. just tell them you don't have license.

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Why is this even here ? Just an everyday experience for gaijin and Japanese.

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"Baby-face said: "influenza"

I hardly see anyone wearing the nasks anymore. Must be taihen for the mask makers.

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"Baby-face said: "influenza"

I hardly see anyone wearing the masks anymore. Must be taihen for the mask makers.

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Coming next on JT - the shocking personal account of "My first run-in with the NHK Guy".

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yes of course they were wrong to cross the red light, but what has that got to do with how much they earn?

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ok mistersmarmy, i'll field that one.

to see if you need to be taken to the station to have your visa situation examined a little more closely. if you can't come up with an answer pdq it might be because you're deserving of such scrutiny. why do folks at immigration and customs in the US or Canada ask those types of questions? same reason. to throw you off your game face.

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Here's my take on the job and income questions. Its a field sobriety test.

In the States, I believe field sobriety tests come with things like saying the alphabet backwards while standing on one foot... Think that's strange, or normal? Now think how the Mexican feels who doesn't even know the alphabet half the time.

Here, we're the foreigners who don't know the language, yet the police have to ask some questions to check if you are drunk, on drugs, etc. Instead of embarrassing you with the "Stand on one foot" routine, they are asking you questions like what your income is...

If you slur your answers, get belligerent, I'm guessing you'd get a ride to the station.

At the Koban around my station, the police seem to delight in stopping everyone with a bicycle to check for lights. I just walk on by while the Japanese teens get chewed out and Salarymen get belligerent with the cops for getting in their way.

Moral: If you break the law, don't be surprised at getting harassed by the police. After all, what would the police in your own country do if you did the same thing?

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I've been stopped by the J-cops many times, but all I've ever had to do is give them one of my looks, and they leave me alone, heh.

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nisegaijin. the cops can and do ticket bicycle violations. the author is a dope for breaking the law. bet she learnt how follow traffic law, no fine, no drama, just a lesson.

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As I've said before, where were these people kept before they were allowed to run loose in Japan? Too many know too little about life at it's most basic....posts declaring that only the Japanese murder family members or cut up people after killing them, that groping and child porn are problems of Japan only, child abuse is an 'only in Japan do freaks like this exist' problem, and that only Japanese police harass.

Good post Akuma.

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In the U.S., at least, local police for many years had no jurisdiction over (or preferred to avoid) questions of legal residency, and would not ask about immigration status, employment, etc. That has changed, and these kinds of questions are becoming more common, even in ordinary traffic stops. In Japan, of course, because most policing is essentially under a national authority, they have always been charged with the task of routing out illegal immigrants, and questions about employment, visa status (and, in Japan, because visa validity is related in many cases to income level), salary, etc. are considered perfectly legitimate when stopping a non-citizen resident.

Still, after never having been stopped by the police in over ten years living here, I'm beginning to have second thoughts about my plan to buy a bicycle for the first time--it seems as though it may be more trouble than it's worth, given all the stories I hear about traffic stops based solely on having been on a bicycle.

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The cop who said "influenza" probably wanted you to be careful about catching a cold. He did say that you had cycled a "far" distance in the rain already.... I think it was a kind comment trying to break the language barrier..

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sk4ek, i wouldn't worry about it too much. I've never been stopped here in 12 years, and I've ridden a bike and diven a car for 10 of them. If anything, I'd say I'm well overdue. either that, or I'm just the best bloody cyclist/driver on the planet... I think I'll go with the former.

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A bike is considered a vehicle, same as a car. You can be ticketed for a moving violation on a bike same as on a scooter.

I've lived here for years and never had any run-ins with the law. I've always found the j-cops to be rather polite and easy-going the few times I've dealt with them (random traffic checkpoints and the like).

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You got caught disobeying a red light in a country so anal retentive that you wear a different pair of slippers just to go to the can.. and you get away with a ticket? How should you feel about it? Happy. Ed probably wanted to practice his Eigo.

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^

"..get away withOUT a ticket..."

If I were in Japan, that would have been ticketed for failure to proofread.

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Jahrine, while the cops had no business giving you the third degree, you still shouldn't have run the red light. Cops are just waiting for people to make little mistakes like that so that they can go and harass them -- it's bad enough even when you haven't done anything suspicious at all!

Always obey the traffic laws, cross the roads in the bicycle lanes (where available), keep your light on at night, and -- just to be safe -- learn where the police boxes are and go around them rather than directly in front.

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the cops had no business giving you the third degree

It hardly sounds like it was the third degree, and they did have every right to stop her for crossing on red, and her husband for riding without a light. Perhaps Mr and Mrs Myles would have been happier to have been dragged down to the station for more pertinent questioning, hours of their lives wasted while their food shopping went bad in the bag, and maybe a fine to boot.

Cops are just waiting for people to make little mistakes like that so that they can go and harass them

Stop embarrassing yourself. The cops are far too busy to go looking for people to harass. And zooming across a red light isn't a 'little mistake' if a two-ton truck with a dozy driver happens to be coming across on a clear green and flattens a couple of bikes with no lights.

This pair have a real nerve to complain - they admit they were in the wrong, they didn't get booked, they didn't get splattered by a truck, all they got were a few personal questions and a warning not to catch cold in the rain. Sheer cheek if you ask me. They should apologise to Ed and Baby-Face, and thank them profusely for their concern over their safety and health.

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dealing with gaijins takes too much hassle and paperwork.. if they see that your stay is temp, they would just let you go with a stern warning, that is, if nothing is "broken". (cept for the law, ahem)

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dealing with gaijins takes too much hassle and paperwork.

They dealt with these two gaijins pretty well, with no hassle, no paperwork and according to the writer of the article, a lesson well learned.

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i'd be interested to know the authors race. j-cops are always looking to pin visa violations/drug charges on certain ethnicities. once they had grounds to detain and question, they were probably disappointed to see the visas were in order and chocolates contained no drugs ... ha ha ha. try callind to report a B&E. they'll search your home with a fine tooth comb, looking for something to pin on you but, won't dust for a single fingrtprint. that's my experience.

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all I've ever had to do is give them one of my looks, and they leave me alone, heh. Sarge, what do you mean by "one of my looks"?

We all know everything about this story and more.Learning and following the laws of the roda here are quite a chore, but a necessary one, because the J-cops ARE ALWAYS RIGHT. So when they approach you (and me) about it, that's because you (me) have made some violation. I've been stopped and ticketed 3-4 times in 10 years. And once was bated by a rookie cop who wanted to and DID make his point of showing who was the boss. That's all there's too it. As long as we live here (and why else would we be writing about it) we have to realize that we either obey or we attract attention like a magnet. Then anything goes. Remember, this is the country that still places great emphasis on arrest by confession.

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one of the first rules in dealing with the J-Cops is ... dont speak Japanese.

if you do, but your not really fluent/not fluent at all/can only say dirty words, but try your best to be nice and apologetic and helpful, and they decide to arrest you anyways, you lose your right to a translator if you have uttered even a single particle of Japanese.

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Learning and following the laws of the roda here are quite a chore

Red=stop, Green=go (but be careful), put lights on your bike at night. Where's the chore? And how is 'here' different from anywhere else?

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Cleo, we can quibble about what constitutes "the third degree", but the fact is that instead of lecturing our author about traffic safety, which is what the cops should have done, they instead made a bunch of irrelevant and insulting demands that had nothing to do with red lights.

They first pretended not to understand that changes to information on the front of alien cards are made on the back. Anybody with the authority to look at these things knows full well that people don't have "two addresses" -- plenty of other ID cards work the same way! The cops were just trying to confuse Jahrine here -- it's not like she can afford to get angry about their deception.

Then they took it upon themselves to decide that it's a long way from Jahrine's apartment to Jusco, as if our authors were lying about it or something.

They then follow this up with questions about our authors' monthly salaries -- we're getting further and further away from traffic safety, now aren't we?

Next they start opening up Jahrine's bags -- they need a warrant for that! Notice also that they didn't even ask for her permission, which legally they must do. Maybe they thought that since our authors played fast and loose with the traffic light laws, the police are allowed to disregard their own laws. And here I was thinking that there should be higher standards for the police.

"Stop embarrassing yourself"!? "Too busy"? Cleo, I don't know where you live, but in central Tokyo (where I worked until recently), at night, koban cops aren't busy in the least. And there are a ton of young trainees whose bosses love to have them stop innocent-looking cyclists to give them practice in questioning people.

I invite you to join me in riding my bicycle past a few of them after hours. The first few times they stop us for no reason at all, you might think it's just good neighborhood police work. After that you'll be ready to tear their heads off.

Again, I admit, the authors of this piece were in the wrong, traffic-light-wise, and a traffic safety reminder was deserved. But the other accusations and harassment were out of order. And cops do this all the time. I'd rather pay a traffic fine on the spot and then ride off than put up with that insulting garbage.

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Thon, gotta agree with Cleo.

as i said above, if a cop doesn't ask questions about what color you think the sky is, they aren't doing their jobs. you might be drunk, among other things, and it's their job to find out.

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instead of lecturing our author about traffic safety, which is what the cops should have done...

Or they could have dragged them down to the station and let them cool their heels until the official interpreter came on duty, to make sure they understood the lecture.

They first pretended not to understand that changes to information on the front of alien cards are made on the back.

Or maybe they were checking that the cards actually were their cards?

I don't know where you live, but in central Tokyo (where I worked until recently), at night, koban cops aren't busy in the least.

I live in rural Tochigi. My cop daughter lives somewhere else, and her two years' stint in the koban was probably the busiest two years of her life so far. I guarantee you Tokyo cops have it no easier, probably a good bit worse. When you're on your way to work fresh-faced and well-rested after a good night's sleep, that cop you see in the koban who doesn't look busy has likely been on duty for 23 hours and has spent the night dealing with drunks, teenage runaways, pickpockets, lost-and-found, DV incidents and minor fender-benders - everything from the violent to the ridiculous. And he'll have to write that all up in triplicate before he's allowed to go home in maybe another 8 hours' time. Things don't not happen just because you don't see them. Not that we know that Ed and Baby-Face were koban cops.

Faced with two apparently respectable, intelligent people who should know better than cross on red at a pretty big crossing where the roads were busy, the cops were right to be suspicious and to want to check their story. Why would two people act so apparently completely out of character? The cops did right, and the Myers were very very lucky to get off with nothing more than an incident to write an article about, and a bit of a soaking. They were lucky they didn't end up as strawberry jam on that pretty big, busy crossing.

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you lose your right to a translator if you have uttered even a single particle of Japanese.

I don't think that's actually the case. Can you provide a link for that?

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Cleo, you're being ridiculous. I would have demanded these officers write their names and badge numbers and compared it with their badges to file harassment charges. Yes, she ran a red light. She wasn't selling drugs, she wasn't killing innocent and defenseless Japanese people or something. These officers had NO business asking how much they made, NO business making comments about 'its a long distance from your apartment', etc. These officers were harassing people needlessly, and should be penalized for it.

If they wanted to write a ticket, fine. If they wanted to check a gaijin card like good little racist scum, fine. Thats legally within their right because of the way this country views foreigners. Anything else, they can get back n their little scooter and get back to their little box pretending they have a purpose in life. I have 0 respect for police in Japan, most of them are either useless or dangerous. As a foreigner, I don't have police protection here. I've been attacked before by a drunk Japanese man whining about Gaijin while I was walking to a taxi, quietly. I was told by the two friends with me, both Japanese, don't call the cops as they'll arrest you for creating a disturbance. There are many things good and bad in all societies, in Japan the police fall 90% under bad.

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I would have demanded these officers write their names and badge numbers and compared it with their badges to file harassment charges.

And you would probably have ended up spending a good few hours down at the station. If you play by the book, so do they. If that's what you want, fine.

she wasn't killing innocent and defenseless Japanese people or something

Sheer luck. She and her husband recklessly dashed across a large, busy crossroads against the traffic lights and one of them was riding in the dark. They could very well have caused a serious accident.

If they wanted to write a ticket, fine.

It sounds to me like they didn't want to write a ticket, they just wanted to check that these two reckless fools on their bikes weren't under the influence or otherwise a danger to themselves and others, and that it was safe to let them go on their way. Myles says she's learned her lesson. The questioning and soaking probably worked better than a fine or a ticket. The policemen did a good job.

I've been attacked before by a drunk Japanese man whining about Gaijin

I wonder what you mean by 'attacked'.... if you consider a few harmless questions to be 'harassment' your friends were probably right to advise you not to call the police because of some whining drunk.

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lordomni

These officers were harassing people needlessly, and should be penalized for it.

Pardon me for asking the obvious, but did you even read the article? They ran a red light. This is HARDLY needless harassment.

Have you ever been stopped by cops in your own country? It's their business to throw people off their game to see if anything else is at play here. salary, weather, whatever, it's all fair game.

Perhaps you think someone who runs a red light should be asked "and how are you today?"

Farcical. And BTW, you should have called the police on that drunk. Your friends don't know what they're talking about.

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JC, what a non-story!

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Yes this may be a non-story, but so far 50 blog-ins have appeared so it must strike a chord. I think the bigger question here is, a married couple riding bicycles at night (one without a light) with chocolate in their basket THINK OF THEMSELVES as just riding around Mayberry with Andy and Barney the cops taking care of business, which is nothing more than locking up the town drunk or double parking etc. In other words, we as gaijin feel we are already up against enough restrictions in the daily social life etc. and what's a little red light crossing anyways? But the environment (of the world) has drastically changed since 2001, the 2016 Olympics are in the picture, drugs are proliferating, out-of-work people now in the majority, and overall doom and gloom written all over the place. Against this RECENT background, the police did what they thought was their job, to the best of their ability. Still, some parts of what lodomi says I can relate to. Its definitely a STACKED DECK. But we live here FULL KNOWING That to be the case. So, after all. Stop on REd. Look both ways before ANY CROSSING, SIGNAL OR NOT, and especially stopping at little lodge roads where you might be living, because the natives ride their bikes against traffic all the time, and I doubt they've ever been stopped about it. THAT is a double standard though, don't you think? And that's the bottom line. Is it a double standard? Unequivacably it is. So? We stay and endure it or we take flight? Sorry to be so blunt, but that's the long and short of living here, or so I conceive. How about others?

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Don't EVER speak Japanese to Japanese cops -- even if you have been in Japan for years and are Level 1 on the JLPT!

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Regarding the part where the police officers asked what his salary was...

I'm told (and I've read) that it is often customary for 2 people meeting each other to ask what each other's salary is in Japan. I'm sure they didn't ask that question asserting their power in the position they held. =/

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The police do think they're doing their job, but they could certainly do them a lot better than this. It's true for most countries, but in Japan the inefficiencies and abnormal behavior by cops can be quite startling. It doesn't matter how remote the chance of someone being a criminal is, they honestly feel obligated to explore every possibility. It's better to interrogate fewer people longer, because it's less paperwork and still the same job well done.

In any case, the less Japanese you speak the better. Ignore the hyperbole in some of these comments though, the real issue here is cops are expected to follow this system.

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My only dealings with the police here involved a minor traffic accident -- somebody backed into my car while it was parked in a school parking lot (I was inside teaching).

Had to go to the police station to do up some paperwork. No big deal at all -- except the cop, when filling out the report, forgot what YEAR it was! That was confidence-inspiring!

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I'm told (and I've read) that it is often customary for 2 people meeting each other to ask what each other's salary is in Japan.

You've been told wrong, and you need to change your reading material.

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Let us not always be the victim. The Myers ran a red light. This is against the law. In Japan not following the rules is seen as suspicious and when you think about it what is not suspicious about two grown adults who know not to cross on red and could not wait those extra seconds/minutes? When police (not just Japanese police) see something suspicious it is their duty to ask questions. As to what questions it is up to them. Not that I agree with how the Myers were questioned. I just have come to accept that the chances of getting one up one police are slim so the best thing to do is answer them politely and move on. No matter where you go police are criminals with badges. Don't play up, follow the rules and you won't get in trouble. If we were not occasionally stopped and asked to show our alien registration cards, then for what reason must we carry them around at all times?

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JenniferKim...If that is your only experience with them then why the ridiculous statement above? I've been pulled over for a ticketable offence in my car,I spoke Japanese, (I have no JLPT score, I can just converse in Japanese reasonably well). I was polite, apologised that my japanese wasnt better, listened to what they said, told them that I didnt know that it was a Ticketable offence and apologised again. They were polite, only ever asked what country I came from and how long I had been in Japan (perfectly normal questions), and they let me off with a warning and a Ki wo tsukette.

I think if you are nervous or cocky with cops, they will make things difficult for you, with good reason, If you are respectful, and not beligerant, they will be fair. Some of us may have run ins with Jerk cops, but hey, I bet they run into jerks at a much higher frequency than us.

I really think most of the horror stories about Jcops have some very extenuationg circumstances almost every time. But then it gets blamed on racism, Japaneseness, and whatever else isnt related to our own behaviour.

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I think a related issue that nobody has addressed here is very arbitrary nature of roads and driving and riding bicycles here. For example, in the neighborhood where I live, it is a typical hodgepodge of street crossings, very few (perhaps one out of 5) have traffic lights. After a while (say a year or so) you realize that bicycles and even 50 cc motor cycles (like paper delivery boys) go by their own rules. Bicycles ride against traffic as if its their right, and motor cycles cut corners and proceed to turn left at lights after checking to see if on coming traffic is coming. And life goes on. Rarely a J-cop is in sight. We, and even the natives become more lax in our/their stop and go patterns. This is what I imagine happened to the Myers. But then the other part of the equation kicks in. Once your engaging with a person in "authority", whether its a J-cop or a "Senpai" from work, they by majority go ahead and ask what we (westerners) consider to be nosey, slightly arrogant-toned line of questions. Cleo stating that its not often customary for 2 people to ask about each other's salary lives in a different country than me. It happens all the time (or used to, untill the downturn), as do the questions of length of stay (nobody's business J-cop or not) place or residence, family members etc.

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I hope this series will continue...it is hilarious, soon to become a bestseller in NY

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I purposely blast my car's horn at every idiot crossing over a red light because if I kill them it's my fault as a driver and it's me who goes to jail for 5-7 years...

Would show them my bare backside through the side-window too, wouldn't I be so busy actually driving the car and avoiding hitting them. Therefore those guys should feel really lucky they did not meet me at that crossing :))

Joking aside, they deserve sitting and getting soaked for 15 minutes in the rain for doing such a terrible mistake. BTW - do cops actually stop you in Japan for crossing a red light? - this sounds incredible.

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JenniferKim...If that is your only experience with them then why the ridiculous statement above?

Because I know other foreigners who've been stopped by police. They were polite and respectful, but did not let on that they spoke any Japanese. They were treated well by the cops too.

And, a person's opinion isn't "ridiculous" just because you happen to disagree with it. Have a little tolerance for people whose viewpoints differ from your own.

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You've been told wrong, and you need to change your reading material.

A rare sarcasm recognition fail for you, Cleo.

The cyclists were wrong for running a light. They probably checked that no cars were coming, so the chance of accident was negligible. The cops were way out of bounds to ask about salary and to illegally rummage through their belongings. I must say that the cops are courteous about their invasions of privacy and irrelevant questions.

I'm leaning toward Thon's take.

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They probably checked that no cars were coming, so the chance of accident was negligible.

And that's a rare unfounded assumption for you, Nessie. The reaction of the bloke following her who should have a better idea than us of the situation came out with, “Jesus, are you trying to kill me?” and the lady herself admits that the roads were busy. She does not say she checked that it was OK first. She does say she did the unthinkable. Checking that the road is clear is not unthinkable.

junkface was being sarcastic?.... Missed that one....so what's isthistheend on about...?

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Is this the end is replying to your "nobody asks about salary" quote "your reading the wrong material". I've been asked that question point blank so many times I can feel when its coming 3 questions ahead of time. Q1 "You speak Japanese so well, your wife must be Japanese. Q2 How long have you been here. and then the 3rd one, in that order.

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Q1 "You speak Japanese so well, your wife must be Japanese.

I think that's a roundabout way of saying you talk like a girl.... :-P

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I agree with most people who have commented; she's an idiot for crossing at a red light, but the police had no right to go through her bag and ask her how much money she makes.

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The reaction of the bloke following her who should have a better idea than us of the situation came out with, “Jesus, are you trying to kill me?” and the lady herself admits that the roads were busy. She does not say she checked that it was OK first. She does say she did the unthinkable. Checking that the road is clear is not unthinkable.

I guess doing the unthinkable was too unthinkable for me.

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No comment!

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This read just like the ten billion other blogs on Japan.

Something boring happened today, but it was in Japan.

Let's blog.

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Got patted down by the cops in Shinjuku my 2nd nite in Japan in 2003, lucky i had the passport on me.

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Japanese police may just be following the letter of the law, and some of them may not be the stereotypically corrupt officers they sadly have reputations for, but it is racism pure and simple.

Not many "free" countries allow a system whereby the police are allowed to stop people on a whim based often on their skin colour. Certainly not mine. Granted, countries such as Iraq, N Korea, etc presumably have such a system, but why Japan? I have been pulled over, daytime and nighttime by J-Cops, riding AND walking. At first, it was amusing, but it starts to become embarassing and demeaning.

Tonight I was riding home from the combini, and saw a cop car go past. Sure enough, the flashing lights went on. The two fresh faced cops got out and asked to see my Gaijin card. I was in a slightly testy mood (tough day) so I demanded in Japanese "Why are you singling me out? I pointed to people at the combini and asked them Why dont you check them? Of course, he came out with his pathetic answer "We check everyone". I asked again "Do you check Japanese people too"? At which point he showed me a little book he had with english translations of the relevant act that Alien Card must be produced (or passport) upon demand from such potentially bad foreign devils. I produced said Gaijin card, the cops sensed my displeasure and apologised. 5 minutes of our tax yen that could have been spent prosecuting crimes (and yes...there are many crimes in Japan, it just seems the cops here are generally too incompetent/unwilling to prosecute them).

Why would anyone bring up kids in Japan where they will face such outrages? I have a Chinese student here, and I asked her recently if she had ever had to show her Alien card on demand...she told me not once in 6 years. Says it all really!

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"Why are you singling me out? I pointed to people at the combini and asked them Why dont you check them? "We check everyone". I asked again "Do you check Japanese people too"?

Care to state what you and the police said exactly in Japanese?

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My Japanese is pretty crap, "Nihon-jin mo check shimaska?" To which he replied in (almost as bad english as my Japanese) "We check everyone." He understood the question OK.

The point is they werent checking bike rego or anything else. Just straight out stopped me and demanded to see my Alien card. Is this normal? Any other experiences out there? I can't imagine many Chinese/Koreans living here would be getting pulled up on the streets for a spot check of their gaijin cards...or am I wrong?

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My Japanese is pretty crap, "Nihon-jin mo check shimaska?" To which he replied in (almost as bad english as my Japanese) "We check everyone." He understood the question OK.

Hmmm. You're initial story was

so I demanded in Japanese " Why are you singling me out? I pointed to people at the combini and asked them Why dont you check them? Of course, he came out with his pathetic answer "We check everyone".

Not only your sequence of conversation is messed up but you were speaking Japanese and yet all of the sudden, the police officer decides to respond in English.

Is this normal?

No. Especially if you're caucasian since statistically speaking, they are the least #'s of visa violators. But for some reason, the so-called "my experience with the police" happens most of the time to caucasians in this site as well as the one run by some activist up north.

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But for some reason, the so-called "my experience with the police" happens most of the time to caucasians in this site as well as the one run by some activist up north.

Nigelboy, one would guess the reason for that is...the majority of those who use this site are...Caucasian. If we checked a Brazilian-Portugese site for residents in Japan, or a Filipino-Tagalog we would likely see similar experiences. Probably the same for that other site (I'm guessing that Debito whats-his-name guy)

BTW, my sequence of events may be a little messed up, but the whole experience was messed up and infuriating. Some of the (younger) J Cops can speak english a bit - don't think the senior ones can at all though. To their credit they were friendly and apologetic, and one of them seemed keen to practice his english, but my main point was to ask why the need to pull up a foreigner simply to demand to look at his/her Alien card? Makes no sense when you read of all the other crimes out there in Japan - Domestic Violence seems to be all pervasive if you look at some of the news.

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BurakuminDes

Perhaps. But let's look at the stats.

There were 4,775 arrested for immigration violation last year with China, Phillipines, and Korea ranked in top 3 in that order. There were only 13 arrests of Americans and they didn't even release the rest of the western nations (U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany etc.) because the # was smaller than that of U.S.

As indicated above, the stats indicate that the Chinese consisted the most among immigration violation arrests. Therefore, your story of "I have a Chinese student here, and I asked her recently if she had ever had to show her Alien card on demand...she told me not once in 6 years" while you yourself been pulled over several times including TONIGHT, along with your summary of events, I question the validity of this ever happening to you.

Moderator: Back on topic please.

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I'm told (and I've read) that it is often customary for 2 people meeting each other to ask what each other's salary is in Japan.

You've been told wrong, and you need to change your reading material.

I work for a company that often deals with Japanese companies and whenever they come overseas to visit... what I stated happens. We are told beforehand not to be offended when asked this question. although I am not high up on the corporate ladder for this to happen to me I know several colleagues who've been asked this question.

Perhaps, you should be more open minded and change your material...

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As indicated above, the stats indicate that the Chinese consisted the most among immigration violation arrests. Therefore, your story of "I have a Chinese student here, and I asked her recently if she had ever had to show her Alien card on demand...she told me not once in 6 years" while you yourself been pulled over several times including TONIGHT, along with your summary of events, I question the validity of this ever happening to you.

Nigelboy, feel free to contact the Fukushima City police and ask them if they have a record of pulling over a gaijin on the night of July 22nd at 930PM. Im sure they do keep records ...If you want to go ahead and call me a liar. People like you destroy these forums, as others cannot voice an opinion to an article without being challenged and bombarded with statistics to try and justify their own position...which of course, is ALWAYS right.

Fortunately, most of the other posters are mature enough to disagree without calling others a liar.

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Junkface, I've lived in Japan 11 years, and have not once been asked how much I earn. Neither have I ever heard Japanese people ask that question of each other (my husband is Japanese, so I would have had a very large number of opportunities to hear that question if it was asked.)

I'm afraid I have to confirm that you are wrong there- it would be as rude a question here as it is elsewhere. Cleo is right, your sources are mistaken. Please don't ask someone how much they earn if you ever visit Japan.

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Apsara, since your husband is Japanese, then according to Cleo "I think that's a roundabout way of saying you talk like a girl/man". Total nonsense right? That's how I felt when he/she said the same thing to me above. And again, maybe they don't say it to you or your husband, but "how much money do you make" is OFTEN spoken here, just like "how much did xxx cost"comes out as frequently as what's the weather today.

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burakimin des,

good on you .dont take any crap from these policemen -only by making it unpleasant for them and making them understand how racist it is will any progress be made. im interested in what law they showed you. they have to show you their id first and also give you a reason why they are stopping you before you are reqd to show your arc dont stand for any crap

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when i was a high school student, i went to the U.S. for a year as an exchange student, and my host father (american) asked me how much money my father was making (that was the first topic at the dinner table on the FIRST day i arrived there !). He brought a pen and paper and made me write down the number. I thought it was rude and I knew, even though I was a teenager, that it was not a good question to ask..

In Japan, I have never been asked that question by anyone... Maybe those police officers asked the question because low income foreigners would be more likely to be involved in a crime and etc ?? hmm.

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Nigelboy, feel free to contact the Fukushima City police and ask them if they have a record of pulling over a gaijin on the night of July 22nd at 930PM. Im sure they do keep records ...

Citizens don't have access to records. You don't even have accesss to you own accident report in Japan.

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when i was a high school student, i went to the U.S. for a year as an exchange student, and my host father (american) asked me how much money my father was making

The correct answer is, "Enough, although it could be more."

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according to Cleo "I think that's a roundabout way of saying you talk like a girl/man". Total nonsense right? That's how I felt when he/she said the same thing to me above.

Looks like what was intended as a joke (I said so, but the Mod appears to have taken it on himself to erase that bit) struck a chord somewhere.

But joke or no, it's not 'total nonsense' at all; men's Japanese and women's Japanese can be quite different. Learn most of what you know linguistically from a member of the opposite sex, and you will sound odd. I've learned to mark my questions with ~ka or ~no instead of ~kai, and to say things like de wa ikimashouka instead of ja, iku de, ii wa instead of ii yo etc etc. Has end learned to do the opposite? I've met lots of men who've learned Japanese mainly from their wives or girlfriends, and they sound really sweet. Conversely women who have learned from their husbands or boyfriends tend to sound a bit tough and scary. Been there, done that.

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The point is the Jpn DO ask about salary, and DO "go shopping" and DO ask how much everything you have in your possession costs, especially if its a new "must have" item.

Why Cleo and others deny this point is beyond me, whether spoken by a male or female is beyond the point entirely.

Moderator: Back on topic please.

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The point is the Jpn DO ask about salary

Not once in 34 years have I ever heard a Japanese person ask anyone, native or foreigner, how much they earn. Neither have I ever heard anyone ask how much someone else's possessions cost, unless it's part of a general discussion about prices/the cost of living/where to find a bargain - the cost of an iPod, for example, is no secret, but the cost of my diamond earrings is never mentioned.

Moderator: Back on topic please.

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“influenza,” and gestured with his hand over his mouth

I think he wasnt trying to be rude, but because you said you were wet and such you might get a cold from it.. but who knows right :P

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In the west a run in with the cops doesn't make the papers unless someone gets beat, tazed of shot. Just say'n.

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Is there a problem with overuse of painkillers in Japan/Tokyo? Where I used to live a person out of their mind on painkillers was driving and killed a highway construction worker. One thing about painkillers - you can't smell them on someone's breath like marijuana or alcohol. The police would have to do a little further investigation to see if the person they're talking to is confused, etc., or even a little sleepy, which would be weird for someone riding a bike. That would be a tip-off. I don't think the police were out of line here. Thank you to Mrs. Myles for admitting she did something wrong. Not everyone does. Maybe this is even the police officers' intent - being careful when you're riding a bike is serious business. Now the Myles's know it is serious business next time they're on the road in traffic.

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OP and husband ran a red light, thats enough reason to stop them right there.

Jsatsu will show ID when requested, by law. This will be done before showing any tourokusho cards to prevent impersonators of Jsatsu from getting any personal information.

As for asking the salary, this is a privacy issue - which OP and husband decided to divulge. Everyone has the right to refuse to answer such a question.

Looking inside your shopping bag. If you were on foot and were not breaking any laws the police have no reason to stop you at all, let alone stop you just to check your bag(s) - tho I do see this constantly in Shinjuku near the Yodobashi Camera shopping area (young, old, man, woman, Japanese, non-Japanese... i've seen them stop all of them). As for being on a bicycle, I am not sure if the police have more discretion to search bags or not.

advice:

learn the language of the country you are living in! don't run red lights. don't answer private/personal questions if you are uncomfortable doing so.
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As for asking the salary, this is a privacy issue - which OP and husband decided to divulge. Everyone has the right to refuse to answer such a question.

The question is whether it's professional for police to ask such a question. Most people on this thread seem to think it isn't. The onus is not all on the public. Who will trust the police when they go fishing for irrelevant personal details?

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By law the Japanese police needs a search warrant to inspect your bags. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090707ad.html

I carry the mobile number of a Japanese lawyer at all times. He always complains about the ignorance of Japanese people concerning their rights. Seems foreigners are no different. If you don't like it get informed.

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...If you want to go ahead and call me a liar. People like you destroy these forums, as others cannot voice an opinion to an article without being challenged and bombarded with statistics to try and justify their own position...which of course, is ALWAYS right.

Just to add, MOJ also released the statistics on where the visa violators were apprehended and it indicates that 82.5% (10,218 cases) were done in place of business and home. The remaining which the MOJ classify as "Others (i.e. street stoppage") is at 2,173. So to summarize, we have visa violators who came from Western nations (for argument sake, lets call them caucasians like yourself Burakumindes) that number in the teens while the Chinese are in the thousands. And yet your Chinese friend was never stopped while you have been stopped on several occasians including on the night of the July 22nd, 9:30 PM when the police car actually PULLED OVER and questioned you. In my own personal experience, I've never been pulled over but have witnessed two SE Asian women being asked for ID's and about 8-10 Japanese (all males) being questioned by the police on the street. Does that prove anything? Nope. But it certainly defeats your position of "some of them may not be the stereotypically corrupt officers" if you take my experience as well as others who had never been stopped at face value doesn't it?

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