Like in many parts of the world, the shadows of past wars linger long after the fighting stops. Even over 70 years since the end of World War II, bombs continue to turn up in all sorts of places from construction sites to closets, and they’re just as potentially deadly today as they were then.
So, in the afternoon of Nov 18, when a man in his 70s walked into the Asahikawa Central Police Station in Ashikawa City, Hokkaido, carrying a bombshell in a plastic shopping bag, it was only reasonable that the building and surrounding area were evacuated.
The area was a cleared of some 1,500 people to ensure safety while the Ground Self-Defense Force was called in to examine and recover the shell. Their investigation determined that the 28-centimeter-long and eight-centimeter-wide shell, likely once belonging to the Imperial Army, was not a hazard because it didn’t contain gunpowder.
The shell was a 75-millimeter round, commonly used in tank and anti-tank guns.
Meanwhile, many readers of the news online were surprised by his choice of a plastic shopping bag to carry it, especially since the government enforced a mandatory charge of three to five yen for plastic bags from supermarkets and other shops.
“At least use a tote bag! Those things can break pretty easily.”
“I never knew munitions transport was one of the many things you could do with a plastic bag.”
“That’s one tough old man.”
“At least take it straight to the military, not the police.”
“Just put it in an empty lot and then report it.”
“You’re killing the environment! Use an eco-bag!”
“Shopping bags really were amazing, weren’t they? I miss those things.”
“That has to be a violation of the sword and firearms law.”
According to the police, the man had found the shell when he tore down a relative’s house over 40 years ago and kept it in his own attic ever since. Because he was getting up in years, he wanted to make sure it was safely dealt with before he passed, and decided to turn it in to the police. So at least his heart was in the right place, although starting with a phone call probably would have been more prudent.
Since he had no criminal intent, hopefully the man won’t be punished too severely, but it shows that more awareness may need to be raised about dealing with recurring problem of unexploded ordinance. In fact, the very next day 10 more shells were discovered in a construction site about 200 kilometers (124 miles) away in Otaru City, Hokkaido, and needed to be secured.
In all cases, since their detonators often deteriorate with age, they can become highly unstable and go off with even the slightest jostle, let alone tossing it in a plastic bag, so be extremely careful around them.
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