Say thank you or be identified, police tell owners of lost items


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Whatever happened to "a good deed is its own reward"?

14 ( +17 / -3 )

I'm surprised the police don't hand out catalogs full of return gifts.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

The woman wrote in her post that when she contacted the finder, she became frightened upon being told, "I wanted to see what kind of person you are."

Why would anyone get frightened upon hearing this, unless they had something to hide in the first place? I would love to see the exact Japanese wording here as the nuance is totally lost in translation!

Whatever happened to "a good deed is its own reward"?

We live in Japan, not utopia.

-17 ( +2 / -19 )

When I return something face-to-face, a thank you is expected and then we go our separate ways.

If someone goes to a little extra effort to turn in a lost item, then I would be obligated to go to a little extra effort to thank that person - but without any uncomfortable "face-to-face" interaction.

I'd write a letter and let the police direct it to the other party so *my and their privacy* isn't given up just to have an item returned. I suppose a phone call from the police station would be fine. Just not interested in using my phone to call some stranger.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

WWhile I'm all for manners this is pretty poor form for privacy reasons.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

In my time in Japan I have found three wallets on the sidewalks and street, and have dutifully taken them to the nearest police box. The police always ask me if I want them to give my contact info to the owner of the wallet so as to receive a thank you, and I always decline.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

If we learn that you did not call and say thank you, we will pass on your name and telephone number to the finder," the original note said.

DUH! IF you call and say thank you, your name and telephone number will become known to the finder ANYWAY.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

the police station has acknowledged that the note could be misunderstood and said it has since amended it.

was it written in English? of course not, what a lame excuse.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"the police station has acknowledged that the note could be misunderstood"

Herein lies the problem. This excuse is often given in Japan for example by politicians and implies no wrongdoing. People understand exactly the wording and the meaning. In this case the meaning was crystal clear to the woman and she correctly brought the police to task for their grave error of judgement. If something is poorly worded it needs to be changed and people need to be reprimanded for failing to admit wrongdoing.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

insane, so yes if i found huge amount of cash I would expect a thank you and maybe a gift but in other case.. isnt feeling good you helped someone is enough?

besides the privacy concern is enormous, because those are personal items... such as key that could be replicated before hand in and then cops give the correct location?

9 ( +10 / -1 )

A policeman has no right to make a personal decision to name and shame a citizen.

He should be investigated for bullying and intimidation and reminded of what his real duties are.

15 ( +15 / -0 )


I've noticed in conversations between two native speakers of Japanese that they will nod and agree and later one will say to me, "I have no idea what he's talking about." So the "it could be misunderstood" excuse is valid; too much nuance, implied meaning, and the "He probably means..." interpretation means the note was probably poorly written.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

At a festival, my friend's daughter found a purse with 50000 yen in it. Being a good child, she handed it in, left her family's contact details and did not even get a thank message from the owner.

I don't know why but that disappoints me a lot. The owner was very lucky I didn't spot her purse first.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

I think people are mixed up. Look. If you find something that is not yours, you turn it in to someone in authority. It is not your property. It is not your affair. At that point, your role is DONE.

Then that authority performs a service to a person who has lost the item. They keep it. They judge whether someone is a rightful owner, etc. It is a hassle. It is their duty. If part of their COST placed on the person who claims it is to thank the person who found it, who can say that is unfair? Seems a small price to pay and the authorities want to build/maintain a harmonious society by giving credit to the finder.

If the claimant then wants to say that for reasons of privacy, she would rather not do that, the authority records it as an exception, tells the claimant to be more careful, and life goes on.

Enforcing good will and mandating proper conduct is not how things are SUPPOSED to be, but selfish people do ruin things for the rest of us.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Ah, the land of "omotenashi" and the "most honest nation in the world". I was actually confronted with this issue quite a few times last year, and once so far this year. Last year I handed in three things I found, one being a 10,000 yen note outside a station (I waited half an hour to see if anyone would come looking for it in a panic, then took it to police). In all three cases I said I didn't want the people, if they came and claimed the items, to need to thank me and so declined to give my specifics. Once they asked me, "Do you want them to know it was a foreigner who turned them in?" which I thought was odd, but I said it shouldn't really matter, so no. I never went back to check if they were claimed or not.

A month ago a colleague of mine -- bit of an arrogant fellow -- was bragging on his facebook account how he found a camera and turned it in (made a link to the "Japan is the most honest country in the world" YouTube video) some months before, and complained that he never got a call of thanks or reward for doing so. He ended his message with, "I will never turn in anything I find again, and just keep it for myself".

Sorry, but when you demand a reward for finding something, and demand recognition and thanks for what should be just kindness for the sake, it is not honesty or "omotenashi", it is selfishness, insecurity, and arrogance.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

When someone is thanked or does something perceived by others as a 'good deed', they receive a little release of dopamine in the brain. People are so deprived of self-expression from birth here in Japan that they crave being a busy body, nosy or doing a good deed so they can be excessively thanked so that they can receive that shot of dopamine to the brain.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I found a wallet on my street, my mrs said to go to the police station but I just had a look inside for ID and/or a business card, found the guys mobile phone number, gave him a call and he was there with a box of cakes within 5 minutes, Much easier for all involved.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

When someone is thanked or does something perceived by others as a 'good deed', they receive a little release of dopamine in the brain. People are so deprived of self-expression from birth here in Japan that they crave being a busy body, nosy or doing a good deed so they can be excessively thanked so that they can receive that shot of dopamine to the brain.

Jeebus, I thought I was cynical.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I expect a reward for cash returned.

-11 ( +1 / -12 )

saying a failure to do so could risk their being identified.

One more step in the direction of the fascist state

0 ( +5 / -5 )

If I find something then I turn it into the police. I expect nothing in return. If I return something face to face, I expect a simple thank you. Thats all

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I think it needs to be remembered that the process for handing things in is time consuming and an ordeal of sorts at times.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Smith, that is easily the most informative and reasonable post I have seen from you in years. Literally years. I congratulate you for your honesty and your sentiments.

Many years ago, I was given an exam as part of a job application process that asked odd questions such as, "Do you believe that most people steal?" and "How honest do you think people are?" I thought the questions were absolutely bizarre, so I just answered them as quickly as I could. I found out later that the particular job required someone who assumed honesty, but who was circumspect enough to know that not all people are honest. Think about how rare that is. Or is that most people between a 6 year old and a cop? Hard to know for sure.

And one premise of the test is that people who assume other people are dishonest are likely to be thieves themselves, given the opportunity. Practicing honesty is seeing honesty all around you, and being shocked by dishonesty where it is proven.

Now it sounds quaint and smarmy to say this, but it is true. The REWARD you get for returning something and not stealing it is the ability to see an honest world around you, no matter how small, and living with the expectation that if human kindness exists within you, it must exist in the heart of someone else.

If the police are trying to encourage people to connect with strangers that way, then they are doing a great public service. If they are mandating it, then the point is lost.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Agree with Mike above. I turned in an earring not too long ago and what a complicated process was initiated! Mainly I felt sorry for the young policeman who had to do drive from headquarters to fill out the paperwork. He explained that it all had to be done to the letter, crossed, dotted, signed and countersigned, mainly to prevent corruption in the police!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Oh, and he asked me if I wanted the owner to say thanks. I said it didn't matter to me either way. He said there were only two answers possible i.e. "Yes" or "No".

Yes means filling in all your personal information, consent form signed and sealed, and leaving it with the police.

No means no further paperwork.

Guess which one I chose.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

As much as I appreciate a "thank you very much" in such situation, I don't think politeness and civility should be 'enforced' as such, not by coppers I mean.

In this case, if cops have to ask owners to say 'thank you' then it's already too late. Has to come from the owner not rules/cops.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Two years ago, I found a woman's wallet with her licence inside while cycling near Enoshima. I knew if I took it to the police box, it would result in a lot of wasted time, unnecessary paperwork and travel for me as well as the young lady. She got her license in a far away prefecture and may have been just visiting that area. Took it home and had my wife mail it to the address on the license. I always try to avoid any interaction with the cops here. Time-consuming and painful.

6 ( +6 / -0 )


第二十八条 物件(誤って占有した他人の物を除く。)の返還を受ける遺失者は、当該物件の価格(第九条第一項若しくは第二項又は第二十条第一項若しくは第二項の規定により売却された物件にあっては、当該売却による代金の額)の百分の五以上百分の二十以下に相当する額の報労金を拾得者に支払わなければならない。

Law on lost item

When the item is returned, the owner must pay the finder of the lost item a reward that is not less than five percent and is not more than twenty percent of the value of the item.

Most people waive this right, but if the finder insists, the police must tell the ID of the owner to the finder for reward payment.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Whatever happened to "a good deed is its own reward"?

I think this is a good example of the difference between living in a western and confucion society. Fundamental cultural differences actually exist.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This is just forced politeness without concern for privacy. Basically they are saying, you must act more Japanese by apologizing for the inconvenience, even at the expense of your privacy. Sometimes, Japan can be so backwards.

We should just thank the police for being such a good lost and found service.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Ah-ree-gay-tow Gozheeemasss

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In my time in Japan I have found three wallets on the sidewalks and street, and have dutifully taken them to the nearest police box. The police always ask me if I want them to give my contact info to the owner of the wallet so as to receive a thank you, and I always decline.

I did that once and the police officer starting asking me why I didn't want the rewarding for about 5 mins... He thought I had stolen it.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This morning they had something about this in the news. A women in her 20s had lost her scarf and had reported the loss to the cops, giving her details. The scarf was found, handed in to the police and subsequently returned to her. However, a while later, she received a hand written letter from the finder, a male, who wooed her with “ocha shimasen ka?” and asked he for her phone number etc. I can imagine that this girl got quite scared, knowing that there are a lot of loose hentai cannon walking around nowadays. The cops need the info, but should never give it to third parties.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Jalapeno: "I expect a reward for cash returned."

Then your motivation is greed.

nandakandamanda: "Agree with Mike above. I turned in an earring not too long ago and what a complicated process was initiated! Mainly I felt sorry for the young policeman who had to do drive from headquarters to fill out the paperwork."

It's easy to agree with Mike, and I think most people would do the same in that situation -- the thing is he found something with ID, whereas most things you find don't have them, or at least not enough info to contact the person directly. Ergo, you must initiate that tedious process (on both sides) of helping fill in a report after taking the item(s) to the police.

5Speedracer5: "Smith, that is easily the most informative and reasonable post I have seen from you in years. Literally years. I congratulate you for your honesty and your sentiments."

Thanks for the compliments, but of course in line with my first post that was not the intention (I'm just acknowledging it). :) I think, of course, if people return something or get something passed to them face to face (or by direct message as the case may be) then it is just common courtesy. So, thanks. And this is not patting each other on the back, but I agree with your statement that mandating it, as the police are doing here, is self-defeating when it comes to the actual rewards for doing something good. It's like forcing someone to like something, or be patriotic. Forcing recognition and reward becomes a punishment.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

J-cops are the last people that should be teaching morals. Idiotic idea without thinking it through. They think they are above the law handing out people's names, phone numbers and addresses.

Just keep riding around in your noddy cars flashing your lights instead.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I had found something in Japan last year and gave it to the person behind the ticket counter. He did not speak much English and I did not speak Japanese much better.

But what I thought would of been a quick drop off and maybe a bow, turned out to be confusion, apprehension and eventually with me just walking away.

Thinking back on it, maybe since we could not communicate with each other, he thought I was personally giving it to him. It was a piece of woman's jewelry as I recall, so it is doubtful, but who knows.

But reading this and comments from others I could see why. But again this was a ticketer (is that even a word...) and not the police.

However a person should not have to give a thank you, although it would be nice and a person handing it in should not have to give personal info. That just makes for awkward situations.

Apparently this is why bystanders in India would rather watch you die in a car accident then actually help you, because if you do help, the police may accuse them or if taken the hospital, the doctors demand you sign for the victim to assure they will be paid, even though the victim and bystander are complete strangers.

Just imagine if in Japan, people became afraid of handing stuff in or even go looking for the lost and found...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Like the idiot I am sometimes, went out on a date my 1st year here and didn't feel like carrying my wallet around so I took my gaijin card and put in my baseball cap. Middle of summer and I lost it riding my bike. Didn't realize it till the next day and retraced my steps. Someone had found it and put it on a light post at ankle high. Damn was I lucky. Many years later, a lady had left her wallet in her bike basket. Took it to the police box. Yeah, they asked me if I wanted to be contacted I said no, but the lady contacted me anyway by phone and thanked me. I still wonder if I should have just left it there and everything would have been OK.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've found lots of items here and there. And people have kindly returned items to me. Always restores my occasional waning faith in human nature.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I don't care, identifying me if you must. Understand though, if I am exposed to any form of harassment or lowered quality of safety, the police will bare some responsibility. And I will peruse compensation.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

isoducky, that is exactly the point. Everyone here is talking about rewards and what is right etc.

But every other day there is stories of stalkers hurting or killing girls who they randomly fell head over heels for. Often helped by bumbling cops or city officials who seem to think giving out someone's personal details is ok.

As forzaducati pointed out, this guy sounded like a creep when she called him, and she didnt think that contacting him should be necessary. Other people posted up hand written letters coming from "good samaritans" who seemed to be more interested in finding romance than getting thanked for their good deed.

The system is majorly flawed. If a reward is required to be paid, then the rightful owner should be able to give the reward to the police to give to the person that handed it in. Same with written thank you notes or whatever... The police should be the mediators to ensure people's right to privacy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I can see why someone might appreciate a thank you for turning something in, but if someone finds a key and copies it before handing it into police, then is able to learn that person's name/address, they then have complete access to that person's home. Did they really think that through?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Finders keepers, losers weepers" as the saying goes in some places.

I've always hated it, but it does express an attitude in a nutshell.

What's mine is mine and yours, too, if I wish to share it. What's yours is never mine even if I don't know who "you" are.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

i have taken found items to kobans and police stations on more than twenty times. as other posters have said, the process is time consuming, between 15 minutes to my record one hour. I don't do it because i want the 10% reward, or an ego boosting phone call with the request of my address by the owner so they can send flowers. i do it because i believe in KARMA.

After many bad experiences with J police, like giving my salary, job address and contact, my address and phone numbers and email and how much rent i pay etc, proof of visa, family relationships, why i came to Japan, do i have Japanese friends...Blah blah blah...I just walk in now and tell them i am very busy and please find the owner as i don't have time.

I think this works well because if the found items are not claimed, the person who handed it it in can keep 50%. If the person who handed it in is uncontactable, i guess...well, the lonely police officer in the koban can kind of, well you know, eat yaki-niku for a week!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

So what happens when some dude who find some lady's key or whatever and isn't thanked for returning it winds up being some kind of stalking molester? I know those types of socially-inept obsessive loner deviants are almost non-existent in Japan, but the police would be liable, no?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sounds very un-Japanese, as it means you'll need to get involved with a stranger, and could potentially be awkward if say you found a wallet without the money... the owner will always suspect you as having taken the money and they'll have your contact details too ! Great plan.

So going forward, see a wallet on the street, just leave it alone, as the rest will be completely Taihen... more trouble than its worth.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One of the most telling signs of a corrupt nation, and its people, is when "finders keepers" is taken as a non-written law. I lived in a country where, if you lost your phone, wallet, you'd never see them again. Or you had to go to a petty-theft legal trial to try to have them back. Japan, and other Asian nations, are heaven in this aspect.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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