On the afternoon of Aug 10, a 28-year-old resident of the coastal town of Hokota, Ibaraki Prefecture, was at home when the doorbell rang. When he went to see who it was, he saw an elderly woman he’d never met before standing on her doorstep.
“Are you her son?” asked the bespectacled woman, who appeared to be in her 60s or 70s. “Your mom said she’d be home abound five o’clock, so when she gets back, please give her these,” she said, handing the man two envelopes before walking back to her compact Toyota, hopping in, and driving away.
Mysterious as the exchange was, the man does indeed live with his mother, who was out at the time. Moreover, many Japanese homes aren’t spacious enough to comfortably entertain guests, and Japanese people often keep their circles of social acquaintances separate from their families when going out, so it’s entirely possible for one of your parents to have friends you’ve never met face-to-face. However, when the man’s mother came home and he described the elderly woman to her, she didn’t have any idea who she was either.
Likely hoping for some sort of clue as to the woman’s identity, they opened the envelopes. One contained 40,000 yen in cash. That’s a princely sum to receive from a complete stranger, but not nearly as princely as what they found in the second envelope: one million yen in cash.
The elderly woman doesn’t fit the description of any of the son’s or mother’s friends or relatives, leaving them baffled by the seemingly random display of largesse. At first, it almost seems like the elderly woman may have been being targeted in an ore ore scam (a common ploy in which con men contact a senior citizen on the phone while claiming to be a child or grandchild who needs a sudden influx of cash, which they ask to be handed over to a “coworker,” who’s actually an accomplice) and had gotten confused about where she’d been instructed to make the money exchange.
However, the elderly woman’s choice of words shows that was acting under the belief that she was at the home of the woman she intended to be the final recipient of the money. Ore ore con men don’t run their schemes out of residences, though, since the scam relies on the victim not having any way to track them down once they realize they’ve been duped. The exchange either takes place in some outside location, or the criminals come to the victim’s home to pick up the cash.
Also strange is the way in which when the man opened his door, the elderly woman immediately assumed an older woman (the “mother” she wanted the envelopes given to) also lived in the house. While it’s more common for adult children to live with their parents in Japan than it is in many Western countries, it’s still far from a given that a man in his late 20s would be cohabiting with his mother.
Rather than pocketing the windfall and deluding themselves into thinking the woman must be their dear old Auntie Hanae, who they’d conveniently forgotten about until just then, the son and mother have done the honorable thing and turned the sizable sum of cash over to the police, who are handling it as lost property until the elderly woman, whom they’re currently searching for, can be found.
Sources: TBS News via Jin, Livedoor News/Sankei News via Hachima Kiko
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