If you lose your keys, phone, or wallet in Japan, you will probably get it back. Here's why

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/02/25/if-you-lose-your-keys-phone.html


What, the cops aren’t stealing them via civil forfeiture in order to buy deadly new toys for the department to intimidate the public with? What kind of police are these? /Murcan


Just one of the many reasons I love Japan.


One of the best parts about visiting and living in Japan is how trustworthy most people are. I visited Japan last year with my family and we took a taxi in Osaka. I accidentally gave the wrong directions to the driver and only noticed it 10 minutes into our trip.

When I told this to him, the driver thought that he had misunderstood me. He immediately turned off the meter and drove us to our actual destination. He refused to accept any more than what the meter had said.

(Though since I do know a bit about Japanese culture, I insisted that he take a small tip, which he accepted, even though it’s is usually forbidden.)

I’ve had this happen before in other countries, and never have I seen a driver refuse to accept more than he’s offered.


I lose (?) a camera when I was in Japan, it was 16 month ago and I still hope to get it back. Somehow.

Label your stuff, folks.

I lost a bag of weed once, I got it back when I moved and found it at the back of a closet. Lucky, I guess…


If you’d lost it in Japan the police would have quarantined it as a potential weed bat.


So we do have a “weed bat” problem…


I recently found a wallet in the street while riding my bike, and returned it to its owner (there not being a small police station to take it to, and it was obviously a biker’s wallet, so police didn’t seem like the right choice anyway.)
I realize that this isn’t typical US behavior, but it seemed like the right thing to do. Perhaps everyone in Japan is taught to be decent people.


I turned a wallet in to the police many years ago. The thief had cleaned out most everything but there was a name. I couldn’t match it with a phone so I dropped it off at a substation I normally drove past back then.


Yeah, that’s the actual ‘why’ hinted at in the post title. The post really only covers the mechanisms by which stuff is returned to its owner - the ‘how’.


When I was working at the Physics, Math, Astronomy Library at UT, someone turned in a wallet that had hundreds (if not more) dollars in it. Oh my, but it was sorely tempting to siphon off a few bucks. I ended up taking it to a nearby dorm and handed it back to the owner intact. Being rather poor, that was really hard to do.


The reason why you will probably get it back is because the people are basically honest, not because of the police box system. When you hand a lost item into the police, you are grilled about where you found it, etc., and then made to fill out a form, the whole thing taking a lot of time, but people still do the right thing.


I think the mechanism is also important. If an item has identifying information, I’ll definitely return it, but if it doesn’t, I might not even be sure if there’s a way to return it. Having a convenient local lost and found for every neighborhood makes this problem a lot easier.

I still appreciate the social aspect, though. There’s no human society that’s truly free of assholes, but Japan seems to be one of the closest. Compare to America, where either most people would just keep whatever was lost, or doing the right thing and returning it would somehow result in them being arrested or sued.


It’s more or less like it was over here in the 50s/early 60s.

I sometimes get the feeling japan is (culturally, in some ways) about 50 years behind europe. Both in good and in bad ways. (of course it’s not really true, the world has become too small for one culture to be ‘behind’ another in years if it ever has been possible (*))

I’d love to have the basic decency of the 50s back, but without the repressive normative society that went with it. But I fear the ‘basic decency’ wasn’t really all that spontaneous and was just one of the few upsides of the repressive society.

(*) Over here in europe the american culture used to be a pretty good predictor of what was about to become normal in the next 5-10 years.

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A couple of years ago, I had a run of lost-and-found ping-pong on long bike rides. Once I found someone’s iPhone with a credit card and driver’s license (which I turned into the nearby police station), and the other time I found a debit card, which I phoned in as lost since there was no contact information and then destroyed as instructed. Then on the next ride, I’d make the (now-corrected) mistake of putting my wallet into a pocket, only for it to fall out, and then find out later that someone turned it in to the local police station, with all cards and cash intact. This happened once in the far-suburban Chicago area and once in Indiana.

I guess it depends on a bit of random luck (and location, location, location), but I’m glad that not everyone decides “Hey! Free swag!” when they come across a lost wallet.

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Related story. It’s happened more than once (mostly when I first moved to Japan) that I left a small tip after getting a meal at a restaurant, just a few hundred yen (a few dollars). As I was leaving the restaurant, the server came running after me to return the tip because she thought I’d left it by accident.

In retrospect, leaving a tip at a restaurant can be seen as a bit rude. It implies that you think the owners of the restaurant aren’t paying their staff enough.

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