Police in JapanTough week and long day at work, headache from an unexpected cracked tooth, generally in a poor mood but relieved to be nearly home, I finally arrive at my train station Friday evening. TGIF.
As I hurry home, I hear someone call after me in Japanese, "Excuse me, excuse me!" I turn around and there is a police officer frantically chasing after me. He catches up to me and asks, "Are you a foreigner? Do you speak Japanese?" I understand the situation immediately. Japan reminds me of Oregon in only one way. In Oregon, there used to be signs at the California border saying, "Welcome to Oregon. Enjoy your visit." Japan also has a fragile relationship with its non-native population and it does not always warmly embrace those who stay beyond the period of time it takes to empty their wallet. But, I had rarely been confronted with this aspect of society in my many years of association with the country of my father's birth. So, as I stared at the officer I felt a rush of emotions. The wisest course of action was to do his bidding and in 30 seconds be off, on my way to family movie night with my girls.
Nah. Too easy. And, too meek. Besides, it has been awhile since my last note on Japan and I needed new material.
This was our conversation:
Steve (glaring down at the punk 25 year old officer): "What do you want??"
Officer (repeating himself): Are you a foreigner? Do you speak Japanese?
Steve: Maybe. And, maybe.
My Japanese is okay - far from fluent but fine for this situation. I considered making him do this in English but then he would miss my razor sharp wit.
Officer: Please show me your identification.
Officer (stammering): ?? What?
Steve: Why do you want to see my ID? Did I do something wrong?
Officer: No, you didn't do anything. There just are a lot of foreigners here and they don't carry ID. Do you have ID?
Steve: Why should I show you my ID? Who are you? Where is your police station? What is your name? Should we call up your boss? Do you always bother people?
Officer (flustered): I am from the nearby police station. You didn't do anything wrong. Just show me your ID. Please.
At this point, I could give in or push it and really extend out my night explaining the finer points of the Japanese constitution. I would ultimately prevail but likely not until first spending the night at the police station. I am a permanent resident and, anyway, by law the police are not allowed to ask for ID without cause. After his, "There are a lot of foreigners here" comment, I so wanted to take it to the next level. And, I really, really wanted to pull out a business card in my name that I hold from a related company we are involved in. The card reads, "Managing Director, National Security Solutions." Then, if I were crazy enough, I could threaten to call a member of the Prime Minister's cabinet with whom we have a connection. But the card was buried somewhere and I didn't want to look foolish with my butt in the air as I rummaged through my stuffed bag only to come up empty. So I compromised.
Steve: I'll show you mine if you show me yours.
Steve: Show me your ID!
He pulls out his badge and holds it up to his face so I can compare the picture to him. I slowly and deliberately look it over and note his name. His hand is slightly trembling.
I pull out my ID - a standard card "we" all must carry. He looks at it. Then he gets excited -
Officer: This card is invalid! Look at the date!
He is so relieved and proud of himself. He caught me! I almost hate to prove him wrong.
Steve: No it isn't - look more carefully at the card.
He holds it up to the street light.
Officer: It is clearly expired!
Steve (sighing and pointing to the correct spot): Look right here.
Officer (in a small voice): Oh.. Wow, that lettering is really small, isn't it!
Steve: That isn't my fault. If you have a problem with the way they issue cards, please talk to the government.
He straightens up and salutes.
Officer: I am so sorry. Please have a nice night!
I turn my back on him and walk off leaving him standing there.
Not the wisest course of action. If he ever catches me jay walking, I am toast.
And usually I am such a nice guy..