I’ve come to realize that there are some fundamental differences between different nationalities in relation to honesty. After having lived in Japan for a year now, I still haven’t got over the fact that practically nothing seems to go missing here – ever (apart from your individuality).
The other day, someone had left their handbag on a bench here in Osaka. She (I assume) was nowhere to be seen. It was a public place and there were hundreds of Japanese people there – me and my kids were the only Westerners. I wanted to see if anyone would take the bag, and stood there for 10-15 minute pretending to do something else, but really I was focusing on the bag and its whereabouts (and making sure it got to its rightful owner).
Nobody took the bag. In fact, no one went near the bench on which the bag was. It was like an abandoned dog’s turd that no one wanted to touch. For all I know, the bag is still there waiting for the owner to return and collect it.
Forgotten bags which the owner goes and collects from where they left them hours or even days later is not front-page news in Japan. Japanese people are generally extremely honest and things rarely get taken dishonestly. You are unlucky if you get pickpocketed in Japan – and if you were to lose your wallet or handbag, the chances are that it was stolen by a non-Japanese person (probably by someone from China or perhaps Liverpool).
The following examples also illustrate the fact that dishonesty is really not a desirable attribute over here.
- People are over the top precise – what is not theirs, they do not want. I mean, if you leave a tip in a restaurant the waiter runs after you and returns the money. If you owe your friend 980 JPY, and you give them 1000 JPY, they force you to have the 20 yen change (10 pence / 15 cents).
- If you leave your valuables in a restaurant or on the train (e.g. a camera, iPhone) the chances are you’ll be able to and collect the item from the restaurant or a train station the following day or even weeks after you left it there.
So no need to have a heart attack in Japan if you notice that you left your passport on top of the toilet paper holder in the cubicle of a domestic airport toilet. Just return to the toilet and collect it from there (and hope no-one has wiped their bum with it).
Talking about airports, Kansai International Airport in Osaka has not lost a bag in 20 years – that is: not a single lost bag for the duration it has been in operation. London Heathrow on the other hand… well let’s just say that members of the baggage handing staff has been sacked previously for opening people’s suit cases and stealing all the valuables (probably our Chinese and/or Liverpudlian friends again). I am sure this is not the case only with Heathrow, but many big airports in many big cities.
Japanese people not only occasionally misplace their things in public places but they also seem to deliberately leave their handbags, phones and laptops in classrooms, coffee shops and hospital waiting rooms while they go elsewhere for an undefined duration of time. I can’t say anything other than after having lived in England for 14 years, I think Japan and it’s culture of honesty is refreshing.
A typical situation in England is more like the following (this is a true story):
I walk out of a toilet cubicle and accidentally leave my Topshop bag full of new clothes in it. I wait outside for a while for the next person to come out. She doesn’t for a long time. Eventually I can hear her shout to her friend outside.
The cow in the toilet: Is she gone already?
Me: No. I’m still here.
The cow in the toilet: (silence)
Me: Sorry but I left my clothes bag in there.
The cow in the toilet: (silence)
Me: I’m happy to wait.
Eventually, the cow opens the door and walks out with my bag of stuff but makes no attempt to give it to me. Luckily I have a resting bitch face, so you can image what my active bitch face is like. She handed the bag over.
If you are not with the in crowd and do not know what a resting bitch face means, I’ll let you in on it. The default, natural or expressionless expression of a person who has resting bitch face is annoyed, bitchy or angry. Victoria Beckham is a good example of a person with resting bitch face. My husband says I have it as well.
Anyway, getting back to the honesty of Japanese people, over the past 12 months we’ve adopted the Japanese approach of leaving stuff unattended (other than our kids), and so far nothing of ours has been stolen. For instance:
- We frequently leave our children’s scooters (worth £50-90 each) outside supermarkets or restaurants when we go in. We basically just dump them there. So far they haven’t gone missing. I suppose no Liverpudlians have happened to walk past them with sticky fingers. You see, the sad thing is that although I love England and I miss England dearly, in England those scooters would not stay outside the supermarket/restaurant longer that a passer-by can say ‘Ker-ching’. This means that, when in England, we have to ferry the scooters with us into the supermarket and push them around in the trolley with our groceries.
- I’ve started leaving my handbag, laptop and everything else in an unmanned and unlocked classroom at my work place ( which is a University) when I go to things like a 2h departmental meeting. I’ve worked there for a year now, and as far as I am aware, nothing of mine (or anybody else’s) has ever gone missing. Not even penis (damn auto-correct, I means penis, argggghhhhhh, PENS)!
- At amusement parks, when you go on a ride, you often leave your bags unattended in a space provided (see photo below). We now leave our purses, wallets, mobile phones, home keys and driving licenses unattended and hop on a rollercoaster without thinking about it more than Katie Hopkins thinks about things she lets escape her lips. I mean, we (like Katie) know it’s risky and could result in us getting is deep shit but we do it anyway.
Writing this blog post might have been a mistake, as I am suspecting half of the population of Liverpool is booking flights to Japan as we speak. But if any of you Liverpudlians out there that think that Japan is a fertile land for you to plunder, think again. Japanese people can spot an 80s tracksuit at 100 yards, so if you want to come robbing you’ll have to make an effort and dress like this typical Japanese man (see photo below).