2008/02/11

"This Is Kashima Police"

Until recently, our experience with the Kashima Keisatsu (police) has been limited to our local officer stopping by the house to update his record of who lives here (we have an officer assigned to our neighborhood), and from passing the keisatsusho (police station) in town on the way to the grocery store. K has also done some interpreting work at the jail there for a defense attorney representing an English speaking person who was being held for trial.

Kashima Police Station (picture from their website)

Bicycle theft in Japan is rampant (occurring at rates not unlike many college campuses in the US), so bicycles must be registered with the prefecture as a theft prevention measure and this is handled by the police who keep a database. Bohan toroku (theft prevention registration) is good for six years and the store where you buy the bicycle will fill out the form for you, collect the fee of ¥500, and hand you an ID tag for the bike.

When I bought the Yamaha hybrid-electric bike, however, I used the internet and got it from a shop in Kobe, Hyogo prefecture, so it was registered in there and came with a Hyogo ID tag. The Kashima police do occasionally stop bicyclists and run a check on the ownership - I've seen them doing that with a check point set up near Kashima Jingu shrine. I wanted to make sure my Hyogo registration would not be a problem if this happened to me (a gaijin riding a fancy bike kind of stands out), so I went down to the main police station in town to inquire.

No one was waiting in line when I walked in the door and I was directed to the third floor. There was no counter up there and I could not read the signs, but as I stood in hallway trying to decide what to do (door number 1? door number 2? or door number 3?), two women came out of an office and asked what I needed. I handed them the ID tag and my ryoshusho (receipt) and asked about getting an Ibaraki bohan toroku. After briefly discussing the matter between themselves, they said it would not be necessary and simply made a copy of the receipt and tag. Well, that was easy. I put the ID tag on the bike and was on my way. Just in case, I kept another copy of my receipt in my wallet. That was in mid-January.

Last Saturday I received a letter in the mail from the Kashima Police, which began "Hello, this is Kashima Police Station".


It turns out they had made a mistake and I really did need an Ibaraki tag after all. But the letter surprised me. Why? Because they had taken the time to find someone to write the note in English, telling me quite specifically what I needed to do, where I needed to go (a local hardware store that sells bikes) and how much it would cost. They even included a copy of the receipt card to be sure I knew what it looked like as I needed to bring it with me. I'm impressed.



In case you were wondering about the bird on the police station sign and envelope,ひばりくん(Hibarikun) here is a Skylark and mascot of the Ibaraki Police. What a country.

17 comments:

K & S said...

wow, that is impressive!

@ロウ 。LOW@ said...

Have mascot and handling bicycle registration to that detail. Wow. Neverending surprise from the land of rising sun...

I heard stories (I think European friend's version}; people would ride any bicycle (at the parking space provided) and everybody would do the same - in the end you keep riding 'new' bicycle home everyday, lost but getting a new one at the same time.

Isn't that amazing as well, haha...

Pandabonium said...

K & S - I've read complaints about Japanese bureaucrats by other gaijin, but I've always had great service at government offices of every level. Must be my Panda charm. ;^)

Low - they used to do that in Amsterdam back in the 60's but too many of the bikes were stolen. Many cities around Europe now have automated bicycle rental systems. The newest is in Paris, and is called Velib. "Velib" is a contraction of the French words "velo" (bike) and "liberte" (freedom). Link is to a YouTube clip about it.

Don Snabulus said...

That is quite amazing. My last contact with the local sheriff's office was a simple "We don't handle that. Call the FBI." It was a identity theft inquiry and they apparently didn't consider it their job to help out.

The FBI had an automated web inquiry and never called, wrote, or emailed back about it.

I am glad your experience was better.

ladybug said...

I had an ok response to a stolen wallet (I had to have an official police report to get a fraudalent charge removed)...but the only other time you seem to see cops (either city police or the Sheriffs-we're in an "in-between" zone) is the ubiquitous speed trap!

K & S said...

man, I wish I had as much luck with the bureaucrats as you. guess I may have to paint myself black and white :0

Pandabonium said...

Snabby - I've had similar experience with the FBI. They didn't even listen to their own people who gave warnings about 9/11. I think it went downhill after Efrem Zibalist Jr left the Bureau.

Ladybug - happily, I haven't had to test the local police on a theft of anything. If I ever do have that misfortune, I hope they act like the Japanese detective TV series "Hagure Keiji" which I loved to watch with subtitles in Hawaii.

K & S - maybe you should pick up the trombone... ;^)

K & S said...

does the flute count?

Pandabonium said...

K&S - perfect

khengsiong said...

Very kawaii mascot.

Japanese - like Chinese - are polite to gaijin (laowai in Mandarin), but they forever see you as outsider.

Pandabonium said...

khengsiong - perhaps so. Well, I always expect to be treated as an outsider, because that is in fact what I am. It's OK by me.

Swinebread said...

I always thought the Japanese police mascots were funny. Very friendly for the public and all that.

Could you imagine LAPD doing such a thing

I can't

Pandabonium said...

Swinebread - LAPD? maybe a pit bull. :0

Happysurfer said...

Hey! My earlier comment got hijacked! Let me try again.

I'm impressed! Yes, must be the Panda charm.

Pandabonium said...

Happy Surfer - hijacked! Oh no. I hate it when that happens.

Panda Charm. Well, yes (blush) or maybe my trombone playing is so annoying, they do anything to keep me away. ;^)

Contamination said...

Very nice customer service.

Though in my opinion the police often use stopping bicycles as cause to do an identity check on people. I'm sure by the same action of calling in the persons name for verification of ownership, things like criminal searches or immigration searches are completed at the same time.

No flies on me though.

Pandabonium said...

Contamination - thanks for visiting. You are probably right about the checks being used for other purposes.
Nice pics of Fuji-san on your blog. I'll check it out further when I have a bit more time. Cheers.