Sunday, 15 April 2012

Japanese Musings III: The Thin Blue Line

Since the Japanese Musings are proving to be popular, here's another, an account of the time when I had a brush with the law...
Incidentally, next week there won't be an update as Uncle Travelling Matt is off on his travels, to the Netherlands to attend the wedding of the Lowlander who will be appearing on this site soon. The Lowlander is one of my oldest travelling companions and together we've visited a dozen countries, drank considerably more beers and  dissected most of the world's problems. Anyway, it's an honour to be invited to his wedding but fear not, in a fortnight's time there'll be another update.
Keep travelling!
Uncle Travelling Matt

Links to all the Japanese Musings:

Series 1

Japanese Musings I: Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Japanese Musings II: O-ha!!!

Japanese Musings III: The Thin Blue Line

Japanese Musings IV: Nihon no Shokyu

Japanese Musings V: The Sporting Life

Japanese Musings VI: A Bad Day

Japanese Musings VII: Time, time, time…

Japanese Musings VIII: The Joys of Internationalisation

Japanese Musings IX: Meri Kurisumasu!

Japanese Musings X: It’s Cold Outside!

Japanese Musings XI: Moomins and Mydo Cardo

Japanese Musings XII: Engrish

Japanese Musings XIII: Valentine’s Day

Series 2

Japanese Musings 2.1: Arrival: Tokyo

Japanese Musings 2.2: Arrival: Inaka

Japanese Musings 2.3: Riding the Kamioka-sen

Japanese Musings 2.4: Onsen

Japanese Musings III: The Thin Blue Line

I had a brush with the law this week. Yes, I am now a rebel against society, a mean outlaw.

Ok, well not quite, but I did get stopped by the police on my way to a Japanese lesson. Now I am not going to disagree with the fact that I deserve to be fined. I drive just a little too fast as a general rule, on occasions I absent-mindedly forget to wear my seat belt and I once stuck a stamp on upside-down, (did you know that in Britain that constitutes treason?), but my gripe this week, is what I got caught for. For I committed the heinous crime of coming to a railway level crossing, slowing down and then crossing it.

And before you ask, no the barriers were not down, and yes the coast was clear. No, here in Japan they have a law that states that you must actually stop at the level crossing, check both ways and then proceed. If you stop ON the actual crossing, well that's ok, but if you actually follow the much safer option of merely slowing down and then crossing, why 'tis forbidden. This is what I did, bad boy that I am.

Now of course, I was aware of this law, but I pretended that I was not, hoping to get a reprieve. They (surprise, surprise) did not speak English, so I had to phone up Masami (a Japanese friend), and get her explain my ignorance of such a wise and noble law to them. What did they say? I asked after she had talked to Plod-san on the mobile?

Sorry, you're still fined 9000 yen and you've got to go to the police station.

Now, as you can imagine, I was not particularly happy that my ingenious plan of ignorance had failed, so I decided instead to go to Plan B, nicknamed "Operation Genki". Firstly, I pretended to misunderstand everything he said, (not difficult to do due to our lack of a common language), but instead be really friendly to him and talk about random things.

"Passport?" he rapped.

"No here" I replied, "But look!" I pointed to my 'Matto Self-Introduction Sheet' for Primary School that was on the back seat. "This is me, I like soccer, look soccer! And here is my cat, she is called Puss! You like?"

Plod-san was unimpressed. He muttered something in Japanese and then got in the drivers seat and explained that he was to drive me first to my apartment to get passport and gaijin-card and then to Police station.

"Ok" replieth I. He started the engine, and thus unwittingly, the tape player also. "Ha, music, you like? This music is happy music, yes, no?" I danced a little in my seat, or maybe wiggled is a better description. All this time my now well-practised Tony Blair grin was glued on my face. Plod-san grunted.

"Oh, you don't like, desu ka? I'm sorry, here, Japanese music, maybe you like more, eh?!" I took out the Irish folk and inserted Morning Musume.

"Happy Summer Wedding!" quoth I, and then singing "Ruv Ruv Ruv Machine, whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa, dancing all ze night!!"

He seemed to cheer up a chotto.

We got to the apartment. "Tea?" I offered politely, "Hoto Milku Tea, you want, eh?" He got this one.

"No, eto, err, Passport!"

'Only trying to be polite, sorry', thought I, unimpressed with this man's manners. Obviously not descended from samurai.

The police station took a while. There were lots of forms to fill in, which is only right for such a terrible crime, I'm sure you'll agree. Problem was, they'd never filled them in before for gaijin, or seen an International Driving Licence before. Suits me, thought I.

"Just think, if you'd let me off we wouldn't have to go through all this shit now would we?" I told him with a smile.

"Hai" agreed he and his new friend who had joined in the fun. I christened him Fatplod-san.

Because he was fat.

Then I spied my moment.

 "Look, look!" I exclaimed, pointing at a poster on the wall. Toyama-ken police have a mascot. He is called Tateyama-san, after the local Holy Mountain, (an obvious choice for a mascot I'm sure you'll agree). Anyway, Tateyama-san is a mountain, dressed in a police uniform and topped off with a huge smile. He helps kids across the road, waves a load and enforces the law of the land is a most courteous, polite and friendly manner. [1]

Unlike Plod-san.

They looked round.

"Tateyama-san" I exclaimeth. "He is our friend, he helps all the good children! Tateyama-san is genki!" Genki means that he is basically a "jolly bloke".

 Unlike Plod-san.

 "Hai, Tateyama-san", they relied, not sharing my enthusiasm for Police mascots. Anyway, the long and short of it is, yes I still got fined, but I think maybe they were a little pissed off which compensated a small amount, (though not 9000 bloody yen). Plus, now, when they next stop me for alcohol testing, I can wave at them, smile and engage them in a conversation on Tateyama-san, who is a friend and example to all of us!

And they know my name, and where I live.


[1] Actually I made a mistake. The mascot’s name is Tateyama-kun, (‘kun’ is a kid, ‘san’ more grown-up, although being mountain-sized, he looked pretty bloody grown-up to me). I have since (2012) learnt that all of Japan’s police forces have mascots but that Toyama-ken’s is better than everyone else’s because it was designed by Fujiko Fujio, who is actually two people, Toyama-ken’s most famous residents in fact, the foremost manga artists in the world, the guys who thought up Doraemon no less. For more on Tateyama-kun and all the other wacky Japanese police mascots, check out this brilliant site.
Next musing: Nihon no Shokyu

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