by Ewa Nowogorski
Theft in Japan is very rare. When it does happen, it is not what you expect. In America, the common image of a thief is someone who breaks into your home, wearing a face cover, and who tries to raid your house of all its valuables. In Japan, even if your house is always unlocked, the likelihood that some unknown person will enter it is highly unlikely.
Instead, thieves in Japan are opportunistic. They’re more likely to steal a bicycle or an umbrella that is left unlocked outside a store or home. Umbrella thefts are some of the most common thefts, especially with clear plastic umbrellas because they are cheap and because so many people will leave their plastic umbrella in a communal umbrella stand, it’s easy to confuse your own umbrella with someone else’s and take the wrong one by mistake.
Bicycle thefts happen but are a bit hard to get away with because every bicycle has a registration with your own name and address. If you want to change the address and owner, the original owner has to be present at the bicycle shop with their registration paperwork when it happens.
Pick pocketing is sort of rare, and it mostly happens on crowded trains. But Japanese people are mostly so moral that they will take a lost wallet to the nearest police box with the contents untouched than pocket the cash inside for themselves.
In America, there are plenty of both calculated and opportunistic thieves. You can count on your bicycle not being where you left it after a trip to the store if you left it unlocked, and you can say good-bye to belongings that were left out in public unattended. Even if you do the right thing and bring it to a police station, the officers there might just keep the wallet and not report it.