Monday, 7 February 2005

Crime waves

Once upon a while I wrote about the Japanese love of shutters. I would try to link to it, but I can't remember where/when it was and I can't be bothered to go all through the posts to find where, but trust me, I did. Anyway, the gist of that post was that all Japanese houses, and a good few apartments, have rolling steel shutters that cover all the windows and patio (not that they have patios) doors and that I really don't understand why. The usual response is because of safety, though I suspect it is a deep psychological need to hide themselves away from the outside world - very big on the inside versus the outside (honne vs tatemae) the Japanese, which western often can't get the hang of, mostly as we call it being two faced.

I digress. I am now in the process of revising my opinions - I'm into double loop reasoning (actually I'm not at all, I just read about it in a text book and it seemed a good justification for changing my mind). Last week, or maybe the week before, a game of high school baseball was carrying on in a place called Hasuda in Saitama pref, about 30 mins north of Kawaguchi by train. One chap hit a ball so far it flew out of the diamond and into a drainage ditch abutting the fields and an outfielder chap gave chase. Not only did the chap find the baseball, he also found about 15 million yen in cash. That's about 75,000 quid, not a bad haul. Naturally being a good citizen, he took it straight to the police and then crossed his fingers as if no one claimed the cash, it would be his. Finding large amounts of cash in shopping bags is quite a common occurence here in Japan and one of the other reasons he took the cash straight to the police is that usually these hauls of cash are the ill gotten gains of the yakuza and so if you are found spending it the wake up call is likely to short, sharp and no doubt painful.

What makes the story more odd is that the following day is that another 3 million, or thereabouts, was found in the same ditch a little further away. What I love about this find is that it was spotted by a retired gentleman out walking his dog and he did what he thought he should by informing the police but not touching it himself - disturbing the evidence or somesuch - again no doubt in the anticipation of collecting the cash on it unclaimed deadline. But, as he hadn't touched it and local bobby fished it out of the culvert, the official finder of the cash was the bobby, not the chap. My was he pissed off.

So far so normal for the police of Hasuda. But in an amazing show of swift action and zealousness the local constabulary arrested a 25 year old woman on suspicion of theft. Well, they say suspicion but she has admitted robbing her ex-boyfriend, but that isn't good enough just yet. Anyway, what happened was that she was dating a chap in Ageo, not too far from Hasuda but they split up and so to teach him a lesson, she colluded with a couple of friends to steal some cash from the ex. So, they broke into his apartment and "alledgedly stole about 60 million yen from a suitcase in the man's closet". So let's get this straight, not only did the ex boyfriend have about three hundred thousand pounds in his apartment, which seems crazy enough to me, but it was kept not in a safe but in a suitcase in his cupboard? Right...

But he is not the only one. Every week, it seems, you can read in the paper that such-and-such a house was broken into over the weekend and x hundred million yen were stolen whilst the family was away skiing. And this is why, in a convoluted way, Japanese have horrible iron shutters disfiguring their houses - they're all too f*cking stupid to use banks.

I mean, I can understand having a few hundred quid locked in a safe somewhere, just in case you happen to have to buy a tv before the cup final because your kid just put his foot through the old one, but why on earth would you need to have a quarter of a million quid in your house? 'Oh we don't trust the banks' is one reason often trotted out and I can understand this to an extent, but then again perhaps they should ask the govt to stop bailing out failing banks so that some bankrupt and therefore the banking sector gets stronger as a result. No wonder the average household thinks Japan is getting a more dangerous place and that crime is on the increase - I'd be paranoid if I had that much cash in my home, very paranoid indeed. And I'm not even sure steel shutters would be much deterrent to a decent thief. And talking of thieves, is anyone surprised burglary is on the increase? I'm not, not with such rich pickings to be had in the average punters' house, actually I'm suprised there isn't a crime epidemic sweeping the land as we speak...

Talking of robbery

The guru and I went out baby shopping at the weekend. Not that we went out to shop for a baby, we're getting one of those in May, hopefully, no we went out to buy things for the baby that we are going to get.

Buying stuff for a baby is important and therefore you have to get the right things and so it is a big decision what you buy. Therefore if the two big purveyors of puchchairs have 837 models in the 2005 range, you must assess the pros and cons of each and every model before even thinking about buying. Then you must cross reference these with last year's road tested models to see if the 2005 range is better than 2004 (and, if possible (which you might think it is not but your wife will have other ideas) cross reference models over the last five years for wear and tear factors). Then you must assess all of the colour options available. Then you must at least appear to listen to the opinions of your husband. Then you must reconsider all the options again as the QX-501 (2005) you have finally decided upon doesn't come burnt sienna (only black with mustard yellow), but the QXa- 501 (2005) does come in burnt sienna but doesn't have the moulded grips whilst the QX-501 (2004) does come in burnt sienna and does have the grips but only scored 99.98 in the Which? Magazine Supermarket/Bus Manoeuverability tests and, well, you will be spending a lot of time in supermarkets so this is important etc etc etc

So we didn't buy a pushchair, too many variables at play. But we did get some other stuff like a high chair, some toys, a carrying sling thing that may well be called a papousse, as Brian reminded me today, and a bum bag for putting baby stuff into, and we got it all from a sort of baby show thing organised by one of the big baby stuff makers in Japan. The bit about robbery is that they claimed it would be a massive discount affair and that the average punter could save thousands. So the high chairs were all about 17,000 yen, reduced form 55-60,000 yen. Now I thought 'wow, huge savings' but the guru, in her clever and knowing way, poo-pooed my enthusiasm by saying that on the 'net they are always this price and no-one ever pays full price'. Makes sense, but that means either the company are not making any money at all (not likely, let's face it) or their rrp's are just complete bollocks - which is a lot more going for it, I reckon.

So we huffed and puffed around this big hall with about a million other couples and babies/young children (declining birth rate in Japan? Not on the evidence of Saturday afternoon) and amazingly didn't have an arguement, which I thought was pretty good going. But then again I have realised my role in the whole baby thing is, at the moment at least, to follow the guru around and say 'yes dear' to any question that she asks.

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