What if they’d unholstered Guns or used Tasers?
A six-foot, 220 pounds, bald Caucasian is visible when living in Kawasaki, Japan. I do not blend into a crowd and do feel conspicuous on trains, while shopping, and dining at restaurants.
Please don’t get me wrong and read this blog post as a paranoiac rant.
I love living in Japan and have no plans to move anytime soon, but there are some challenges.
Let me better explain by sharing three examples of my interactions with the Japanese police department.
I was dressed in shorts, a performance shirt, and was almost ready to leave the house to go on a run when my stocking feet slid on our smooth floor. I elbowed our security system's panic button, and the bells went off.
(Initiating the alarm with an elbow strike is something I couldn’t repeat if you gave me two hundred chances.)
My wife turned off the alarm and thought it was unnecessary to call in the false-alarm to the security company. It was a mistake.
The security company sent one of their guards, who also notified the police.
The doorbell rang, and I opened it to find a security officer, a police constable, two police cars with backup officers, and a motorbike cop. Do you think the reaction would have been the same if a Japanese man had sounded the alarm?
Last summer, I was enjoying a cold beer while barbecuing some American beef on my balcony. Barbeques are not uncommon nor against the law in Japan.
When I heard the sirens of first responders growing louder and getting closer, I prayed that their destination was not my home. (It didn’t help this time.)
Two fully equipped fire trucks pulled up and got into action. A fireman in a long reflective coat, rubber boots, and the classic protective helmet pulled a hose down our little side street and stopped dead in his tracks when I yelled “barbecue.”
It reminded me of the air being let out of a balloon as the poor young firefighter slumped away.
Dinner was cold by the time the police had finished with numerous follow up questions.
The conviction rate in Japan is higher than 90 percent. I share this fact to secure the gravity of my next run-in with the law.
A young girl was sent out on a winter's evening to buy cigarettes for her mother and never returned. They found her body in a bamboo grove less than a mile from our home. Rumors spread about how she’d been strangled to death by a large bald man.
I’d just returned from a business trip to Korea when the door knocked, and two policemen introduced themselves and asked me where I'd been the night before. After inspecting my passport, they understood I'd been out of the country.
The police waited in their car outside our home for two weeks. Their surveillance ended when the child's murderer was apprehended.
The child killer was a short man who’s long hair gave him somewhat of Charles Manson look, and he probably weighed 130 pounds soaking wet. The man had lived most of his life in psychiatric treatment centers and halfway houses. He might have gone free if I’d missed a plane and was without an alibi.
(Did I mention convictions following arrests are the norm and not the exception in Japan?)
I do not pretend to fully understand the pain and stress associated with childbirth nor how visible minorities' suffer.
However, living in Kawasaki has taught me to live as someone who’s extremely visible and different. It’s not always pleasant.
My wife reminds me of the positives regarding my "non-violent interactions" with the Japanese police.
“They didn’t pull guns, tase you, or physically harm you,” she said.
She’s got a point, and I’m thankful that some of my prayers were answered.