Keisatsu Blues

I get shivers every time I see a police officer. Usually I’m not doing anything wrong, but I guess it’s just ingrained in me to fear the law. Imagine my shock when I got pulled over, for the first time. In Japan, of all places. Yup. The story that follows is by far one of the most embarrassing and bizarre experiences of my life.

I was on my way to the BOE from school today, and apparently I turned a corner without stopping at the stop sign. I take that street quite frequently, but I didn’t even realize I had not stopped. Shortly after not realizing my mistake, I see a police car with lights a-blazing in my rear view mirror. “Is that for me?!” Sure enough, they had a microphone and a speaker. I have no idea what they were saying, but one of the officers got out of the car and started flailing, so I decided it would be best to pull over.

She explained what I did and asked for my license and passport. A little background info: I don’t have a Japanese license (yet), but I do have an international driver’s license, which is good for one year after it’s issued. Also, I don’t carry my passport on me. I have a  residence card with my visa information on it, so it never seemed necessary.

It’s starting to get good. They needed to make copies of my documents and show them to their boss because they weren’t exactly the items they were looking for. So I followed them to the police station. I get inside and am told to sit in the lobby and wait. EVERYONE can see me here. Poor little foreign girl with her pale white face and shaky hands. かわいそう. They say some things to me, some of which I understand, and most of which I do not. Then the lady that pulled me over said we should go get my passport. From my apartment. They drove. OH. MY. GOD. I’m pretty sure students saw me riding in that police car. Whatever. I was more concerned with whether or not they would call my supervisor. So we arrived at my apartment building, and the lady officer walked me to my door. In the elevator, she kept telling me not to worry and asking if I was okay. No. You’re embarrassing me in my tiny town, and I’m probably going to get a ticket. So, no, I’m not okay.

I got my passport and went back to the police station in the squad car. Then they copied it and asked me questions about my previous international life, and what all the little stamps in my passport meant, like it mattered. They asked how long I’d been in Japan, how long I will be here, and what I’m going to do when my international license expires. So many questions. But I didn’t feel like I was being interrogated. All of them were smiling, and one even pulled out a translator and gushed over how convenient it was. Were they trying to be nice? Were they trying to make me feel comfortable?! What was happening?!

Then I went to the interrogation room and they filled out my ticket (NO!). The officer who pulled me over kept saying “Don’t worry” in English. I wanted to slap her. She was giving me a 7,000 yen ticket and telling me how to drive while asking if I’m okay. It was like being in the twilight zone. Then the most wonderful lady from my office came with another ALT to make sure I understood what was happening…like it’s difficult to understand what’s happening when your holding a ticket in a police office…I think the tall man cop called her just to embarrass me more. I was so angry.

When I was leaving, the officer who pulled me over and filled out my ticket said, “Please call me Miho.” You’re a cop, lady, I’m not calling you anything but pig. UGH! I can’t do that though. Despite the fact I was on the verge of embarrassment tears for two hours, everyone was really nice and did make me feel slightly better. No one made me feel like I was stupid or inadequate like American cops do. Besides, I’m a government employee; I have to respect law enforcement. I still don’t understand why they do everything with a smile, but I’m starting to think that’s just the Japanese way. Gas station attendants, convenience store clerks, taxi drivers–everyone seems to really enjoy their jobs and life in general. Is that the truth, or do people just put on their strong faces when they head to work? Hmm…

I learned from this experience, that I should pay more attention to stop signs, that police officer can be nice, although they will always be ridiculous, and Japan really is different than America. Americans, more than the Japanese at least, wear their emotions like a top hat. “Hey! Look how pissed I am today!” or “Look at me wrong and I will cut you.” It’s still rude as a waitress to act like that, but Americans are used to it. Japanese people, on the other hand, seem to hide everything under a brimming smile. That, or everyone here truly is happy. But that can’t be it. Anyway, other than that stupid ticket I have to pay and the loss of two otherwise good hours of the day, I’d say yesterday was a pretty educational experience. I did learn a lot, and I feel like I understand Japanese culture a little more. I’ll definitely expand on that one day! Has anyone else had law issues in a foreign country?

That’s all for today! またね!


6 thoughts on “Keisatsu Blues

  1. My dearest Kori,

    I could just image how this might have been.
    I’m sure laws have been broken in foreign countries but have just not been noted (I’ll let this speak for itself- you know what I’m referring to). *cough*
    I’m glad this was a learning experience and let me tell you, it kept me on my toes the whole time. In life everyday is an adventure and each adventure is a learning lesson and at the end of the day.. that learning lesson is what makes life so enjoyable. Miss you! Keep writing…I want to know mo’ mo ‘mo!


  2. Damn cool story! Fuckin police, shitty no matter what country you’re in. “Then the most wonderful lady from my awesome [?] came with another ALT to make sure I understood what was happening”… did you accidentally a word there?

    So do you think the Japanese are all just really good actors, wearing a smile when they’re supposed to?

    My craziest law issues in a foreign country was in Haiti. Hadn’t planned on stopping there but after a couple weeks at sea we felt like we needed to stretch our legs and get some food, so we went into Cap-Haitien without the appropriate paperwork. They speak French there so dealing with customs was a bitch, but luckily this dockworker named Ketchup spoke fluent English and French. The customs guys kept coming and asking us shit, asking for different paperwork, going back to talk to their bosses, etc. Scariest moment was when they were saying we couldn’t come into the city, and I was like “OK well we’ll just leave” and they laughed and said we couldn’t. Eventually the main customs guy just said we had to give him $300 (which went straight in his pocket) and we were free to walk around the city. Totally worth it tho, one of my favorite experiences.
    The full story:

    • I actually meant to write “office” and not “awesome.” I’m really good at English.

      I think a lot of Japanese people are good actors, yes. A lot of people quite literally go crazy from living in the business world, though I guess that could happen anywhere. Some actually genuinely enjoy their jobs though, at least down here. I don’t know. I think the longer I live here, especially if I decide to stay after this program and get a “real” job, I’ll be able to give you a more definite answer on that.

      OMG. I don’t know why I never read that story, but that’s insane.

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