Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Brush with the Law

Did you know that putting massive amounts of garbage in the forest is illegal in Japan? Did you know the police don't do a damn thing about such criminal acts? But did you know that following every law properly, without reason to suspect anything wrong, the police will pull you over while driving only because you are a foreigner? It's true.

The Japanese police have a huge bias... and crimes are solved on a whim... or when they feel like it, rather than on a priority of serious crimes taking presidency over lesser ones. I guess it all depends on the caseload, but it seems like they pick and choose favorites more than anybody would like to admit.

Have you ever called a Japanese police department and asked them to look into something? Two weeks later they are still calling you up asking you useless and trivial questions about "the reason" you filed a complaint. Yet low and behold, a Japanese wife who locks her dumb-ass drunk husband out on the street for the night has seven or eight (if not an entire squad) of police banging on her door demanding she be 'reasonable'. I just wish the Japanese police were more reasonable.

Here's my brush with the law...

I live out in the country and Sayaka and I take walks and go jogging for exercise. We use the same myriad of rice field farm roads each and every week and a couple such paths lead up into the mountainous area. One goes to a Buddhist Temple and Shinto shrine, and the other one heads up into the forest before winding back down.

Now I enjoy the fresh air of the countryside, the cool breeze coming off the wet rice patties, and up in the wooded area where there are pine trees... the scent is crisp and electrifying.

So imagine my disdain when Sayaka and I took our evening stroll for the umpteenth time to find that some Japanese dip wad dumped a lifetime supply of appliances to clutter up one of our favorite areas. Now this massive 'land fill' style dumping of garbage is (sadly) all too common in Japan. People don't want to pay the recycle fees which large appliances cost... instead they go blow a few hundred on pachinko every weekend and about fifty bucks a week on cigarettes, but a few dollars to recycle is just... too much.

So a little environmental terrorism goes a long way... well, I think not. Maybe I acted foolishly -because that's what everyone keeps telling me. But I don't see what all the fuss is about. I got so irate over the slew of washing machines, dish washers, refrigerators, and other junk that I single handeldly moved it all onto the road. Mind you... it's a small farm access road (not a public one) and what's more is I didn't have my cell phone, but I didn't want the junk cluttering up my forest... because it's the only place in Japan that reminds me of back home. The smells, the trees, the colors... so then Sayaka and I reported the scrap heap to the police.

So for two weeks the police investigate... me. Of course we continually reminded them that I haven't even been living in Japan a full year yet, let alone long enough to accrue so many large utilities... let alone a means to drop them somewhere, but then I was scolded for having "made a disturbance in the road," as the Police told me. They said it was meiwaku 迷惑 of me. Meiwaku means = not illegal, but very unacceptable and upsetting to the harmony of society -your general everyday 'annoyance'. Hey, I thought I was calling in the complaint about the 'annoyance'? Guess not.

I kept on wondering how much of this is because I'm a foreigner... not because I ruined anyone's life by bringing attention to an already familiar problem throughout Japan.

So another week goes by... and the Police call me down to the station. I figure they have finally caught the perp... after all it's been a full month since I lodged the complaint and took a whole lot of flack for 'disturbing' the Police's extra curricula non-duties (or whatever they call sitting lounging around). So I go to the station with Sayaka (as my moral support) and they put us in an interrogation room used for scolding disobedient teenagers and run of the mill miscreants. I thought that was strange... that they'd have us sit here. Maybe we were going to meet the litter bug himself. But then the Police did the darnedest thing... they told me I had to write an 'informal' apology about my moving the garbage onto the road... which they reminded me was 'illegal'. Even on an non-public road I asked them? Then they started with the whole, "Well in Japan we act this way..." speech. Yeah, I began to realize I was being talked down to, after all, I got you the first time pal.

Yet I can give a rats ass about the nameless Japanese passers' bye who go on ignoring garbage... but without sounding too territorial... this block is my turf, and I'm the one that uses the backwater road everyday. Funny thing, I kept thinking as I wrote my apology letter, if it is so meiwaku of me, and so many people were put off by my setting the crap along the roadside, why haven't I seen anybody up there on my daily jogs? With the exception of a few farmers who all know me by face (if not by name) I saw no one (except for Sayaka and myself) who would have been 'upset' by anything except for the inconvenience of the rudeness of everyday Japanese litterers. And then the Police have the gull to lecture me and have me write a confession stating I will never do a 'meiwaku' thing again. Might as well just put me in the squad car and drop me off at the edge of town and tell me to take a hike.

The police seemed satisfied, but before I left they snidely added, "Let's not see you around here (the police station) again, okay?" Well, I sure hope not. For their sake. Because with the respect I got, I might just have to go John Rambo on their ass next time.

Sorry about the rant. All in all I don't mind 'being such a nice guy'. I filled out my report with the added.... "I regret my meiwaku actions... but my greater regret is that we all must suffer this destruction of nature because of other people's meiwaku actions. This disruption of nature is detestable, but this is something we all must work on together."

Meanwhile... the person who broke the law and dumped the trash in the beautiful mountains is running free. Probably downtown playing at the local
pachinko joint smoking up a storm. But never mind that... I did my first and final good deed in Japan.

Well, that's gratitude for you. From now on... I'll just start fires or something.
Well, that's enough of the fretting. In all truth be told, I love Japan and Japanese culture. Otherwise I wouldn't be here now would I?


Christopher said...

Well ain't that some s**t.

I don't know if I could even write that letter. There's nobody higher up to speak with regarding the manner? Here in LA I'd imagine you could file nineteen different complaints if you so wished (not that that is essentially a good thing considering cops are becoming afraid to do anything without something coming down on them).

Whew, hope you don't come across something like this anymore.

Tristan Vick said...

I hope so too, Chris. Thanks for reading bud!