Wednesday, June 28, 2006

True Crime Stories

I have an exciting anecdote for you that might possibly help make up for my lack of posting recently (for those who haven't heard it already).

Japan is probably one of the safest countries in the world, at least when it comes to being a victim of crime, let's forget about the earthquakes, typhoons, and dodgy blowfish dinners. You can leave your door unlocked and swan off on holiday, and the worst thing to happen would probably be your tatami going mouldy.

So it was all the more shocking when I witnessed a breathtakingly audacious piece of daylight thievery in Osaka.

It was the week before the big ultimate frisbee competition (see above), and the team were having our final practice, in the rain, devoted sportspersons that we are (bet you'd never expect me to say that! In fact it was still quite warm). We had a few ringers on the team, including a chap called Neil, a self-confessed frisbee fanatic who had come all the way from Okayama, nearly 200 km away, to play with us (at this point we still thought we might be in with a chance of winning again, so we could pull in the talent).

We practise on some baseball grounds by the side of a big river, and there are numerous train and road bridges crossing the fields (hence the origin of our team's name - Kinki Trolls (the region around Osaka is called Kinki, and we play under a bridge! And we're all butt ugly of course). Since it was raining we left our bags under one such bridge, a stone's throw away from where we were playing. There are bunch of homeless people who live there, seemingly for the long term, judging from how well constructed their shelters look. They seem to be generally harmless and they clearly aren't out to cause trouble for the people who play in the sports field around them, or they'd probably be moved on.

Everyone was getting rather tired after a few hours running around, when suddenly someone spots this chap over by our bags. He shouts after him and the guy picked up one of the bags, got on his bike, and sped off, with my teammate's best japanese curses and swearwords ringing in his ears. Apparently he had been hanging around for a while watching us, and picked his moment when we were all distracted to make his move.

Neil, whose bag it was, sped off in pursuit along with another couple of people. One of the old homeless guys offered use of his bike, which was a rickety old bone-rattler, and not really up to the job. It did however permit the rider of said bike to flag down a guy with a motorbike who was riding round on the dirt tracks by the river, tell him to pick up Neil and give chase.

Meanwhile back at the field, we called the police, and a policeman arrived just as the others arrived back empty handed. The policeman explained that sometimes bags get stolen, rifled through for cash, then thrown in the river. Neil was distraught. As well as a a fair bit of money, credit card, MP3 player, digital camera, gaijin card etc., it contained an item of inestimable value. A book bearing the mark of each and every one of the 88 temples that together form the pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku. It was the first time he had taken it away from home since the trip itself!

So we walked back slowly towards the nearest police box to make a written report, and as we did so came across another police car, the occupants of which didn’t have a clue about what had happened. However they had been spotted by a park attendant, who was bringing with him a bag he had found in the bushes! Apparently the thieving scoundrel had veered off the main path, which was why nobody caught him, looked through the wallet, and taken only ¥20,000 in notes leaving everything else behind, including the small change! The cards, electronics, and most importantly the book of temple stamps was still there! Phew. We went to a very good ramen restaurant nearby to recover.  It was all over in not much more that an hour.

1 comment:

Lyn said...

Glad that all turned out all right but I guess you can never be too careful huh.... here in Brussels it's like that too, it lures you into a false sense of security. But in the past few months, two girls got kidnapped and murdered (in the next town, Li├Ęge I think) and a guy got murdered in Bruxelles Gare Centrale for his mp3 player, in broad daylight....

Anyway enough of the gloomyness, glad to see you're still having fun frisbeeing and playing with liquid nitrogen!!! I'm still ok here too, after the torrential rain for the past couple of days which typifies Belgian weather, the sun is out!! (have to be grateful for small miracles)

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