10 March 2010 ~ 11 Comments

Live from Locohama S1/E17: Yokohama Five-O

Shit, I forgot to put some money on my Pasmo…and I was in a rush to meet a student, so I didn’t stop when the little swinging doors on the turnstile slammed into my thighs. This was not the first time. Usually I would stop, go back and fill it up. Sometimes I keep it moving and fill it up later. I would have to pay the fare I hadn’t before I could use it again, anyway.

This time, though, 5-O rolled up on me- NY-Style. Very impressively. A short, sharp-looking undercover cop, dressed in Jeans and a rugged jacket, looking every bit the NY DT (detective), stepped in my path about 2 paces from the turnstile and whipped out a wallet, flipping it open to reveal a gold police shield.

I had a flashback to years upon years of turnstile jumping in NY. I could spot a detective, black or white, at 50 yards back home. Most teenagers could. And, naturally, if you were an habitual jumper like I was, it was a useful skill to have. But, in Japan, detective spotting  had never crossed my mind. In fact, for years before I even came to Japan I’d been a law-abiding citizen, so whatever skills I had were long since rusted.

He was a pleasant enough fellow, this detective, and politely asked me what did I think I was doing.

“Excuse me sir but are you aware that you did not pay? That those gates, and that alarm you heard, means you were required to pay a fare?” he asked me in very polite Japanese.

I was still so stunned that I couldn’t speak for a moment, and the whole natsukashii-ness (deja vu) of the scene almost brought a smile to my face.

Just then another DT came up on my other side looking similarly conspicuously nondescript, only he was not pleasant at all. He was waiting for my answer impatiently. Good feeling gone. It was the good cop/bad cop routine, I ascertained. I didn’t know whether it was in my best interest to know Japanese or not but instinctively I went with not.

“I’m so sorry, I was in a rush!” I said like I understood the situation but not his words.

The other DT, the unpleasant one said, “Where’s your gaijin card?”

“I’m sorry…what did you say?” I asked in English.

“Stop acting like you don’t know how to speak Japanese…I’ve dealt with enough of your kind to know the difference…Your ass understands Japanese just fine!” *This is of course not a strict translation. He didn’t use those words, but this was the impact of  what he said and how he said it.

I caught myself before I reacted to the “Omae” (the rude way to say “you”) and the other impolite Japanese words he’d used and said, “I’m a teacher and I was in a rush to a lesson.”

The asshole let out one of those Japanese gasps of exasperation and turned to Mr. Nice Guy, who proceeded to use the limited English he knew to ask for my Gaijin card. I whipped out my wallet and they peeked inside it while I fished for my card.

“Here you go,” I said and handed it to him. The other one reached for my wallet and I yanked it away and without thinking gave him a look like, You want to keep that hand? Better keep it away from me and mine!

Barney Fife

He gave me a Yappari (Just as I thought…a wise ass) smile and said, “Alright, come with us!”

But he didn’t touch me. Just pointed towards the Police Box.

In the police box a third undercover joined in. This one looked like a street bum, and I was again impressed. I had no idea the police in Yokohama had their shit wired so tight. I actually had no idea they even had to, with the amount of lawlessness I’ve seen over the course of the past 7 years: next to none. I kind of thought of the whole police department like a couple of Andy Griffiths or Chief Wiggums and a bunch of Barney Fifes, harassing people over bike ownership and headlights; the  causes of my two previous and only encounters with  law enforcement.

Guess I was wrong.

The third guy started patting me down, frisking me, ever so cautiously, and with a great deal of courtesy. It was kind of cute, compared to the assault and battery NY cops put on you in the same situation. I had to resist laughing.

“Where are you from, Mr. Loco?” Mr. Nice Guy asked, in English, looking at my card throughly like there had been a rash of counterfeit gaijin cards and they were hot on the trail of the ring.

“I’m from the US, from New York,” I said like it was a badge of honor. Like it meant something. And, of course, it did.

“Should have known,” the tough guy said. “Think you can do whatever you want to do don’t you? Think you can just ignore all the rules, right?”

Are those the traits of a New Yorker or all Americans?

Mr. Nice Guy gave him a look, and tough guy’s harangue turned into angry mumbles.

“You not pay, but you have money…” he said flashing the few thousand yen bills I had in my wallet. “Why no pay?”

“I was in a hurry…I’m very sorry. Why don’t I pay now, and go,” I said slowly with hand gestures.

“We should keep him for a while, teach him a lesson!” said the tough guy, menacingly. I tried to remember my rights but I knew that was a waste. I had none. I’d broken a law and I was in their hands. I felt his words in my gut and failed to keep it off my face. “Hora!” He said pointing. “He knows Japanese, I told you.”

“I know a few words, ” I said in halting Japanese, now that I was busted. “I used to study, but I gave up…too difficult.”

I made sure my Japanese was broken textbook stuff, which wasn’t hard. It truly is sometimes.

“Listen,” Mr. Nice Guy said, in Japanese now, a little disappointed at having lost a face before a Junior I presume, taken in by my ruse. “Next time I catch you not paying your fare, we won’t be so accommodating. You understand?”

“Yes,” I said, deciding it wasn’t in my best interest to give him a hard time any longer.

“Here’s your wallet and Gaijin card…take care.”

He handed me my stuff and I walked out of the box a free man. The air of Yokohama smelled fresh and clean. I turned back and the three of them were watching me. The tough guy had a look like, “I’ll see you again…”

Not if I see you first.


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11 Responses to “Live from Locohama S1/E17: Yokohama Five-O”

  1. mwerneburg 11 March 2010 at 1:25 am Permalink

    Ah, city taxpayer's money in action. I wonder if they get undercover cop pay for such dangerous work.

    It's interesting how seriously the local authorities get into this stuff once they've decided on an operation. Got me thrown out of the country once for something that struck me as being fairly minor.

  2. lily 11 March 2010 at 3:29 am Permalink

    Which station in Yokohama, please? (So that I'm forewarned!)

  3. WC 11 March 2010 at 4:27 am Permalink

    Never underestimate the pettiness of a low-level cop when finally given some nice, safe responsibility.

  4. Our Man in Abiko 11 March 2010 at 8:14 am Permalink

    You were lucky Loco-san. Nice tale.

  5. Kevin 11 March 2010 at 6:10 pm Permalink

    Whoa! Didn't know that cops patrol the wickets for non-payers. Not that I make a habit of not paying.
    Local friends have always told me that the cops only come out when the weather is nice. If this was yesterday, that would explain it.
    Being frisked over, what, less than a JPY500 fare – now that is scary.

  6. Jay 11 March 2010 at 6:45 pm Permalink

    Well, sorry to say so but the police were doing what they were supposed to do – enforcing a law everyone has to observe = and for good reason. Don't you feel that you did wrong?

  7. tony 11 March 2010 at 6:50 pm Permalink

    I have jumped on many occasions due to time constraints; time is money. Surprised you got caught. Just press the button on the bottom of the gate before walking through. It's located about a foot below where you stick your ticket in; a small gate reset switch. Or, walk closely behind someone as they put their ticket in then put yours in quickly. This kills the alarm. U must find a busy exit point.

  8. Tokyoern 11 March 2010 at 8:37 pm Permalink

    Well hey, I was once stopped by 3 cops at Meguro station and I was just walking down the stairs. Of course, maybe it was only because I had long hair. They didn't event tell me what they stopped me for. I found it irritating and unbelievable – and I spoke to them in Japanese as well. Weird!

  9. Mr. Chi Town 13 March 2010 at 12:27 am Permalink

    I guess it depends where you are and when you are there. In Tokyo I have had locals swoop in front of me the last second on the way out the gate. No ticket or fake pass slap.Alarms go off. Look! gaijin standing there. Resets and I use my ticket or Suica. The original guy long gone.Of course no people yelling or chasing him.

    Second I think there are lots of undercover cops here but also a lot of other undercover characters loitering around.

    The "law" has it's place and I am all for buying a train ticket when needed.
    Where do I report all the people I see driving and talking on the mobile? They should be setting the example.

  10. Ryan 14 March 2010 at 10:32 am Permalink

    Tut, tut, Mr Loco. The things we bloggers will do for a good story… It could have turned out a bit nasty though, so it's fortunate that it didn't! Cracking yarn all the same, definitely one for the grand kids…

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