January 18, 2008

Japan is rumored to be one of the safest places in the world to travel. They say that the items most subject to theft are umbrellas and bicycles, which I personally find hard to believe judging from the abundance of obvious strays of both breeds lurking in the entryways and on the curbsides of every neighborhood in the country. Last year, on my first visit to Kyoto, I was amazed when I witnessed an old lady standing in the middle of a crowded corridor in Kyoto station fumbling in her purse with one hand and in her other holding in plain view at least 50,000yen (about US$500). At the time I thought she was just plain lucky that no one snatched it from her, and just wrote it off as one of those foolish things that people do from time to time, being stuck in a situation where you temporarily lose your head and leave yourself exposed and vulnerable to being ripped off. But, now I know I’m mistaken. She was waving that money around because she’s a Japanese in Japan, and in Japan people just don’t steal. This is a culture built on trust. Credit cards still haven’t caught on here, so Japan is largely a cash economy. In Shimanto City my coworker and I were paid in cash, which meant that my boss, a small unathletic woman, would at least once a month sit in her office with the doors unlocked at night in plain view of the street with thousands of dollars on her person, and she never thought twice about this. Likewise, any given convenience store in the country has just loads of cash in the register, but apparently all that’s needed to deter any would be stick up men is the watchful eye of security cameras. I couldn’t resist snapping this picture of a thick wad of cash left next to the open register by the clerk who went to fetch my chicken bits on a stick for me one afternoon last week.


The other night on my way home I witnessed another mind boggling example of trust: a second-hand goods and antiques store that actually left its stock on the curbside at night while the store was closed. I was really tempted to take a nice tea pot, but I felt that all too familiar feeling of shame that’s probably not unlike that of the proverbial taking of candy from a babe…oh, and the security camera, too.



2 Responses to “Trust”

  1. Nick Says:

    Atti-san, you’re back!

    Now I really want to go to Japan:

  2. Jamie Says:

    Found ya. It wasn’t really so hard to do…even with you being half way across the world. Seems like you’re having a good time. I’m living up in Vancouver now…got up here in June. Email me if you’re not too busy…

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