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Japan’s lost and found culture

Japan’s lost and found culture.

Reader comments

JoshJan 08, 2004 at 11:51AM

Hey, this is totally true, though I only experienced it somewhat. While visiting a friend in Tokyo I misplaced an important notebook which had not just journal entries and notes, but bank account numbers, flight info, and other important stuff. I was totally freaked out.

Sure enough, a day and a half later I walked by the convenience store in his neighborhood, and there it was, neatly closed and bound with its elastic on top of the pay phone where I'd left it. Someone had obviously found it and closed it to keep it from getting wet. In NYC they would've torn it to shreds and written "#@$* you!" in their own blood over what was left, I'm sure. Only in Japan....

DinahJan 08, 2004 at 4:45PM

I wouldn't say only in Japan, I would say only reliably in Japan.

spygeekJan 08, 2004 at 5:03PM

It certainly contrasts with an experience I had in a train station in the Czech Republic...I set my change purse down in a ladies room, and it was gone within 3 minutes. Sure, it was my own fault, and I only lost about $20 US, but I was still upset.

nilsJan 09, 2004 at 5:47AM

I left my backpack on the overhead rack of a train a few weeks after arriving in Japan. Wallet with considerable sum of money, passport, everything was turned in at the station. If you lose something, you have a good chance of getting it back ( a cellphone too). A few weeks ago, I found diamond ring at my feet at the busiest intersection in Kyoto. I turned it in, of course, and I really hope the owner turns up, because I'd feel like a creep getting it back next summer.

My explanation: Few Japanese people are very religious in the sense of being guided in daily activity by religious dogma, but performing religious rituals is a central part of Japanese culture, and a lot of the customs are geared toward securing good luck and favorable conditions (believe me, I know, we're about to have a baby and I've prayed and lit incense and bought lucky charms and even KITS all over town). I'm confident that most natives would agree that keeping someone else's lost property -- benefitting from their misfortune -- is bound to give you bad luck.

The wallet was stolen a few years later, though. We do have thieves.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.