Wednesday, January 21, 2015

11. The Authorities (aka Police and Power Rangers)

Japan is a very safe country.  I left my nice bicycle at the train station for two and a half weeks with the wheel locked to the frame (not even locked to a rail or anything!) with a lock I bought at the dollar (100 yen) store, and came back to find it sitting right where I left it.  That would have been gone in a day in any other place I lived.

However, this lack of (unorganized) crime doesn't mean I haven't had my run-ins with the authorities.  My first experience begins with a lovely excursion to a grassy meadow with a friend to do some photography.  Turns out that a billion Japanese people had the same idea.
It would be even more meta if someone took a picture of me taking this picture.
 If there is one thing I have learned about Japanese people with hobbies, it is that they will always have the best equipment.  Some of them even had remotes controls for their cameras, to avoid any blur from pressing the button (and therefore shaking the camera slightly) with your finger.  This is completely unnecessary during the day, I am informed by a photographer friend. It was very beautiful, though. 

Not as impressive when you realize this is a picture of a poster I saw.
We hiked around for a little while, and stayed after dark to take some long exposures, which on my end just involved running around with a flashlight trying not to trip.
There was supposed to be an "I" in the front, but my flashlight
skills were not up to the task. The last two symbols are "sun"
and "origin," which together mean "Japan."
When we went back to our car, we were surprised to find the parking area cordoned off and a car with its headlights on parked right in front of ours.  As we cautiously approached, we saw it was the police.  We started talking with them, thinking that perhaps we had overstayed our legal parking limit.  They asked us if this was our car, and when we said yes, they were immensely relieved.  Turns out that "wilderness" areas are popular places for suicides (suicide is about twice as prevalent in Japan compared to the US), and they had a search party out looking for us in the forest.  We apologized profusely once we understood what was happening and they called off the search party (our Japanese skills helped us less than the pantomime of someone hanging done by one of the cops). We fortunately left without any citations for anything.

Random, unrelated picture of a razor that comes with a doll action figure:
You too can brandish this razor like a sword and
fight off the demons of unwanted facial hair.
My second run-in with the police occurred when an unnamed passenger in my car decided not to wear her seat belt during a trip back from the grocery store.  As we drove past the police station, a man holding some orange sticks waved me into the parking lot in a way that made me feel like I was a 747.  After it became apparent we were foreigners, eight officers swarmed our car in a misguided attempt to flood our ears with what they thought was simple Japanese.  Clearly the Tamba Police Department is a busy place.  What's even better is that they were filming some commercial with the Chief of Police and a guy in a phoenix costume.  We couldn't get a great picture because we were being interrogated by police, but this one isn't bad at all.
This grand animal symbolizes rebirth.

 They told us to drive back to our house and get our passports, and we returned with them shortly after.  They then held us hostage for half an hour while they asked me why I didn't have an exit stamp from Bolivia.  I told them about the international drug cartel I run, and after they spoke to my boss they decided it was OK and everything was in order.  Actually they just eventually gave up and stopped caring but what kind of story is that? 

Here's a picture of an annoying locust from Tamba.  I really like taking pictures of bugs.
These are about as long and as offensive as my middle finger.
The next story doesn't involve the police, but instead the emergency radio in my apartment that some of you avid blog readers may remember from chapter 4.  I had just gone to bed, when suddenly the loudest sound I have ever heard in my apartment comes from the radio, even though I have the volume turned all the way down.  It's a siren, and I immediately jump out bed ready for anything from an earthquake to a rogue Blastoise (it is Japan, these things do happen).

I try to understand what they say in the announcement following the siren, but I can't make anything out except "volcano" and "fire."  Needless to say, I am not comforted, and I go outside to see what is happening with my neighbors.  Lights are turning on in the apartments, and everyone's radio is freaking out just like mine.  The nearby fire station is doing its best to wake everyone in the district with an air raid type siren.  I've got a lot of adrenaline, so I don't really stop to think.  I throw all the food in my pantry and fridge into my bag, along with some water and warm clothes, and I head out the door.  I notice no one seems to be leaving though.  I eventually track down someone, and they inform me it is just a drill, albeit one that involves the whole neighborhood in the middle of the night, and we don't have to do anything.

I proceed to be thoroughly awake for the entire night for some reason.


Random picture of "A True American Tradition":
Nothing says America like fruity marshmallows.
I have had some great encounters with Power Rangers in strange situations lately.  Both at dinner parties, actually.

The first time, my Japanese teachers (the people who teach me Japanese) decided to have a dinner party with their students.  I was surprised to see some people in Power Rangers costumes, who turned out to be the uninvited roommates of one of the teachers.  I say uninvited because later they specifically told us that those people had not been invited and were not welcome back again.

My favorite moment came when the green ranger went outside for a moment, and returned with a violin case.  He then opened it, put it on the table where his plate had been, threw a few coins in, and started playing.  Terribly.  After every song he would point to his case and jingle the coins around like it wasn't a dinner party and he expected to make his daily living this way.  He did make around $18 USD from demanding money every time someone took a picture.  I didn't pay.
You think Power Rangers don't need to eat too?
The second encounter was at a year-end party that the Board of Education threw for us.  Usually when I go to a party for work, it ends up being at some super-fancy place and afterward they ask me for $50-70 USD.  This time we split a cabin rental cost and bought food at a convenience store.  Halfway though the night, the guy who is apparently the highest up in our department excuses himself for few minutes, and comes back... in a pink ranger suit!  And immediately tackles me.
This ranger was a lot friendlier (and thankfully smaller) than the last one.

In an amazing turn of events, he jokes that he should demand money for pictures with him!  All of us who went to the previous event think this is the best thing ever.  We spend the rest of the night talking about Power Rangers of course.  Apparently "Power Rangers" is just the american reboot of "Super Sentai," a Japanese TV series that's been going on forever.

And of course, a few great English examples:
This one didn't fit me.