Japan has a reputation for being home to some of the safest cities in the world. Having your dropped or lost items returned to you is not uncommon, and the police have enough free time to create life-like ice sculptures outside their offices.
So it comes as a surprise to many Japanese people when they suddenly realize they’ve been the victim of a most heinous crime: umbrella theft. Most buildings in Japan ask you to leave your wet umbrellas in a stand right at the entrance, and people finding their umbrellas missing when they leave is becoming more and more frequent.
How can you protect yourself from these shameless thieves? Read on to find out!
Before we dive into the shady world of umbrella theft, it might be a good idea to show exactly what we’re talking about here. When we say “umbrella,” we typically mean a 100-yen or so vinyl/plastic umbrella, and when we say “umbrella stand,” we’re talking about the stands that are put up nearby the entrance to Japanese buildings.
▼ You can see why it may be easy to accidentally (or on purpose!) take the wrong one.
The Japanese compilation site Naver Matome recently brought together a series of tweets, showing people express their frustration at having their umbrellas stolen from an umbrella stand, as well as offering some advice to prevent it from happening in the future.
Here’s what some upset Japanese Twitter users had to say after they fell victim to umbrella theft:
▼ “Had my umbrella stolen twice in one day. The city is scary.”
だんごむし (@b_0v0_p) April 03, 2015
▼ “Went to buy some drinks at the convenience store and my umbrella was stolen in less than a minute. Who knew the city was such a scary place?”
かやなんとか(甲) (@ky_7743) June 26, 2013
▼ “I always thought umbrellas getting stolen was just a stupid urban myth, but it’s true! City people are awful!”
コワイコワイだぞ (@poribake) June 26, 2013
Now, the first thing we should address is the people’s reactions. For those of us who would never dare leave anything unattended without a lock on it, it may seem a little silly for them to call the city “scary.” I mean, they left their umbrellas out in the open, right? They had to expect this, right?
Well, we have to remember that Japan loves having a rule for everything. It’s the country where cutting in line is illegal, and dressing out of the ordinary for graduation will get the police called on you.
So when these people left their umbrellas in the umbrella stand, they simply expected them to be there when they left, since that is the rule. And when that rule was violated, they felt violated too, hence their intense reactions.
But based on the above tweets, it seems that umbrella theft isn’t a nationwide thing, just mostly concentrated in cities. That makes sense, since the population density is higher, meaning more people going in and out of buildings with umbrella stands more often.
So what can you do to protect your 100-yen umbrella the next time you’re in a Japanese city? Here are some tweets to help:
▼ “Q: What can I do to stop my umbrellas from getting stolen? A: They’re going to get stolen no matter what. Even if you write your name on it, even if you use an umbrella with otaku stickers on it, even if you stick your own bloody band-aids all over it.”
Lana (@cyber_octopus) May 30, 2015
Well, er, that wasn’t particularly helpful. Let’s try another:
▼ “Since umbrella theft is common in the city, I’ve started using a child’s umbrella. No one dares to steal it, which is nice, but I do get laughed at as a 30-year old man walking around with a kid’s umbrella, and since it’s small I get wet sometimes.”
大川竜弥（フリー素材） (@ryumagazine) May 03, 2012
So what they’re saying is having an embarrassing umbrella, or perhaps one that sticks out from the rest in the stand, might help it not get stolen?
Seems reasonable. Anyone else agree with that?
▼ “I wanted to buy this really nice-looking umbrella, but since they get stolen so often in the city I just went with a boring old vinyl one instead.”
空家あめ (@akiya10) June 07, 2015
▼ “I only buy vinyl umbrellas since they’re just going to get stolen anyway. It’s been a while since I started doing that, and that realization is my least favorite thing about Tokyo.”
◯ (@p_l_a_n_e_t_e_s) November 13, 2009
So, let’s get this straight. To not have your umbrella get stolen, you should buy a more expensive, unique/embarrassing one, but since it’s probably just going to get stolen anyway, you should buy a cheap vinyl one that blends in with the others and is easy to steal. This seems like a vicious cycle without any end.
Rather than fight it, some people have come to embrace this cycle of umbrella theft, giving a sort of mythology behind it:
▼ “When one person has their umbrella stolen, that person steals someone else’s. It goes on like this, forever.”
Takaaki (@xxx_aaaaaa_tx) June 07, 2014
▼ “Umbrella theft is just a sad form of umbrella reincarnation.”
əuo¯ɥɔɐəd (@peach_one) March 23, 2012
Of course, others say screw the circle of umbrella life, they want their umbrellas back! Umbrella theft is rarely punished by the police, and even if the perpetrator is caught they are usually let off with a warning or a misdemeanor at worst. Some are calling for more punishment to deter the crime:
▼ “Umbrella theft should be a felony.”
山本剛義 ボールズ (@Balls_yamamoto) June 08, 2015
▼ “I hate getting my umbrella stolen during the rainy season. Not only is the thief committing an actual crime, but he’s basically forcing you to choose between getting soaked on your way home, or stealing someone else’s umbrella. They need to understand this.”
N (@N_write) July 25, 2013
▼ Remember this, all you would-be umbrella thieves: Every time you steal an umbrella, you’re also stealing this man’s smile!
So what do you think? Is Japan having a bad case of the “first world problems” with this umbrella theft? Or have you been caught in the rain before with your umbrella stolen? Let us know in the comments!
Source: Naver Matome
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