Some in the media are calling this incident yet another indication that Japan’s entering an unprecedented era of geriatric delinquency.
■ All in the name of convenient parking
On 29 March, a cleaning woman at Kyoto City Hospital came across a strange box in the parking lot. It was made with Styrofoam and had a rock on the lid. Beneath the rock was an envelope with “DANGER: DO NOT TOUCH” written on it in katakana: Japan’s boldest form of writing.
Despite the mysterious warning, the woman wasted no time in opening the box and found that it contained a clear plastic bag with a colorless, odorless liquid inside, at which time she notified a security guard who in turn contacted police.
Treating this as a possible terrorist threat, police mobilized dozens of officers and SWAT team members. Nineteen fire trucks were also called in along with the Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Counter-Terrorism Unit fully equipped in hazmat suits. The stretch of highway 9 running along the hospital was also closed down as a precaution.
たつき (@tatuki1119) March 29, 2016
However, after some initial tests, it was found that the substance inside the bag was not in any way hazardous, but authorities were left baffled as to why someone would do such a thing.
Two days later, a phone call came into the Kyoto Prefectural Police from a man in his 70s who demanded, “Give me my styrofoam box back.” After some talking, the police determined that the caller was indeed the person who left the box at the hospital days earlier.
The elderly man told the authorities that he had left the box there two days before so that he could get a good parking spot for his scooter when he visited. “If I wrote ‘DANGER’ on the box, then no one would mess with it,” he explained to the police. With that, police dropped the charges since the man’s intent was not to disturb the peace of workings of the hospital, and let him off with a stern warning.
■ Seniors without a cause
While the senior’s action was not deemed a crime, a writer for Sankei West believed that the nature of his actions were rooted in mischievousness and indicative of a growing trend in Japan with regards to criminal activity.
They also cited statistics from 2015 which state that the number of arrests of seniors during the first half of the year totaled 23,656 nationwide. This is about 4,000 more than the number of arrests of teenagers during the same period. This would be the first time that arrests of the elderly outnumbered those of teenagers since such record-keeping began.
Sankei postulates that many elderly in Japan are acting out to release the stress that accumulates in their daily lives. One such case involved a 75-year-old man who was arrested on charges of assault in March by Hyogo Police when was caught strangling a first-grader who had told him, “You shouldn’t do that,” when he saw the senior throwing a cigarette butt on the street.
Crimes by the elderly range from these absurd incidents and minor shoplifting to tragedies like the Shinkansen self-immolation suicide by a 71-year-old man that also claimed the life of another passenger. But all of them certainly suggest that there is a lot of rage and frustration simmering below the surface, and as the elderly population continues to grow it will only worsen unless steps are taken to improve the quality of life for Japan’s aged.