Sometimes it pays to look intimidating.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a beautiful treasure in the heart of Tokyo. Anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city should have no problem unwinding in the picturesque scenery this park offers. It’s really cheap too with admission set at only 200 yen (US$1.75) for adults and 50 yen for children.
However, if you happen to be a foreigner who visited there between 2014 and now, you may have been one of the many that were allowed free of charge. This wasn’t because of some special tourism promotion though. This was all due to the timidness of one person working the ticket booth.
Starting in April of 2014 the unnamed employee would let certain foreigners through the gate without purchasing a ticket. Instead he would ring up a sale and hand them the ticket for free, but later on would cancel the purchase so that the accounting would even out.
It all went smoothly for him until December of last year, when another staff member witnessed him handing out a ticket to a non-Japanese person in an unusual fashion. They reported it to management and a quick scan of his computer records showed that he had cancelled 160,000 tickets over the course of about two and a half years.
The Ministry of Environment, which oversees the operation of the garden, conducted an investigation during which the 71-year-old ticket booth operator who was facing embezzlement charges admitted, “I don’t speak any other languages, and I got scared when a foreigner began yelling at me a long time ago.”
Readers of the news had this to say:
“Really? I wonder what I can get into if I just start shouting.”
“They ought to just put up a sign or something.”
“I still think he was embezzling, and is lying to protect himself.”
“Great! Just another example of Japan’s world-class hospitality.”
“The guy couldn’t piece something together in basic English? What about gestures?”
“I think most Japanese people are capable of saying ‘ticket please’ in English.”
“You figure the guy would have cracked open an English text book somewhere around the 70,000 mark.”
“This is anti-Japanese discrimination!”
In the end it is impossible to determine how much money was lost, because not all of the cancelled tickets were a result of the employee’s fear of foreigners. However, he was reprimanded and had 10-percent of one month’s salary deducted. He also applied for retirement immediately afterwards and promised to voluntarily give back half of his retirement bonus which amounts to roughly 300,000 yen ($2,600).
Retirement was probably the best option seeing as he really didn’t seem cut out for this line of work. If you find even flower enthusiasts to be too intimidating to deal with, it is probably best to pursue a more behind-the-scenes position.