Childhood is notoriously short in education-and-work-come-first Japan, but these tykes’ throwback idea of fun got them out of trouble with the law.
Back in January, the administrators of Osaka’s Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park came upon a puzzling sight. Shortly before 7 o’clock in the evening on January 25, groundskeepers found that 30 of the roughly 230 bamboo stalks in the park’s Flower Valley section had been cut down and removed.
When park employees had passed by at 1:40 p.m., none of the plants had been damaged, which led investigators to think the cutting had taken place sometime during the later afternoon. It didn’t seem to be the work of a lone vandal, either, since a collection of tools consisting of five saws a serrated hand sickle, a pair of scissors a hammer, a shovel, and a role of tape had been left behind.
The police speculated that the plants had been cut down either as a prank or to be sold, though the lack of any sort of lucrative bamboo black market in Japan made the first theory the more plausible of the two. Officers were stationed near the remaining bamboo the next day in case the perpetrators decided to return to the scene of the crime…and return they did.
On the evening of January 26, the group that had cut down the bamboo the returned and began looking for the tools its members had left behind the previous day, as part of their plan to harvest more of the plants. However, they were quickly apprehended by the officer on the scene. He didn’t even need to call backup to capture the six-person team of bamboo thieves, since their ranks consisted of five sixth-grade boys and one fourth-grade girl who are students at a nearby elementary school.
When confronted by the officer, the children apologized and gave the following reason for their actions:
“We were building a secret fort.”
It seems the kids’ parents had recently become concerned about how much time they were spending indoors. Encouraged by their parents to go outside to play, they ventured into Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park after school, but not before making a stop at the 100-yen store to use their allowances to buy the saws and other items used in their bamboo-cutting scheme, through which they hoped to obtain the building materials for their hand-made stronghold.
▼ The fact that some Japanese-style saws look like dragon-slaying swords probably added to their appeal.
Japan takes anything that can be construed as vandalism very seriously, and following the children’s admission, their principal met with park officials on January 27 to formally apologize on the school’s behalf. The children and their parents also spoke with park officials on January 31, during which the children issued written apologies an pledges not to do such a thing again.
However, the park officials have been extraordinarily good-natured about the incident. When speaking of the kids’ creatively retro idea of building a secret fort, a park spokesperson smiled and said “We didn’t know there were still kids in this day and age who’re interested in that sort of thing.” Park officials also added that the whole affair has shown them that their facilities have an untapped potential to stimulate the imagination of young minds, and that given the fast-growing nature of bamboo, the damage caused by the children isn’t so significant.
However, that doesn’t mean that the kids get to keep their ill-gotten haul of bamboo. Instead the plants will be donated to the craft center at Shirokita Shobuen park, also located in Osaka, for use in art projects. Not mentioned in the police report is whether or not the kids will get their tools back, but it’s likely that local shop owners have now instructed their cashiers not to sell saws in bulk to pre-teen customers.