What kind of monster would carry TWO flathead screwdrivers at the same time?
At 4:30 am in the morning of Sunday, 3 May, police in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture arrested Yasuhira Sato who was found in his car in the parking lot of an apartment building. Officers found in his possession two flathead screwdrivers and took him into custody.
His exact crime is a violation of the Prohibition of Possession of Special Unlocking Tools Law. This law, which was established in 2003, makes it illegal to carry any item that could be used to break into a building either by picking a lock or breaking a window.
Of course, that’s an incredibly broad definition that could include anything from a credit card to my head. That’s why the law also explains that possession of the item must have a lawful explanation such as using said credit card to make purchases or using said head to breathe.
However, when Kato was asked why he needed two of the same type of screwdriver, the 28-year-old member of the Hokkaido Ground Self-Defense Force must have panicked because neither “to fix things” nor “in case the other one breaks,” appeared to have entered his mind.
As a result he now faces a maximum penalty of either one year in prison or 500,000 yen (US$4,440) fine. However, considering Kato’s service to his country and his confession to police that he indeed had two screwdrivers, he likely won’t get hit with the full force of the law.
“So you can get arrested for carrying around screwdrivers without a reason. Scary, man.”
“This arrest seems fishy. This is the first time I’ve heard about this law.
“Those SDF guys are always carrying around crazy things like knives or stun guns. I predict more arrests around Tohoku in the future.”
“I thought this was a joke. It’s illegal to carry around tools?”
“Would a pair of Phillips heads be okay? How about Allen keys? I got a bunch of those lying around from Ikea.”
“Isn’t common sense a good enough reason to carry screwdrivers in your car?”
Of course, no one knows what exactly happened on that Sunday morning, and Kato may actually have been up to no good or at least acting a little shady. However, on the whole it’s hard not to notice how this type of law is fraught with the potential for false arrests, well-intentioned or not.
And as the crime prediction algorithm in Kyoto gets picked up in other parts of Japan, we may see an increase in flashlight and screwdriver possession arrests. So the only way to stay safe is to make sure you have a good reason prepared to carry anything that can conceivably get you through a door or window.
And MacGyver, if you’re reading this: sorry, you should just stay the hell away from Japan. They’ve got your number here.