On the Run from the Japanese Police

So last Wednesday I taught at this Japanese middle school.  And as I was riding home on my mini midget scooter, I caught a glimpse of a Japanese motorcycle cop off to my left.  I was cresting a small hill, and he was just kind of sitting there when I cruised past.  I thought for a moment:  Is this cause for concern? and then concluded, No, Ken Seeroi, you are a most excellent driver.

Sure, everyone says that, but I really am.  I know this based upon the large number of cars, trucks, and bikes I’ve demolished.  Well, maybe “demolished” is an overly strong verb.  Let’s just say “crashed,” or “rendered unusable.”  That sounds a bit better.  But I mean, let’s say you’re going into battle—who’re you gonna want beside you in the trenches?—a pie-faced file clerk who’s driven a desk the whole war, or some William Dafoe-looking dude who’s all scarred and gnarly from scores of battles?  That’s the guy you’d want to ride with, right?  Yet somehow when I explain this to women I meet in bars, they never get it.  It’s just simple logic, really.  Anyway, I’m a good driver, is my point.

So I just kept going, winding down the hill and through the neighborhood.  It was a mild, nearly springlike day.  The plum trees were dressed in white and red blossoms and birds were singing sweetly.  Well, actually, there aren’t a lot of birds in Japan, since about half the land mass has been replaced by concrete, but if there had been a bird, I’m sure he’d have been singing.  Whatever, it was a nice day, and I was just glad to be out riding my little motorbike.  Then from behind me, I heard a tiny woman’s voice.

“Excuse me,” said the voice, in Japanese.  I looked over my shoulder and holy crap! there was an old lady riding behind me, on a scooter just like mine.  It was like that weird dream where a witch is chasing you.  I’m assuming I’m not the only one who has these.

“Excuse me,” she said again.  I couldn’t freaking believe it—an old Japanese lady on a scooter was trying to have a conversation with me.  Or maybe she needed help.  I stopped, because I’m chivalrous like that.

I quickly got off my scooter and went to see what was wrong.  She met me half way.  “Do you have a driver’s license?” she asked.

“Yes, of course,” I answered.  What a weird old broad.

“Do you have a driver’s license?” she asked again.  Apparently this was a species of Japanese lady that says everything twice.  I was tripping out at this point, and then I noticed something and Boom! my head just exploded.  She was like 70 years old, but she was wearing a costume.  Like a police costume.  The old lady and the motorcycle cop were the same person.

“I do,” I said blankly.  I was in shock.

“Do you have a license?” she asked again.  That snapped me out of it.  Lady, what the eff?  Enough with the license already.  What, a white man can’t have a driver’s license?  And then it dawned on me.  She actually wanted to see the thing.  No sirens, no orders; this was police work in subtle Japanese style.  And then I realized, she must’ve pulled me over because of my race.  Because I’m white.  I’ve heard stories about this.

I was not pleased.  I got out my license and handed it to her.  Racist.  I said nothing.  That’s how you say you’re mad in Japanese.

“Is this bike 50cc’s?” she asked quietly, because my license only allows me to ride a tiny motorcycle.

“Yes,” I responded.  One word answer.  Oh, I was telling her off good now, with my silence.

And then who comes around the corner but a dozen guys, my middle school students, and they all start shouting, ““Seeroi Sensei!  What’d you do?  Are you being arrested?”

Oh man.  “Not now, not now,” I said.  “Not a good time, guys.”  I tried to wave them off.  No need to see your English teacher getting stopped for Driving While White.  They erupted in a fit of giggles and promptly fell all over each other hiding behind a stone wall.  Then every few seconds a head or two would pop up and more giggling would ensue.  Japanese kids are not very discreet.

“You know you ran a stop sign,” said the old lady cop.

“You mean you didn’t pull me over because I’m white?” almost poured out of my mouth.  I let that sink in for a second, and then said,  “Really?  There was a stop sign?”

“At the top of the hill.”

Oh, that’s a little different.  I mean, a stop sign, well.  You’d have to pull over anybody who did that.  Don’t suppose it’s too late to start acting nice.  Perhaps a bit of Ken Seeroi charm would be in order.

“It’s just such nice weather we’re having,” I said.  Then, “Aw jeez, I didn’t see it!  I’m terribly sorry!”  I tried to look apologetic.  “It won’t happen again!  I’m a teacher, you know.  At the school here.”

She wrote me a 5,000 yen ticket, which I had to sign.  “You can pay it at the Post Office,” she said.  She was fair and professional the entire time, which was unfortunate because I thought she might’ve cut a brother a little slack.  But at least she didn’t stoop to speaking English at me, which I was thankful for.  “Be careful,” she added.  Actually, she was a pretty nice old lady.  Still can’t believe they let granny have a badge though.

So I rode straight to the Post Office while she flew away on her broomstick.  The ticket was like 53 bucks, which is a pretty decent deal for completely blowing a stop sign right in front of a cop.  Of course, the next day the whole school was abuzz with talk of how “Seeroi Sensei got arrested.”  Jeez, you’d think they’d never seen a white man get pulled over before.  For next week’s English class, I think it’s time we learned the phrase “Fight the power.”


20 Replies to “On the Run from the Japanese Police”

  1. Amusing story as always!

    There are a lot of old people working in Japan, a lot of them just “guard” construction works and stuff … or are people helping to get in or out of a parking lot, but I’ve never seen an old police officer lady!

    If you really didn’t see the stop sign, then it was justified. From what you said the old lady really seemed very fair and professional! 🙂
    Good thing you decided to stay silent! *g*

    1. I know, right? Those are the standard “old people” jobs in Japan. Makes you wonder what the standards are for the police academy, since I doubt she could do many pull-ups. But who knows, maybe she’s built.

      As for the stop sign–it was hidden behind a tree and there were none of the usual white markings on the road. A complete trap. I never saw it.

  2. Ken,

    Another wonderful knee slapping masterpiece… btw, was she married? I’m nearly 60 and I have this thing for older women in uniform. She sounds HOT!
    j/k Just Kidding – LOL!

    1. If she was single, this lady would have been right up your alley. “Hot” would not be the word I’d use, but she definitely had a uniform, so that plus your imagination would be a winning combination.

  3. I’m sorry you got caught, but at least it made for an entertaining story. I know that at least over here in Europe it’s quite common to place police on spots where it’s easy to either drive too quick or miss a sign when the community coffers are empty 🙂 I guess Japan is not that different.

    1. Seems the traffic cops are the same the world over. Of course, I was a little bummed about being netted in such a fashion, but at least I got to have a pleasant chat with a nice old lady.

  4. I thought you were a salaryman?

    I’ve been pulled over twice in Japan. Actually “pulled over” isn’t the right expression, it’s more like “been sideswiped by some old lady” and “rammed some awkward fat dude with gnarly fingernails who was parked in the travel lane”.

    Both times no fewer than six police officers turned up. Actually the time I got sideswiped, there was literally over a dozen police there. They showed up in cars and on bicycles and astride scooters. There must have been a Hiroshima-wide announcement that some white dude had been involved in a traffic incident (I refuse to call scuffed paint an “accident”, but the Japanese were acting as if there’d been a homicide). There was over a hundred Japanese standing in a tight semi-circle taking pictures with their phones. I don’t think anybody knew what was going on (including the police), only that a White dude was involved.

    You got off lucky. It seems if I’m ever involved in something the bare minimum response is to scramble every koban in town.

    1. That’s funny. And terrifying. I shudder to think what would happen if I actually had a collision with someone. Probably best just to stick with walking.

      No, I was a salaryman, twice. It was awful, really. I can’t imagine ever working in a Japanese office again. Near as I can figure, the key to enjoying Japan is to avoid working at all costs and to replicate being on vacation as closely as possible.

      1. “key to enjoying Japan is to avoid working at all costs and to replicate being on vacation as closely as possible”

        That sounds like a guide for life, not just Japan. 🙂

      2. I try and explain working-as-little-as-possible/enjoying-as-much-as-possible to the girlfriend but her Japanese mind can’t really process it. My little eikaiwa only pays 23万/mo; she looks up JET and etc and sees 30万+ salaries and asks why I don’t find another job.

        I tell her that as the only teacher at a small school with an insane owner/boss who literally does not give a shit about anything as long as the kids are happy, I’m pretty damned lucky. I tell her that for working 30 hours a week (including two hours *every day* of free time to study/mess around online/etc) my pay is probably too high. I shave twice a week (optional), wear whatever the hell I want (flip-flops and shorts at work? Hell yes!), conduct class however the hell I want (literally zero oversight), and basically get paid to be white and hang out with kids all day. Oh and I “work” 2:30-8:30pm, how sweet are those hours?

        If anything, they’re paying me too much money. Of course I live in Gunma and after our bills/food we manage to save 60-70% of our combined income, so money goes a lot further here than there. But still. Anyway, my point is your point: why bust your ass when you can enjoy the ride? From what I hear eikaiwa work is normally a nightmare. But my job? Seriously people, pay the next guy half my salary, because I get paid way too much for what I do. Of course none of this really makes sense to the girlfriend — Why work less when you can work more?! Gaijin sure are weird!

        Hope you’re enjoying your return to education. I can’t imagine donning the salaryman’s suit and tie.

        1. Yes, the Japanese brain is incapable of comprehending the concept of not working as much as possible. If you don’t 頑張って, how can anyone ever say お疲れ様です? That’s just simple reasoning. It’s like a Western person trying to comprehend paying $25 a beer to talk to a pretty girl. Some things just can’t be translated.

          As for the job, you’ve got Japan sussed out perfectly. The trap of this nation—and what a lot of people fresh off the boat don’t realize (i.e., me, initially)—is that Japanese companies will literally work you to death. It’s not uncommon for people to work round the clock, and 7 days a week.

          The trick is to find a job where you can make a decent living and still have a life. That’s not always easy to do, especially in Tokyo. Sounds like you’ve done it in Gunma, so congratulations.

  5. I’ve never seen an old person that wasn’t holding a sign, a wavy stick or rearranging bikes before, that’s some responsibility she has.

    1. I know—honestly, I’d have put her age at somewhere between 60 and 70. From the looks of her, I would have pegged her to be vacuuming out the shinkansen between stops. There’s some funny stuff going on in this country.

  6. You should get one of these Japanese traffic cop jobs. Spend the day outside in the fresh air, scoot after people and ask the same questions over and over for a laugh, etc. It sounds like a pretty sweet gig.

  7. Oh Wow That Was Funny-The Whole Time I Read Over The Part Where The Students Are Hiding Behind A Wall And Giggling I Was Laughing Cuz I Saw It As A Anime In My Head.XD

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