• Kyodo

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Hokkaido police are baffled. Since early April, more than 1,000 brand-new Chinese-made knives have been found abandoned all over Hokkaido, and no owners have come forward to claim them.

Police say the knives are wrapped in plastic cases and come in sets, complete with a cutting board and sharpener. Some sets contain four knives, others six, most of them similar products. They have been found in all conceivable places.

Some were discovered in parks in Hakodate, Otaru and other cities. In Sapporo and Tomakomai, they were found under the staircases of apartment buildings. In Muroran and Noboribetsu, they turned up near train stations.

Police are holding the knives as lost property but are at a loss over how to handle them, and they are worried some abandoned knives may end up in the wrong hands and be used as weapons.

They suspect the new knife sets belonged to Hokkaido merchants who bought them from a Tokyo company that imported the knives from China.

These merchants take cases of knives around for door-to-door sales, and some of them were probably stolen while left on the staircase or some nearby location before the merchants made their rounds.

One merchant, a 27-year-old man who peddles his wares in the Sapporo area, speculated that some knife sets were stolen by the case and the thieves, not knowing what to do with them, just threw them away.

In Sapporo, the response from police varies from police station to police station. While officials at the Sapporo Kita station say they are looking for the owners of the knives, the Shiraishi station said it will step up patrols.

At Hokkaido Prefectural Police headquarters, officials in charge of lost and found explained the difficulties of handling the abandoned knife sets.

“We can’t tell whether they are stolen property. If the knives were just left behind by their owners, we can’t say they were illegally dumped,” one official said.

The publicity over the mysterious knife sets has made the knife merchants an unhappy lot.

“These are knives, so I understand the fuss. But the publicity really hurts our business,” the young Sapporo knife merchant said.

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