Lost wallets or hard cash reported to the Okinawa Prefectural Police last year had a higher chance of being returned than in the preceding four years, earning praise from foreign tourists who got their money back.
The police said that ¥203.7 million in lost cash was reported in Okinawa in 2018. Of this amount, ¥138.28 million, or 67.9 percent, made its way back to owners — the best return rate since 2014.
The five-year average for successfully returning lost money was about 66 percent, with a low of 64.8 percent in 2017. Money returned to owners the year after it was handed in to police was not included in the statistics.
Some foreign tourists who retrieved their wallets lauded the practice of returning lost money, according to the prefectural police’s finance division.
The five-year average return rate for goods, however, was only 36.4 percent due to the difficulty of finding the owners. In many cases, the owners simply gave up on retrieving their belongings.
Lost money was taken to police in various condition, such as inside a wallet or envelope or just hard cash, according to the finance division. An elementary school student once handed in a ¥10 coin to a police box.
The Tomigusuku Police Station, which has jurisdiction over Naha Airport, handles the most lost items among 14 police stations in the prefecture. Last year, it dealt with 43,427 cases of lost property and ¥3 million to ¥4 million in lost money.
“We can identify an individual who dropped a wallet by checking the person’s driver’s license and other items in it, making it possible to return it,” said Satoshi Kinjo, head of the police station’s finance division. “But it is hard to find the person when the cash was handed in on its own.”
Nonetheless, some people pick up hard cash or other items and take them to the police even though there is a chance it may be impossible to find the owner. “The lost item may be an important or memorable thing for people who dropped or left it behind,” Kinjo said.
The law on lost property stipulates that cash reported to police must be kept for three months. During that time, officials in each police station’s finance division look for the owners and try to get in touch with them.
After three months, the ownership will be transferred to the individual who picked up the cash. If the individual doesn’t want the money, it ends up in the prefectural coffers.
Last year, Okinawa police logged a record number of reports of lost items, at 168,220. Wallets were the most common item, at 9,852, followed by 7,360 driver’s licenses, 7,339 ATM cards and 6,823 mobile phones.
The increase has been attributed to the growing numbers of tourists and openings of big commercial facilities. Some of the more unusual items included an ihai (memorial tablet) inscribed with the posthumous Buddhist name of a deceased person, and divorce papers.
This section features topics and issues from Okinawa covered by The Okinawa Times, a major newspaper in the prefecture. The original article was published Feb. 14.