Brian Hedge’s July 28 letter, “Pocket knife lands tourist, 74, in lockup,” presented in the Hotline to Nagatacho column, relates what seems to be an unfortunate incident stemming from police being overly zealous to enforce a new law. However, the article also raises a number of questions.
The 74-year-old American tourist is characterized as “old,” “frail,” “incredibly nice” and “harmless.” Yet, he seemingly was strong enough to endure a long overseas flight and have the energy to spare for strolling the streets of Shinjuku. He would presumably also have had the energy to stab someone with his pocket knife were he so inclined (which is not to imply that he was!). Therefore, in the eyes of the police, he might not necessarily be considered “harmless” and exempt from the law.
Did he carry the knife in the cabin of the airplane when flying to Japan? If so, why? Common sense tells us that we are responsible for obtaining some basic knowledge about the laws of any country we plan to visit. Did the man make any effort to do so? Did it not occur to him that carrying what could be considered a weapon might be viewed differently in different countries? Was the information about the knife law available?
Is it not a sweeping generalization to characterize Japanese koban police officers as “incredibly backward and illogical” and to say that foreign tourists in Japan are targeted as criminals, or does the author have some evidence based on more than one case?
I cannot think of a single country in the world that has not had some unfortunate incident happen to a foreign tourist, whether perpetrated by police or ordinary citizens, including theft, rape and murder. Would one therefore say those countries are all “horrible places to visit and extremely unsafe”? We would consequently have nowhere to travel. I await a followup article to clarify some of the details in order to determine to what extent my sympathies would lie with the arrested man.
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