Little known fact about Japan…

You are stuck in Japan, it’s oppressively hot and you don’t have a yen to your name. You decide to do the obvious and rob a cab.

Sure why not: the rich bastards must be carrying like a million yen on them at all times. Sounds like an easy one, right? Right?

Well, no.

You see, the incidence rate of mad bank robbing ending in wild taxicab chase and hostage situations through the streets of Tokyo is so high (Bogota of the East, that we call it) that officials have had to come up with a solution. Unbeknownst to you, from the moment you hopped on the cab with your gun, the taxi driver has been pressing a secret button on his dashboard that turns on an emergency distress signal light on top of the car, thus warning any law enforcement agent in the vicinity that something fishy is afloat.

In your face, evil taxicab robbers!

Well, that is, unless you actually take the time to poke your head out the window, spot the blinking red light, shoot the driver and escape.

But taxis are not the only ones that have received special care regarding the endemic hijacking problem in Japan: all public buses are also equipped with such a special emergency light that can be turned on in case a crazy lunatic would suddenly decide to re-enact the best moments of Su-ppee-do, the movie. I feel so much safer already.

Why do I have the feeling some lawmakers in Japan watch too much TV?

Talking about: I just had the honour yesterday of witnessing firsthand a real police car chase! Well, a scooter chase, but close enough.

The scene, rare enough in Japan to bear special mention, featured two police cars, all sirens blaring, struggling to keep up with a dangerous criminal and his pizza-delivery style scooter, somewhat slightly above the 20 mph speed limit. The funny part wasn’t that this young Al Capone was cautiously wearing his helmet and pacing at a speed I would usually take to go get my groceries on bicycle, nor that he would be so considerate as to switch his blinker on before taking a sharp turn off the main avenue into a smaller street, allegedly to escape his chasers… No, the best part was in the warnings the police kept giving through their speakers. Try as I may, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to cops addressing their fugitive with such convincing pieces of rhetoric as “Please, honorable scooter-riding gentleman, would you consider stopping your engine in a near future”, or the ever hilarious “Driving at such a speed is dangerous, please slow down”…

Unfortunately, I was busy enough with my own adventures, and couldn’t check out the conclusion of this particularly thrilling episode of The Streets of Minami-Ochiai, but seriously, I wouldn’t bet too much on the two police cars.

On further reflexion, if you ever find yourself on a Japanese bus that’s just been hijacked, I’d recommend jumping out the window.


  1. Hilarious, and right on the nail! I’m in Sendai myself and once (really, only once), I think it was last year, or maybe the year before that, I saw a cop GIVING A PARKING TICKET! I still wonder why it didn’t make the news…



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