Losing your stuff happens all the time and it sucks! Especially when you are travelling abroad. In Japan you need not fear and here is why.
Nobody likes hangovers, least of all me. But worse than all the headaches you can have is when you just can’t find your phone. As you all know losing your phone is not fun, your phone is part of you, part of your life, and when you lose it you generally have very little chance of it being returned. About a month after arriving in Japan it happened to me, and I am glad I had faith in the honesty of the Japanese people.
The Japanese lost and found system has been ongoing for over a millennia and has never functioned as well as today. Nowadays, whether you lose an umbrella, your keys, your phone or even your wallet, there is a good chance that somebody has turned it in at a police station close by and that you will have it returned to you.
What to do when you lose your stuff:
- Call the places you last visited, they usually hold lost property for 2-3 days before handing it in to the police.
- Go to a kōban (交番police box) or a police center. Looking for your things might work but there is a good chance that somebody has already picked up whatever you lost.
- Fill out the lost items form, usually they have one in English. If not, and the police officers cannot help out, there is always an interpreter only a phone call away. Be sure to bring your residence card or passport with you just in case.
- Wait. In my case it took 2 days for the police to send me a postcard with further instructions so if you are only in Tokyo for a couple of days do not despair, phones have a return rate of 75% in Japan.
- Follow the instructions on the card, they will direct you to a lost and found center in one of the larger police stations of Tokyo. There, your identity will be verified and in the case of phones you will be asked to prove your ownership by unlocking the screen.
In the case that you have lost your wallet, a wad of cash or even business papers, be prepared to leave 5 – 20% of its worth as a finder’s fee. In most cases the finder claims neither the fee, nor the lost property (theirs if not returned in 6 months) as there is a sense that they are being given something that is not rightfully theirs. If no one claims the lost item, it becomes property of the government, so in the worst case you are contributing to the Japanese economy.
Coming from France, having my phone returned to me was a miracle in itself and I have only the honesty of the Japanese to be thankful for.