The Japanese police（警察, keisatsu）are a national organization. In contrast to the US - where a policeman could be part of the Los Angeles Police Department or the Orange County Police Department or, still different, the California State Police - in Japan, you are all part of one massive national armed crime-fighting team.
One result of that is that when the nationwide police go into campaign mode in order to modify behavior, a net is cast over the entire country. Last year's cause was drunk driving（飲酒運転、inshu unten). Posters were plastered everywhere. Arrests went up. Television programs warned of hordes of drunks on the road.
The national media（マスコミ、mass komi）fall into line, and print up all of police media organization（警察記者クラブ）handouts nearly verbatim - so the message is even further amplified.
For me, though, it is the posters found in train stations（駅、eki）that are the most arresting, pun unintended.
This year's target has been "drugs," mainly marijuana. College kids are being arrested and hauled off to jail in great numbers while the police and their media lackeys warn of us doom and societal breakdown.
The top right poster is an example of this. While alcoholism - unless it occurs behind the wheel of a car - and cigarettes are not considered a problem, dope is a very big no no in Japan. It will ruin your life. Thanks to the cops, it now will.
Another poster has to do with gropers（痴漢、chikan) on subways and trains （電車、densha）(see left). In line with this, the Osaka subway system has a somewhat cheeky announcement about an unfunny problem:
痴漢はあかん（chikan wa akan)！
Using Kansai dialect for "no" or "bad" - akan - the announcement rhymes out the message that molesting is prohibited.
It is now not just prohibited but a crime.
Another poster has to do with simple bike theft (see below right). In a society in which crime is, by the standards of the West, very low, bikes and umbrellas seem to be fair game, public property.
Umbrellas （傘、kasa）and bikes （自転車、jitensha）disappear unless they are firmly locked.
If you don't believe us, check out the poster.
窃盗罪／１０年以下の懲役または５０万円の罰金刑（settozai/10 nen ika no choeki mata ha 50 man en no bakkin kei）
"Don't do it! Don't allow it!
It's larceny (theft)/Up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to 500,000 yen"
The bottom of the poster informs us that there are 12,000 cases of bike theft per year in Kyoto - and to be sure to double lock your bike.
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Thursday, June 18, 2009