Friday, March 10, 2006

Absent minded Japanese

I can relate to this- I keep losing my stuff- esp. my sunglasses. But this is real funny.

I read this in "The Australian".

Lost and Found and Found and Found: Drowning under a sea of lost property March 10, 2006

TOKYO: To the citizens of more lawless countries, Japan's low crime rates and high standards of personal honesty are a cause of envious admiration. But Japanese are now paying the price for their integrity as the country sinks beneath a mountain of lost property. Japan's cabinet has approved legislation to reduce the millions of items - from trillions of yen in cash, to live hamsters and packets of chewing gum - lost in shops and on public transport and conscientiously handed in by their finders.

The change will ease the burden on the vast lost property centres where millions of lost items, most of which will never reach their owners, are documented and stored every year.

The Japanese are a forgetful people: in 2004, 7.4 million items were reported lost. An even larger number of objects was handed in: 10.7 million - almost four times the annual number when records began 50 years ago.

Among the objects were 330,000 mobile phones, 730,000 wallets and 13.2 billion yen in cash, most of which were successfully returned to their owners.

But they also included 1.4million umbrellas and 876,000 small items of clothing, such as scarves and gloves, only a fraction of which are returned.

In theory, anyone who fails to hand in lost property can be convicted of embezzlement. Those who hand in are rewarded with 10 per cent of a lost object's value if it is reclaimed or can keep their find if it is not.

Perhaps because of this strict legal framework, definitions of what constitutes lost property have become very wide indeed. "Sometimes, schoolchildren hand over a few sweets that they've found on the train," said Kazuo Yamazaki, of the Lost Property Centre in Ueno railway station in Tokyo. "Now, to you that may be litter, but to the owner it could be lost property."

The revisions to the 107-year-old Lost Goods Law will reduce from six to three months the length of time that lost property must be kept before it is handed over to the finder. The police will be allowed to sell low-value items such as umbrellas, 99 per cent of which remain unclaimed, to recoup the cost of storing them.

The changes will also remove the anomalous regulation that defines pets as lost property. In the past, lost-and-found offices have had to feed and tend to dogs, cats, goldfish, hamsters and even snakes and wallabies. Some of the offices even keep pet food on standby (or perhaps it was pet food that someone lost. LOL!!!) ...

The Times

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