So I was pulled over by a cop the other day.
Almost all speeding tickets in Japan are issued through the use of speed traps. They’ll be one cop sitting in a chair with a radar gun, he’ll tag you and send the info ahead to his buddy with a flag down the road. That guy will flag you into a parking lot, where a bunch of officers will be ready with a table and chairs for everyone so you can have a nice sit down while they apologize for having to issue you a ticket. There’s no chasing you down the road in a cop car involved.
However, they will pull you over if they see other kinds of violations like talking on a cell phone or not wearing a seat-belt. I always wear my seat-belt and wasn’t on my phone so I was a bit surprised to have been pulled over. All the memories come flooding back though: don’t make any sudden movements, keep your hands up and visible. Afterwards I thought about how silly that was. I mean, when’s the last time someone in Japan was gunned down by the police?
Incidentally, going through five pages on Google for “japan shot by police” returns mainly a story about a Japanese man shot dead in Kenya, but also stories of an Indian man who was a driver for a Japanese consulate being shot dead in India, a different Japanese business man being shot dead in Kenya, a Japanese yakuza man being shot dead in Thailand, another yakuza in Japan shooting a Japanese police officer, a poorly translated article about a Japanese man “shooting” underage pornography in China, and a couple of articles about a Japanese tourist in New York getting hit by a stray bullet fired by a police officer during a drug bust next door.
Not a single story of a Japanese police officer shooting anybody. Of course, when there are so few guns out in society to hazard police, they can more easily go about their work without the fear of being gunned down themselves. As “Forces of Order” puts it:
“Police officers are not haunted by the fear of the sharpshooting assassin, the armed motorist, or the panicky criminal…. Since police officers carry nightsticks and .38-caliber revolvers, and are rigorously trained in hand-to-hand combat, the odds are solidly in their favor….and it would be considered outlandish for an officer to carry an auxiliary small-caliber pistol concealed in a pocket, as some American police officers do.”
So, anyway, my encounter played out exactly as the comic above. Turns out my rear left turn signal had gone out, and the officer helpfully wanted to alert my attention to it. He didn’t even ask to see my foreigner’s card.