Tokyo Tidbit: Pandemic Honesty At The Street Level

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A worker was sorting garbage on September 22 at a garbage disposal facility (“Clean Center”) in Kasai City, Hyogo prefecture, when he found a bag with 10,000-yen bills. He promptly took it to the police. When they got through counting, they had about ¥10,000,000 ($131,000) stacked in front of them. Now they’re looking for the owner. If no one claims it within three months, it becomes property of the city since it was found by a city worker who was on duty. Too bad for the guy, who’s now kicking himself.

This kind of astounding honesty is pandemic in Japan. For example after the tsunami, ¥2.3 billion ($30 million) were found in the debris and returned to their owners. Most of that money was in thousands of safes that specialists worked for days to break into.

More mundanely, 2,840,000 items were turned over to the lost-and-found office of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police in 2010, including ¥2,741,967,739 ($36 million) in cash, 438,261 items of clothing, 386,177 umbrellas, 269,733 IDs, 255,612 wallets, and 183,205 negotiable securities. Only 15% of these items were claimed, 52% went to the finder, 27% to Tokyo, and 6% was disposed of. Cash, however, is a different story: 72% was claimed, while finders got 17%, and the city got 11%.

So, if something valuable comes up missing, it may well be worth your time to drop by the local lost-and-found office or to check its searchable website.

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