Your humble scribe has been gripped with a sudden and unexplained surge of civic responsibility. The net result of which is that – and I don’t know quite how it happened – I appear to have joined the local police.
Or more accurately, the local neighbourhood patrol volunteers. A note came through the door the other day that they were looking for more volunteers to patrol the local streets, and there was a meeting with free lunch on Saturday. I just mentioned to Big M that it might be a laugh to join up. The next thing I know – it’s all arranged and I’ve been issued with a pass, a Hi-Vis vest and hat and packed off on my rounds.
The duties don’t actually seem that arduous, and appear to consist mainly of walking the streets peering into people’s gardens and commenting how lovely their roses are. As most of the other volunteers are about 90, our “beat” is about half a mile in duration. So from now on, every Saturday afternoon at 3pm (weather permitting) I shall be patrolling the mean streets of Shoan with my crack unit of retired bus drivers and old ladies. The fact that I can’t understand a bloody word anyone is saying doesn’t appear to have phased them at all. Presumably, having someone my size on the team might help should we run into trouble. But having now been privy to the latest crime stats from the area, I think the chances of that happening are quite remote.
In Shoan this year so far, there have been a total of – wait for it – 18 crimes. 17 of those were bicycle thefts. Generally speaking, the level of crime here is low, even by Japanese standards, so I shan’t be losing too much sleep about putting my life on the line in the pursuit of justice. The idea of the patrol is that by maintaining a high visibility, criminals will be deterred from descending on our sleepy little neighbourhood. And I’m sure that’s exactly what would happen, should they decide to start their crime spree between 3 and 4pm on a Saturday afternoon, if it’s not raining. I can’t help wondering if, even as we speak, some criminal mastermind hatching a cunning plot to turn up on a Friday and catch us all napping.
Frivolities aside, there is a serious side to all this. I’m actually very keen to do more to become part of the local community. I really do like it here and I think it’s nice to get involved (how very British). Making good contacts locally has also got to be good news, not to mention maintaining good relations with the local police – a smart move in a country where foreigners are still regarded with a great deal of suspicion. Should I end up in trouble, I stand a much better chance of being treated well if I’m known to be an upstanding(ish) citizen. Plus, there’s almost certain to be some drinking involved at some stage as very little happens here without an alcoholic component.
But the funniest part of all is that Big M came along to the meeting just to translate for me, but she’s ended up being drafted herself. She’s not happy and that’s made it all the funnier. The best part is she explained to me “If something happens, even the middle of the night they will call you.” To which I replied “Hmm don’t think so – I gave them your mobile number. Try not to wake me when you leave.” That went down like a steel band at a KKK wedding. Happy days.