In Japan, I lost my wal­let and got it back cleaner

Watchmen Daily Journal - - OPINION - By Rambo Tal­abong

Of all the things I could lose in the last few days of trav­el­ing in Japan, I cer­tainly didn’t want to lose my wal­let.

But it was nowhere to be found.

I was in Hiroshima with my mom and sis­ter when I re­al­ized I lost it. It had all my cash and cards: credit, debit, and the travel card I needed to re­turn to Osaka and board our plane back to the Philip­pines.

Nat­u­rally, I pan­icked.

We were stay­ing at a cap­sule hos­tel in Hiroshima, so my ini­tial sus­pi­cion was a thief might have grabbed it from in­side my quar­ters while I was away. There’s a prece­dent for this – my GoPro got stolen be­fore at a hos­tel in Am­s­ter­dam.

I pulled out the cush­ion of my cap­sule’s bed and shook it, hop­ing for some­thing to fall. I repacked my travel back­pack and found noth­ing. I ran to our hos­tel host­ess to in­quire about it, but she said none of their staff had seen it.

Al­ready fear­ing the worst, I had to drag my mom and sis­ter along with me to re­trace our steps from where we were the pre­vi­ous night.

My mom and sis­ter were sup­posed to take a day stroll in Hiroshima’s memo­rial park, then catch a ferry to the pic­turesque Miya­jima Is­land and catch a sun­set by the bay. All that was scrapped for the search.

For­tu­nately, the hunt suc­ceeded in un­der two hours, thanks to the hon­est and ef­fi­cient Ja­panese. I even got my wal­let back cleaner than when I lost it.

Re­trac­ing my steps

There’s re­ally no strat­egy for search­ing when you lose some­thing abroad. It’s just the same as los­ing some­thing home. You just ask your­self, “When was the last time I saw it?”

I re­called buy­ing bot­tled water at a Law­son con­ve­nience store the night be­fore. I also bought a novel from a book­store in bustling Hon­dori Street.

We first dropped by the Law­son where I bought my bot­tled water. The coun­ters were manned by dif­fer­ent cashiers al­ready. The pre­vi­ous night, men rang up cus­tomers’ late-night pur­chases. That morn­ing, two women were on duty.

I went straight to the woman who I thought looked Filipino. But when I asked her “Eigo okay?” (English okay?), she im­me­di­ately said no. Still, I hoped that I could make my­self un­der­stood with hand ges­tures.

“I (point­ing to my­self), lost (shak­ing my hands) my wal­let (fold­ing my palms over and over) last night (point­ing to my back),” I said. She just shook her head and said no, then pointed me to the other woman, who was by then al­ready un­oc­cu­pied.

I changed my strat­egy. I typed what I wanted to say on Google Trans­late and showed her the trans­la­tion writ­ten in Ja­panese.

She went to the back of their store, prob­a­bly to check whether the night staff might have left a wal­let there, but she re­turned with noth­ing.

Found, but not there

We then walked to the book­store along Hon­dori Street.

It looked like the book­store had just opened, as some of its staff were still ar­rang­ing shelves. I showed the trans­la­tion flashed on my phone to a woman at the counter.

She lit up, and said, “Yes!” Fi­nally, a sign of hope. The woman spoke with the staff who were cat­a­logu­ing books be­hind her. One of the staffers said it was with the po­lice, and my heart started beat­ing faster once again.

As I was on va­ca­tion from cov­er­ing the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice, speak­ing with a cop was the last thing I wanted to hap­pen.

As we were tak­ing the 10-minute walk from Law­son to the book­store I had read that there was also a long list of pro­ce­dures I needed to fol­low to re­trieve my wal­let. These forms were also in Ja­panese.

While I would say I’m used to speak­ing to cops, this was new ter­ri­tory for me.

As it would turn out, I was lucky the in­ci­dent hap­pened in a place like Japan. The book­store staffers pulled out a map, en­cir­cled where the po­lice sta­tion is, and drew a line that I should fol­low to get there. They even gave me a note writ­ten in Ja­panese to give to the cops.

It was only a 5-minute walk to the sta­tion.

Speak­ing to Ja­panese cops

Only two cops, a man and a woman, were in­side the po­lice sta­tion when I en­tered. I handed my phone with the trans­la­tion, and the book­store’s note, but they seemed un­able to re­call a black wal­let from the nearby book­store.

As I be­gan to worry again, the po­lice­man spread out a lost and found form. It was in Ja­panese, but the cop was kind enough to fill out the form for me.

I handed my phone with Google Trans­late, and we “spoke” through there (thank­fully I was able to quickly down­load a Ja­panese key­board with their high-speed in­ter­net). The cop typed in Ja­panese and I read the English trans­la­tion. I typed in English, and he read the trans­la­tion in Ja­panese char­ac­ters. This went on for around 20 min­utes.

He calmly asked where I was stay­ing in Hiroshima, when I would be leav­ing, what my wal­let looked like when I last saw it, and what was in­side it. With the form com­pleted, the other cop picked up the phone and

made a call. She read out what the first cop wrote down to who I be­lieve was a staffer at the lost‐and‐found sec on of the Hiroshima City po­lice sta on.

AŸer she hung up, the po­lice­woman gave me a re­as­sur­ing look and said my wal­let was at the Hiroshima City po­lice sta on.

It had been brought, in a span of hours, from the book­store to the Hon­dori Street po­lice sta on, and to their main of­fice.

She brought out a pa­per stub and wrote a code. She said I only had to present it to the main sta on, which was also just 5 min­utes on foot.

Find­ing my wal­let

At the Hiroshima City po­lice sta on, I eas­ily spo ed the lost‐and‐found sec on, as the de­part­ments were la­beled with gi­ant num­bers. I walked over to an open win­dow and handed the stub.

The woman at the counter shuf­fled to a drawer be­hind her and, in a ma er of sec­onds, I fi­nally saw my wal­let, pulled out from the drawer and wrapped in plas c with a code printed on it.

The fine print matched my stub. She gave me a form which recorded, in Ja­panese, what was in­side my wal­let when they found it.

I in­spected it and found it cleaner. The cops had fla ened and ar­ranged the pe­sos and dol­lars I had hap­haz­ardly placed in­side my wal­let. How­ever, I found no yen.

Some­one might have stolen it while the wal­let was be­ing brought from the book­store to the po­lice sta on, I thought.

Be­fore I could ask the woman about it, she said they recorded how much yen was in­side and took it out for safe­keep­ing. She placed a small plas c tray stacked with new and crisp yen bills in front of me.

I erupted into cel­e­bra on then and there, showering the woman with my most hear•elt “Ari­ga­tou goza­imasu!” (Thank you!)

With me to spare, we were even able to go to the Hiroshima Cas­tle and walk around Hon­dori more to shop for pasalubong.

While I was in a state of panic the whole me, there was a part of me that kept on say­ing, “You’re in Japan, you won’t lose it here.”

I guess this now‐proven as­sump­tion was borne out of days of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the kind­ness and ef­fi­ciency of the Ja­panese.

The trains ar­rive and leave on the dot, with ev­ery­one fall­ing in line to exit and en­ter. Pri­or­ity seats in buses are left va­cant, even dur­ing packed rides, for the el­derly and the preg­nant. Clean­li­ness is a sa­cred rule in pub­lic spa­ces. The coun­try con­sis­tently records one of the low­est crime rates in the world.

I wish I could say the same back home, but we, as a coun­try and as a peo­ple, have a long way to go.

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