Posted by: thewhitesintokyo | November 26, 2008

Rebel without a cause

Just when I thought everything was “normal…”

I do have one admission for the “strange and unusual” category. On Saturday, while en route to our friend Danny’s place for lunch with some friends, I got pulled over…on my bicycle!

Yes, a police officer, on foot mind you, stopped me to “ask a few questions.” I muddled through some Japanese and he tried his best with English. Basically, from what I understood, he wanted to check the registration on my bike to see if it was properly registered with the city. See, in Tokyo, you have to file and maintain registration on a bike the same way we do with cars. So yes, a Japanese policeman basically said, “license and registration please.” Except I was on a bike.

I was actually borrowing our friend Brendan’s “extra” bike, which was a hand-me-down gift from another teacher this year. Since I knew I couldn’t quite explain all of that in Japanese, I just said that I was a teacher at St. Mary’s (pronounced “Saint-o Mary-zu”), and that the bike was owned by another “sensei.” He knew the school, which was great news, and asked the name of the teacher.

I nearly said “Brendan Riley,” but just then, the other teacher’s name popped into my head: Mr. Ofstedahl. Yeah. Can you imagine trying to get a Japanese guy to say “Ofstedahl-san?” On the radio, he called it in, and instead simply asked if it was registered to a “gaijin,” or foreigner, and gave up on actually pronouncing that good ole’ Midwestern surname. They said, yes, it was indeed registered to a gaijin, and the police officer graciously let me continue on my way. I’m not sure what would have happened had I been wrong.

Later, when looking at the bike, I discovered why he pulled me over. There is a sawed-off piece of a former bike lock hanging below the seat. He must have thought that I’d stolen the bike and was actually pretty observant to have seen that from where he was walking. In any case, that was my second encounter with police in Japan. In both circumstances (the last was during our campfire on the beach), they were polite, courteous, and harmless. Let’s just hope it stays that way.



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