Escaping the Rat Trap


Nezumitori (鼠取り) is a term used in Japan for a speed trap. It literally means rat catching or mouse catching. Usually one policeman will find a place to hide with a radar gun and a vanload of officers will wait a few blocks away. He’ll clock a group of cars and radio ahead. One of the main body will step into the road with a red flag and motion the victims to the awaiting arms of their public protectors.

The other day I turned a corner near my home, drove up and over a bridge, and noticed a man in a police uniform walking toward the roadway. I didn’t give a lot of thought to the speed limit, but rather to the safety issue caused by a man walking out of an alley toward the road. I let off the gas and coasted down. I saw the officer radioing ahead and as I was approaching the forward ranks one of them came into the roadway with his flag. Some of my readers weren’t born yet the last time I got a traffic ticket, so I was a little disappointed. I slowed way down to make it easier on them and I noticed that the guy with the flag wasn’t making a move to stop me.

As I drove by, he immediately stuck the flag out and stepped in front of the cars following me. I breathed a sigh of relief, gave thanks, and moved on. Was I going slower than the cars behind me? Was I given favor for noticing and slowing down? Could they not get a lock on my tiny car? Were they just concerned about tailgating? Were they afraid to talk to the foreigner? Did the policeman recognize me from all my biking around the area, and taking care of the kids? I have no idea but, as I said, I was thankful.


2 Responses to “Escaping the Rat Trap”

  1. Sylvia Says:

    Whoah, that is a tiny car! I wish we had cars like that here. Our cars are ridiculously overpowered and underutilized.

    Are plug-in electric cars available in Japan?

  2. びっくり Says:

    I really don’t know about plug-in cars here. I have seen a number of hybrids. My car only has a 630cc engine which is much smaller than anything sold in America, but it is only worthwhile if it is well tuned. It seems like most of the kei cars (軽自動車) have really cheap transmissions and engines, so they don’t last as long as they could.

    Of course, I have only fired up the car once in the past week. That’s the best way to decrease consumption. Kind of funny that now that the weather is oppressively hot and humid, I finally got my tires repaired and am riding around. My forearms are sticking to the front of my laptop. 😛

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