Shoplifting Experience


Mondays leave me in an interesting position as a clockwatcher. If I head for the door right at 4:15, I can catch a convenient train home. Any dallying guarantees I miss the train. Today a series of events cascaded down to my first personal shoplifting experience in Japan.

As I was putting on my jacket and stuffing books into my backpack, a teacher decided to ask me questions about American politics. This sort of timing is not unusual at the schools here. Recently a foreigner at a private school was taking his 15 minute power nap after lunch and a teacher interrupted to ask some inane question. He even said he was sleeping, and she just continued on as if he’d said nothing. Realizing I would miss the train, I relaxed and let him practice his English on me. I arrived very early for the next train, so I took a train the wrong direction to stay warm, rather than waiting outside in the frigid weather. While switching to the correct train, I ran into my calligraphy teacher on the platform. A rare bonus for the delay.

Missing my desired transport left me with too short a break at home to shop and make dinner, so after my evening activities I was a little peckish. My second ride home of the day always leaves me idle at a transfer station for about 15 minutes. I poked my head into a little kiosk convenience store for a snack.

Just to be clear here: no, I did not forget my wallet and – in desperation – steal food from the shop. Rather, I walked into the tiny stall in such a manner as to startle a school boy in the midst of lifting an item. Panic caused him, in an attempt to avoid suspicion, to hastily toss his booty down on a shelf opposite from where he acquired it. Ironically, this drew my attention.

He took a step back, I studied the bar very carefully, glancing repeatedly at him and then back at the bar. My hope was this would clearly telegraph my opinion of him as a suspect; however, his boldness or lack of perception was unflagging. With plenty of time to kill, under the pretense of being overwhelmed with my shopping decision, I perused the shelves at a glacial pace, positioning myself here and there, occasionally turning my back; yet soon facing him again.

During my attempt to drive him off out of fear or exasperation, he just stood there doing nothing, always facing the object of his desire. Finally, I walked around the shelf and looked through from the other side, whereupon the snack disappeared within a couple seconds. Nobody else was standing there, so it was a no-brainer.

Justice must be served! Well, maybe not justice, but I was compelled to notify the owner/operator, she stepped outside with me and I pointed him out. Fortunately, he carries a bright red shoe bag and wears his school uniform so he was easy to identify. She said he comes in almost everyday (and loiters in the corner she can’t see before vanishing). She said she’d be careful to keep an eye out and I gave her sympathetic words, but I guess there is little she can do…

So, I decided to pry further. With my sandwich in hand, I strolled down the platform semi-nonchalantly and stopped facing the culprit. Abruptly I asked him if he enjoys the snack bars (which I mentioned specifically by name, to be clear). His hesitation was too long for me so I asked him if he didn’t enjoy paying for them. My comment contorted his face, so I just shot out, “You just shoplifted one from the kiosk.” Of course he denied it, so I gave him a second chance. After the second denial I gave him the full lecture – slowly: no need to lie because I watched you do it; shoplifting is also a crime; etc. I should have told him that the shopkeeper had been informed, but didn’t think of that until later.

I went two platforms over to wait for my train and returned a friend’s phone call. During the call, I noticed the boy was eyeing me carefully. Maybe I’ll have to hang around the kiosk next Monday. I just hope this doesn’t get me in trouble with the foreigners who think I should mind my own business. I love these new experiences because they exercise my speaking skills which, as my stumbling during the television interview Saturday might indicate, are in need of improvement.


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2 Responses to “Shoplifting Experience”

  1. Barry Wolfenden Says:

    Ah, brilliant! I’m surprised at his sheer audacity. Or perhaps obliviousness might be a better term for it. I wonder how many of these bars he’s stolen?

  2. びっくり Says:

    One in the morning on the way to school and one on the way home late at night after cram school. I was tempted to buy one… they must be good if they tempted him to a life of crime.

    I caught a kid stealing a bike at the train station lot one time. He was also bold, but explained that someone had stolen his bike. (I’m guessing he just forgot where he parked it and didn’t want to look around in the dark.) I lectured him about how two wrongs don’t make a right. I had my good camera around my neck and almost snapped his mug for the police box.

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