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I fought bowed to the law

I bowed my way out of a traffic ticket yesterday.

I was coming home on Route 246, about to turn onto Kyu-Yamate dori. Traffic was lined up at the intersection, waiting for the light to turn green, and an ultra-wide bus blocked me from lane-splitting my way any closer to the front.

So, I went all the way to the left, around the traffic, planning to cut back into the right lane at the head of the line. That's when I heard it: Woop woop woop — the siren of doom.

The cop (on a motorcycle of his own) pulled me over, and we parked our bikes on the sidewalk.

"You know you can't cross the yellow line, don't you? That's a 6,000 yen fine and one point on your license. Let's see it."

I showed him my license. I have a real Japanese driver's license, not an international permit, and in the past, cops have been impressed enough by this fact alone to let me off with a warning. But not this one, who reached for the white metal box containing his ticket-writing materials. Time was running out, and I needed to come up with an alibi, fast. I decided on the Confused Gaijin.

"I'm sorry, officer. I was lost, so I decided to get off the road as soon as possible and check my map."

This was a lie on two levels: First, I had been planning to cut right back into traffic, not pull over to the side of the road. And second, I wasn't lost. My house was about ten blocks away. This latter point, the officer picked up on:

"Your license says you live right around here."

"Um... yes. Yes I do. But I usually come home via Inogashira dori, and a friend of mine told me Route 246 is faster, so I'm trying it for the first time today."

This was not a very convincing excuse. Time to bring out the big guns.

"I usually drive very safely and I'll never do something like this again. Sumimasen." Then, I bowed.

"Well, all right. But make sure you follow the rules from now on."

"I will. Thank you, officer."

The power of a good bow in Japan cannot be overstated.


Anonymous said...

Hang your head in shame.

Wait... that's what a Japanese bow is... damn. 

Posted by Brian

Anonymous said...

I too was floored when I got out of a flagrant violation in Osaka 3 years ago. I double parked a Cifero on Midosuji in order to run into a bank and use the ATM. At the time I was upset because a taxi cut me off and took the spot I was going after; I even ran up to the taxicab and asked nicely for him to make a little room so I can pull in for 5 minutes. He just ignored me. In typical stupid american gaijin fashion I prompltly switched over to something on the order of "well f--- you then" in its Osaka-ben equivalent, along with my favorite universal hand gesture so he'd get the point thru his closed window, and just left my car there while I went into the bank. 45 seconds later I emerged from the bank into one of Osaka-Fu's finest's gaze. He asked me "why did you leave the car here?" I had to assume he talked to the cab driver, but I used my gaijiness to my advantage (and this is probably the only time being a gaijin will work to someone's advantage, right?) "I tried to tell the taxi driver I needed to run into the bank, and to watch my car, and he said ok... so I thought I could leave it here while I went." I spoke in a stammering manner to show sheer nervousness. "show me your license" I had an international permit at the time, but also a letter saying my license was being translated into japanese. "you know you cant block people, he cant take passengers like that." I bowed deeply as I could to both the cop and the taxi driver. "go-sumimasen!" I stayed that way as he said to move my car. I was shocked, and fully expected a big ticket, or a tow.  

Posted by J7



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