So we’ve just gotten back from a class overnight trip to Oonuma, an entire story in and of itself that I won’t go into here, and I’m still a bit tired, so when Natsumi asks if I want to go eat some strawberries with her and her friend (it’s super legit), I had to decline. Later on in the day we had a BBQ, and while we’re all setting out the various fish, meat, and veggies, I inquire as to whether or not the Uda family has ever perchance tried roasting marshmallows. Immediately taken by my suggestion, the family decided we absolutely had to have marshmallows, so Natsumi headed out to the 魚町(kinda like a biggish convenience store), but before she left, racked by the guilt of bailing on her earlier, I decided to accompany her. This ended up being quite an unfortunate (for me) decision.
So we get to the first 魚町 and there were absolutely zero marshmallows to be found, but far from disheartened, we departed for a second one, where we fared no better. Still yet undeterred, we departed for a 3rd one, and I, in my tired, semi-conscious state, failed to realize that my seatbelt was not done, and not 30 seconds later we were greeted by a Japanese police officer’s flag waving us down. For those of you who know me fairly well, you probably know that in stressful situations, I’m wont to make a certain sound, most closely written as “nghnnnnnnnnn!”Just that for approximately 5 minutes straight as a sat in the car while Natsumi was in the police station, taking my stress levels to max.
After a few minutes of holding a makeshift fetal position in the passenger seat, a police officer came over to my window, and asked to see my passport. But of course, as I’d intended only to buy marshmallows, I had taken nothing but my rental cellphone with me. After conveying this to the police officer, with an exasperated sigh he ushered me into the police station.
Now I’ve never so much as received a speeding ticket from a police officer, my only experience running into the law being through indirect parking tickets, and on top of this, I still wasn’t terribly comfortable with the language. Soon the questioning started, and to my credit, it seems that I answered all questions asked with relatively coherent Japanese as the officer was able to take down my information. The whole time my information was being jotted down, the phone was ringing repeatedly, and while I was unable to understand the phone conversations in their entirety, I did catch an アメリカ人(American) and 外国人(foreigner), so for all I knew I could have the whole god damn consulate coming down to the police station at that moment. As I waited judgement in my seat across from the police officer, I took the opportunity to apologize profusely to Natsumi, but of course being inhumanly kind (the Uda family has joked that they are from outer space), Natsumi just told me to stop worrying and that everything would be fine.
I was so stressed, that even the officers started telling me to relax, and even went as far as to engage me in conversation, asking how long I’d studied Japanese for, what the most surprising thing was about Japan, what my favorite food was. I took the opportunity to tell them that I really did want to continue studying Japanese (so please don’t deport me!), and they laughed at a couple of my insanely nervous jokes, which did make me feel better. Eventually the boss cop came out, who despite his stern warrior-like expression, simply told me to be more careful in the future, and the reason that they pulled us over was really for my protection. We ended up driving over to the house with a police officer tailing our car, and after showing him my passport and driver’s license, he completed his journal entry, told me to be more careful in the future which I promised I would do, and went on his way.
Perhaps the most surprising part is that there were absolutely no monetary penalties, just a small slap on the wrist. This was a far-cry away from what the HIF staff had said in their information letter, informing us that being found without our passport was grounds for immediate deportation. I returned to the BBQ shaken, marshmallowless, and awful embarrassed, but interestingly enough we hardly talked about my run in with the cops (The neighbor Kouji who had come to the BBQ with his mother actually came inside and encouraged me to come back out to the BBQ). All I can say is that ish was FAF (不思議 as fuck), and that short of surgically attaching my passport to myself, I will have it on me always and forever. Wear your seatbelts kids.