I often joke that “Finders, keepers; losers weepers” ought to replace the motto on American money. There are fewer sayings that quite encapsulate the ethics of the country, where if something ain’t nailed down, it’ll get stolen and it’s your own goddamn fault for being so careless.
In Japan, things couldn’t be more different.
This morning when my son and I were playing soccer in the park, he found a girl’s pencil case in a pile of dead leaves. Opening the case, he discovered it contained about twenty dollars in cash.
When I asked him what he wanted to do, he said, “Let’s take it to the police box.”
So we did.
Kōban (交番, small police outposts) can be found all over town, so we went by the nearest one, told them what we had found, and filled out some paperwork. If in three months, no one comes to claim it, my son can have it. If somebody does come to claim it, he is entitled to a 10% finder’s reward. We waived that right. The police asked us if we would like to be contacted by the owner, but my son, after considering the prospect of getting kissed by the girl, said, “No thanks!”
I’ve heard about Japanese parents making their kids go to the police even when they find the equivalent of a dime (10円玉), but I find that a tad excessive.
And so, having done our good deed for the day, we went back to the park and continued playing soccer.