The Japanese are taught manners, respect, and responsibility from a young age. This includes respect for others’ property, and even small children will know what to do if they find property that doesn’t belong to them. That said, when it comes to returning items, there’s a legal incentive as well.
According to Japanese law, the owners of lost items are required to pay the finders a small percentage of the item’s value in return for finding it – a finder’s fee. It’s not so much about the monetary value but acknowledgement of a good deed, and many people will even refuse to accept any reward. Nevertheless, it does encourage people to do the right thing when it comes to lost goods. But the success of the lost property returns in Japan isn’t just due to honest citizens.
Koban are police boxes, and you don’t have to go far to find one. They’re usually even smaller than a convenience store and can be found almost anywhere, from busy street corners to quiet suburban streets. These koban are an essential part of the process of returning lost property and deal with thousands of items each year. Aside from designated lost and found stations at public venues and facilities, the nearest koban should be the first one you contact when you realize you’ve misplaced your things.
In order for the lost property management system in Japan to be as effective as it is, it requires a good deal of police resources. This includes manning the koban. But with some of the lowest rates in the world for violent crime and drug use, the country’s sizable police force is able to devote more effort towards reuniting owners with their lost property.
If an item goes unclaimed after three months, the finder is legally entitled to take ownership. But this doesn’t always happen, especially since most lost items are mundane things like umbrellas. In this case, the police auction the items to interested parties, where they end up in junk shops or secondhand stores. Recycling these goods keeps them out of the incinerator and gives them a new home.