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Where do lost things get to Tokyo and what happens to them after

Urns with ashes, electric guitars, rare wristwatches and millions of other items left in the care of city authorities.

Shouji Okubo in the Tokyo storage of orphaned things. Here and further photo The Japan Times

The search for the owners of the lost urns with ashes is not a daily one, but it is still not a rare task for the Tokyo police. In 2017, investigators from the special Bunko district searched 10 people who for some reason left the remains of relatives. However, the patrolling enough cares and without urns.

The Tokyo storage, where owners expect all ownerless things, occupies 660 square meters. In April 2018, there were hundreds of thousands of items, but the head of the storage facility Shoji Okubo (Shoji Okubo) believes that with the arrival of rains in June, the room will be replenished most often with lost items – umbrellas. About the internal “kitchen” of the Tokyo storehouse and the subtleties of his work, the Japanese told The Japan Times.

Waiting for the hosts

In 2016, the capital police returned more than 380,000 umbrellas to the owners, and on average, on a rainy day, up to three thousand ownerless umbrellas are found on the streets of the city. To each tag is attached with information, when and where to find the thing, and then sent to the warehouse. “It’s very difficult to systematically store things so that they can be easily returned to the owner if desired,” Okubo said.

At the end of the spring of 2018, about 900,000 items were waiting in the center for their owners, ranging from purses and smartphones to sunglasses and urns with ashes. However, for Japan these figures are not so impressive – in 2015 the country’s police found more than 26 million items, not counting the lost money.

In 2016, in Tokyo alone, the number of lost items was 3.83 million. This is almost two million more than it was in 1997. In general, the police returned driver’s licenses and bank cards (occupying 15.6% of the total amount of lost items), as well as tickets for trains, clothing and footwear. As for the money, for the year 2017, the owners received a total return of 3.67 billion yen (about 33.5 million dollars).

The number of lost items is slowly but surely growing every year, so the authorities allocated money from the budget for expansion of storage in the Tokyo district of Bunko. Okubo admits that at some point the modernized warehouse can also be filled, since the search for the owners of lost things is a difficult job.

After registering the item in the vault, its employees try to identify the owner, extracting useful information from the thing. If it’s a phone, then the investigators will ring up the numbers in the contacts in an attempt to find the owner – on average, on the day the employees make about 250 calls. Sometimes in the vault comes a foreign passport, and in such cases the police takes him to a related embassy.

In 2016, on average, 286 people came for lost things per day, and usually people took money or passports. At the same time, the owners of lost things, whether shoes, hats or umbrellas, often do not visit the storehouse, and their things remain on the shelves.

Japanese traditions

Strange as it may seem, but in Japan it’s common to hear stories about how owners of lost purses with a large number of cash safely took them to the police station intact. Experts believe that this is due to the habit: the Japanese are taught from childhood to refer the items found to the police.

Sometimes this leads to small incidents: the children try to deposit five and ten yen coins in the depository, or they bring hair bands. “We can not tell them that these are insignificant things and they do not need to be handed over. So we thank them and praise them for a good deed, “explains Okubo.

Erasers for hair and small change – that’s not all. Sometimes people bring to the police lost or stray animals: in 2016 in Tokyo recorded a thousand lost pets. This includes dogs, cats, parrots, ferrets, frogs and goldfish. The employees of the depository try to give the most exotic species to activists or animal shelters. Typically, the vault is temporarily given over to stray dogs, while trying to find their owners.

“We buy food for dogs and solve other issues. During working hours we walk the stray dogs, hoping that they will lead us to the house of the owners. This work takes effort, “Okubo admits.

Professor of psychology at the University of Ricchio in Tokyo Shigeu Haga (Shigeru Haga) believes that it is now much easier to forget about personal things. According to the specialist, the spread of smartphones partially led to a statistical increase in the number of lost items over the past few years. The general decline in prices for goods and services in Japan also led to the fact that it became easier for people to buy new things, rather than messing around with papers to return lost ones.

Haga, specializing in the psychology of human errors, explains that free space in consciousness is limited. Therefore, often the brain lays information on tasks in the subconscious, hoping to remember about it later. “This is a complex process. However, somehow, most people are able to do it. “

The professor is sure: time and attention are two key factors in the loss of things. Haga advises putting the phone in a bag or pocket in the subway for one stop to the desired station. This will facilitate the consciousness of the work.

Sale of lost

Under Japanese law, if a person finds an abandoned item, he must return it to the owner or hand him over to the police station. For this, the finder can get 5-20% of the value of the thing. If within three months no one presents the right to the item, with the exception of things with personal data like bank cards, the person who finds it automatically becomes their owner. After that, he has two months to pick up the thing before it becomes the property of the local authorities. Often after the entry into force of municipal rights on the subject it is sold to local buyers, and the proceeds go to the capital budget.

Sanyeoshi Yogi on sale

The inhabitant of the city of Saitama Saneyoshi Yogi is one of the buyers who collaborate with the local police. He regularly participates in auction organized by the authorities, in order to redeem as many lost items as possible for resale. Such auctions are held several times a year, and the lost things are packed in boxes, so that buyers do not know in advance what they are “fighting” for. “It’s like gambling. You never know what’s in the box, “Yogi says.

Nevertheless, the Japanese argue that he often managed to guess the contents of the box, based on the weather season. If the auction is in May, then the buyers will have to fight for winter things, mainly for scarves and gloves. If the event takes place in September, then in the boxes will be shoes, boots and hundreds of umbrellas. Every year Yogi and his company PX spend up to 60 million yen (about 547 thousand dollars) on auctions, then reselling goods to department stores four times a year.

Electric Guitars on Sale

At each such sale, up to 40,000 different items are sold, including suitcases, electric guitars, expensive wristwatches or giant plush toys. “People carry all sorts of stuff with them. Once we had a double bass. I can not imagine how someone could forget something so gigantic, “Yogi says.

The rarest or most expensive things find new owners as quickly as possible, since the line of goods is built from the beginning of the day. By the middle of the action, there are basically boxes with hundreds of sunglasses, umbrellas or clothes around which buyers go. Among them there are both the elderly and the 30-year-olds, who are counting on bargaining.

All remaining after the sale of a thing the company of Yoga resells to other countries: the Philippines, Thailand or Myanmar. In the spring of 2018, PX sent 20,000 umbrellas to the last country. According to the buyer, such events are not so much his main business as entertainment. The company perceives the sale of lost things as a festival.

Everything that is sold here was once lost. Therefore, this means that someone once found and transferred these items. Part of me wants to continue this way of good deeds, organizing this sale.

Sanyeoshi Yogi
buyer, head of the Japanese company PX
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