Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Japanese Traffic Stop: Who needs patrol cars anyway?

One of the most unique occurrences I bore witness to happened within my first month in Japan. I was returning home from my local ward office (kind of like a town hall) after obtaining my foreigner registration card, and I could not believe what unfolded right before my very eyes.

Just blocks from the ward office, the Tempaku Police Station sits just off of a divided highway, not unlike county highways in the States, but this stretch of road had several intersections with traffic lights. The station sits squarely between two such intersections.

As I approached the block that housed the station, I noticed a group of officers standing roadside with tall poles. The light changed green and traffic began to stream past the station. Suddenly, the last car through the light was met with a pole in front and behind, and the officers directed the driver to pull onto the side street where another car was stopped.

It was unclear whether it was a routine random sweep or perhaps the officers were gunning for a quota, but I also wonder if the driver ran a close light and got the short end of the deal. Both of the drivers of the detoured vehicles seemed rather annoyed by the inconvenience of this. I, however, was rather entertained at the sheer outlandishness of this style of traffic stop. Well, it sure left me wary of the Japanese po-po. More power to them.

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