Deciding whether or not to help a crying child is complicated in Japan

Deciding whether or not to help a crying child is complicated in Japan Photo from Giant Life

TOKYO —

Last week, I was riding the train home. As I sat down on the bench seat, I noticed a girl sitting opposite me, wearing the uniform of either a middle or high school student.

After a few stops, a man in his 30s entered the car and without hesitation sat down next to the girl and began talking to her. The girl turned her face away and did her best to ignore the man, yet, undaunted and now leaning closer to her, he continued jabbering away, occasionally pausing and waiting in vain for some sort of response. At this point there were at least a half-dozen other people on the train watching this uncomfortable scene unfold, and yet no one made had made a move to intervene.

This internal struggle between lending a helping hand and not getting involved in others’ business isn’t an entirely unusual problem in Japanese society, as illustrated by a recent Twitter debate that flared up over one man’s quandary about how far to go in helping a distraught little girl he saw wandering the streets alone at night.

The discussion was prompted by a tweet the man sent on Jan 8, in which he described his experience from the previous evening. Around 8 p.m., while walking through a residential neighborhood, the man came across a girl whose age he guessed at 6 or 7. The girl was walking along a street by herself at the time, and crying as well.

Understandably, his first instinct was to ask the child if she was OK. However, before he could say a single word, the man reconsidered what he was about to do.

As in most countries, children are taught to be wary of strangers, and men they don’t know in particular, due to the hard facts being that more crimes against minors are committed by males than females. By calling out to this child he’d never met, did the man risk drawing suspicion and being reported to the police, either by passersby or the girl herself?

In the end, the man decided to err on the side of caution, and instead of helping the girl directly, called 110, Japan’s emergency police number. He explained the situation to the operator, who then asked the man to escort the girl to the nearest police box, the law enforcement outposts that dot Japan’s townscapes.

Still, the man was worried over the possibility that his actions might be misinterpreted, and refused the request. Instead, he urged the operator to dispatch a uniformed police officer as soon as possible, and then continued on his way to wherever he had been going before noticing the crying girl.

Some Twitter users could appreciate the complexity of the man’s view of the incident.

“The deep thought you put into the situation shows how much you care.”

“Because of what kids are taught about strangers, the reaction you imagined is definitely possible. In this case, calling the police was the most respectful way to handle it.”

Others, though, saw things in starker colors and took the man to task for his lack of initiative.

“This is just one paranoid individual getting worked up over nothing.”

“Just use common sense, find out if she’s OK, and take her to the police box, already.”

All of this ties in to changes in Japanese society. Japan has a proverb: “Kodomo ha chiiki de sodateru.” Literally translating as “Kids are raised by the region,” the meaning is akin to English’s “It takes a village to raise a child.”

However, increasing urbanization means that even as people live in greater physical proximity to each other, they have less day-to-day contact with their neighbors. With a lack of familiarity comes a lack of trust, and with their safety in mind, many children are taught to avoid strangers, plus to tell an adult if one approaches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. As one Twitter user succinctly put it, “Our society is exchanging trust for safety.”

Another key issue in the matter is Japanese culture’s strong emphasis on not causing trouble for others. Obviously, helping those in need is seen, in and of itself, as a good thing. However, if said person would rather not have more attention drawn to himself, Japan’s societal norms allow for taking the option of not getting involved. Perhaps this was the reason no one did anything to stop the man who was pestering the girl I saw on the train. If she was willing to just sit there in silence until the man tired himself out, was it really their decision to handle things any differently?

Thankfully, police later contacted the man who started the Twitter firestorm to inform him that they had recovered the crying girl, safe and sound. “But if I ever see another kid in the same situation,” the man tweeted, “I don’t know if I’ll even have the courage to call the police. I never thought the simple act of helping a crying child could be so hard.”

As for the girl I saw on the train? Well, let’s just say I decided to handle the situation a little more directly. Maybe being a married man with only so many more childless years left has made me more protective of those younger than me. Maybe being man in his 30s means I’ve already lost my chance of earning a reputation as someone who handles things delicately. Or just maybe being a guy who grew up watching lots and lots of action anime means I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to say “Get the hell out of here, punk!” in Japanese.

Whatever my motivation, the man took my less than cordially-phrased suggestion to heart, got up, and moved to another car. Did I make myself look like suspicious, unstable, and possibly violent? Maybe, but the police haven’t come knocking on my door yet, so it’s an image I can live with.

Source: MSN Keizai News

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  • 2

    Kaitlin128

    I'm definitely one to jump into a situation to help others. In fact, I probably do it way too often, when it isn't really necessary. Probably because when I imagine needing help or being in trouble, I imagine someone trying to help me. Growing up in America (and in a small, close-knit town) that's just how I was raised. We helped each other out, even when someone would decline the offer, not wanting to burden anyone, they would still do whatever they could to help. When I do go to Japan, this will probably be something I'll have to work on. But if It'd been me who saw that child, I would have approached her without any thought whatsoever and asked her if she needed help with anything.

  • 7

    Tessa

    Well, good for you! Japanese bystanders always behave so passively in these situations, it's one of the things that shocks many westerners here.

    And as for the Twitterer's dilemma: in the UK a few years ago there was a tragic case when a two-year-old girl got lost. At least one man saw her wandering around, confused and crying, but hesitated to approach her for fear of reprisals. The little girl fell into a pond and drowned.

  • 10

    CrazyJoe

    You can't help someone else without helping yourself. A kind word and a helping hand when needed will put some sunshine in any heart.

  • 0

    borax

    It's understandable to be hesitant, because people are always going to be suspicious of a man talking to a young girl he doesn't know, but I definitely think doing nothing is the worst option one has in this kind of situation.

    I also think the writer of this article shouting at some guy on the train just for being a bit of a d-bag is a bit much. He probably scared the crap out of everyone else on the train, and I doubt the girl was grateful for the added attention. Unless the random guy is creeping on the girl something fierce, I'd just let it be. Pick your battles.

  • 5

    pointofview

    These days you can in trouble for virtually anything. And theyll splatter your name all over the news. Always be careful. That said, its only natural for me to offer assistance as that`s how I was raised back home. 30 years ago things were different.

  • 13

    Frungy

    As one Twitter user succinctly put it, “Our society is exchanging trust for safety.”

    This simply isn't true. Our society is exchanging trust and safety for paranoia and insecurity which breeds further paranoia.

    Consider these two scenarios. The man felt it wasn't safe for him to escort a young girl to the koban, so instead he left her alone crying in the night, hoping the police would come. The other people on the train likewise didn't feel safe intervening and the girl being harassed didn't feel safe asking strangers for help, so this created the atmosphere where the harasser was, ironically, the only one who felt safe to harass the girl.

    This ridiculous culture of "stranger danger" has created a situation that actually makes everyone feel less safe and results in more danger for children.

    P.S. The J-cops at that station should be kicked in their posteriors. It was pure and utter laziness. They had nothing else to do and shouldn't have even requested that a private citizen go out of his way to do the jobs that THEY are paid to do.

  • 3

    zenkan

    It's all a case of common sense - and therein lies the rub, because common sense seems to be escaping people of late.

  • 9

    browny1

    An incident in my town a while back - A man saw an elderly lady crossing a 6 lane main road (illegaly) and stumble and fall on the medium strip. He stopped his car and rushed to her and asked if she was ok. She wasn't moving. Soon more people arrived and one guy said "What's going on here?" and then spouted "Did you hit her?". Which quickly escalated into a call for the police to arrest the man. He vehemently denied he caused the incident, a verbal fight broke out, during which the old lady managed to get herself to her feet and finished crossing the road oblivious to the commotion around her, disappearing into the crowded sidewalk.

    The man declared ,rightly or wrongly, his good samaritan days were over.

  • 2

    ka_chan

    Seems clear cut to me. You help the child. If you always worry about the consequences of any action, you will never do anything. There are places where if don't do something to help, you would be in trouble. If you fail to act, and something happens to the child, you can be held responsible. There are many laws in the world where "failure to act" is negligence and you can be help responsible, criminally and/or financially. Then there is the ethics of the situation, especially today where you can self record the situation, if you think that people think you a pervert or worse.

  • -4

    Kabukilover

    One word: Avoid. Avoid screaming children, crying women and drunken men. Not only could your intentions be misunderstood it could also be a trap. As insensitive as it may sound, this is Japan and whatever is happening is a Japanese problem.

  • -1

    555Book

    I guess it is just a matter a bad luck for the guy on the train for being ill treated for doing something good; or maybe he is being lucky because if he had persisted, he may open up a pandora's box of further problems, the young girl on the train may turn up to have deeper problems and require more of his assistance which he can't cope effectively. We shouldn't just focus on one case to draw conclusion, there are many other cases where good deeds are done and appreciated. So it is always good to try and do positive things, just make sure the deeds are within our ability to fullfil, if you can't do the big ones, doing the small ones are just as good.

  • -1

    sighclops

    If you've lived in Tokyo long enough, the question I'd be more inclined to ask is "Would you help anyone?"

  • -1

    gogogo

    Why do the police have time to check twitter? They seriously don't need to police twitter and investigate matters do they?

  • 11

    PitaHito

    Ive visited USA, Latin America and Europe. None of these place have the lukewarm values that we have in Japan. We tend to be stirred by nationalism and any other historical/ political fiction story the media throws at us. But I am really ashamed of the way we avoid helping people. "Nothing is never of our business." I am really ashamed about this and I hope that all the internationals who read this post will keep being bold and not conform to the Japanese standards (in this regards) please. We have too much to learn from you. Thank you and my sincere apologies.

  • 0

    Daniel Neagari

    If you are in Tokyo or its neighboring cities... you provide help only when asked... other wise... better stay away.

    This should be the base guide-line. Of course there are exceptions that should be handled on case basis... I think

  • -2

    Spanki

    He had already covered his @rse by calling the police first, so he should have then just approached her to help out. Wet behind the ears or what.

  • 3

    Mirai Hayashi

    The situation with the little girl is easy. You would basically maintain a distance from her (2 to 2 and half meters) and simply ask her clearly and loudly if she needs help. If she says yes then approach with caution without touching her and assist. If she says no, then say goodbye and be on your way...what is so hard about that?

    As for the teenaged girl being harassed by an oyaji. I would think that by that age, the girl could defend herself. I personally would draw the line at touching. If he is simply just bothering her verbally (no touching), I would just let the girl figure out what to do for herself. However, if he starts touching her, that's when I would intervene. I would simply ask her if this guy is bothering her. If she says yes, politely ask the guy to leave her alone. If he persists, I would photograph or video the guy and tell him that I am recording his actions, and warn him that he has been told to back off, and if he doesn't, then we're getting off at the next station and he is going to the station masters office.

  • 11

    ReformedBasher

    Some guy got questioned by the police the other day for asking a schoolgirl for directions.

    It's sad but this is the way things are headed. Australia is even more paranoid. I shy away from kids who approach me in a park despite that I'm just playing there with my son. Schoolteachers refuse to help injured kids because they are afraid of being sued.

    Here in Japan, I'll happily talk to kids who talk to me first. Rarely will I get a bad reaction from anybody watching. Even then, it's a funny look at worst.

    As for kids who look like they're in distress, I don't care where it happens, I will definitely help. Society may be sick but I'm dammed if I'll go along with it.

  • 8

    therougou

    my wife recently helped a little girl (probably about 3 years old) who was crying barefoot on the sidewalk in the freezing cold. I think she woke up and her mom wasn't home or something.

    The thing is, she was right near my daughter's preschool at a time when all the mamas were bringing their kids to school, and yet every one of them ignored this girl that was about the same age as their own children. they literally walked right past her one after another, even when they were done dropping off their kids and their hands were free.

    my wife eventually brought the kid to the school, but even the teachers there seemed to not want to be bothered with the poor girl.

  • 6

    ReformedBasher

    @therougou

    Your wife did the right thing.

  • 5

    Sasoriza

    Some time ago, in Y! Japan's Chiebukuro, a woman shared her experience in a department store , where she tried to help another crying little girl. She approached the girl, who was crying and seemed lost, and took her to the nearest store employee. Then the mother suddenly showed up and started yelling: " Kidnapping! Arrest this woman!" at the lady who actually tried to help her daughter. Fortunately, other people, who had observed the scene, explained her everything before someone had called the cops. The woman asked if she had done something wrong by trying to help the girl, and what would everyone else do in such situation. The answers were mostly like , it's the mother's fault, you've done the right thing, etc. but It was clear the woman was still in doubt. Helping others is not an easy thing and it has it's risks every time. A good doctor saves lives every day , but also risks his life and reputation in case of mistake. If he didn't want to take this risk, he would become waiter , or salaryman in some small company. A firefighter or a soldier get paid to risk their lives for others, but if they didn't want to help others, they would find other jobs without such risks. If you really want to help a crying child, you should consider that there is some risk of being questioned by the police, get yelled at or get funny looks. If it matters to you that the child could be in danger and a young life can be lost, then it would be worth the risk, I think.

  • -2

    inakaRob

    "The deep thought you put into the situation shows how much you care.”

    I totally agree.... How much he cares about himself!!!!

  • 1

    ReformedBasher

    @Sasoriza

    (I'm a Scorpio too)

    We're always going to hear those type of stories but, in my opinion, choosing the easy way out is not justified if it means not helping when we should.

    I'd rather take chances and clear things up at a police station if I have to. Mind you, in spite of police getting a bad rap (both here and overseas), my experience is they're neither stupid or out to get me (realizing there's always going to be bad apples).

  • 1

    lostrune2

    There's actually a TV series about this: "What Would You Do?" (WWYD)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primetime:_What_Would_You_Do%3F

    http://abcnews.go.com/whatwouldyoudo/

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=WWYD

    Primetime: What Would You Do? is an American television news magazine and hidden camera show broadcast on ABC since 2008 as part of the Primetime series. The series is hosted by news correspondent John Quinones. In the series, actors act out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings while hidden cameras videotape the scene, and the focus is on whether or not bystanders intervene, and how. Variations are also usually included, such as changing the genders, the races or the clothing of the actors performing the scene, to see if bystanders react differently. Quinones appears at the end to interview the bystanders about their reactions. As the experiment goes on, psychology professors, teachers, or club members watch and discuss the video with Quinones, explaining and making inferences on the bystanders' reactions.

  • 3

    taiko666

    @Tessa

    Yes, I was sickened by that story. Modern society's demonizing of men was the cause of that little girl's death.

  • 2

    Thunderbird2

    When I was a child and got lost I was taken to the police by a kind man, so I wouldn't have any qualms about helping a child, woman or man in need of assistance. Yes, I know I should be more cynical, but when a child is lost and crying, or a woman is crying I go into 'save' mode. And yes, I have had a punch in the face for stopping neds from kicking a cat.

  • 1

    NathalieB

    I came across a child of about two sitting in the middle of the road once. He obviously belonged to the group of women I had passed sitting in a park further back as there was no one else around. there was no time to call police or consider what to do - I HAD to scoop him up and get him out of there, kidnapping charges or no kidnapping charges. I headed back towards the park with him just as 3 women came out of the park (not running in a panic, mind!) and saw me. One snatched the child away while the other screamed at me and the third just stood there gawping. My Japanese wasnt good enough back then to defend myself but I think they still somehow got the message.

  • 0

    Qamar

    I remember once when I was age 17-18, I helped a girl age 11 or 12 who had fell down the pavement and suffered quite extensive teeth and nose injuries. Being a first aider I just saw she wasn't in any big danger, cleaned blood and all the rest and saw that in this case it is better to go to her house since kid is underage anyway..needed mom's permission. So I went to her house, and her mother starting screaming and shouting..and this scene continued for a long time. I tried explaining that she must go to the clinic and dentist to put back teeth in place etc..but nope. She offended me, my family and all my ancestors and told me to never step there again and closed the door in my face. I can understand shock, and honestly I can accept being called names, but that girl needed to be seen by a doctor. From that day on I step with big caution.

    @Thunderbird2- join! I wasn't punched for saving a cat though (maybe coz I'm a girl?), but they did throw stones at me and was saved by a grandpa.

  • 1

    TrevorPeace1

    Good comment, CrazyJoe. You too, Tessa. If there's one thing I would never do, it would be to tolerate a child in distress. But you have to have the eyes for it - your eyes are the path to your soul. I know that because I can't count the number of children in classrooms, at shrines and temples during my travels around Japan to whom I've handed a little Canadian flag lapel pin and seen a wondrous light in their eyes, and in the eyes of their parents. Which speaks volumes about how they trust me, for which I'm eternally grateful. And I'm a bit hoary looking - moustache, goatee and long white hair (old rokatari) that would surely frighten most people. If someone yelled at me for helping their child in need, when they were ignoring him or her, I'd be a terribly accusatory adversary, and I only have one child.

  • -1

    Jeff Huffman

    Wife and daughter had this happen to them over the shougatus holiday in Shinagawa. Girl of 3 of 4 by herself crying near Shinagawa Station as literally hundreds of people passed her by seemingly unconcerned. My wife and daughter stopped and my wife spoke to the girl to see what was going on. Fortunately, her mother came back for her within a couple of minutes, no explanation given.

  • 0

    ironmonkeyz

    I really wish this attitude of not getting involved would change. I watch a van skid out on the ice go across the road i. Front of me hit the bank and roll over. It was in Japan I was driving though I wasn't completely certain of the stTus of my internTional permit being valid i immediately stopped and rushed to the van. There was only the driver inside. She was shaken but not hurt . About 10 other cars minimum saw the accident and just drove off. My Japanese being very basic made me apprehensive about dealing with the situation but luckily the drive spoke very good English. I had to climb on top of the van now laying on the drivers side and open the door and pull the driver out. As her car was running and smoking. I climbed in and shut off the engine. All of this would have been easier with some help fr the passerbys that and the fact that 2 other cars nearly slammed into the van as well because noone got out to even stop traffic. Then druver was great fuk and wanted to give me a gift but I didn't want one as I did not act as I did for reward. And I didn't want to stick around for the cops as my driving permit was in question.

  • 2

    Himajin

    On a long, straight stretch of road near my in-law's house I saw cars ahead driving around something in the middle of the road a few hundred meters ahead. When I got that far, I saw that it was an elderly woman who'd tipped over her scooter. The vegetables she was carrying were scattered around her, which was why it was tough from a distance to see what was what...I stopped and went to her. She was semi-conscious and bleeding from her forehead. I got a towel out of my son's swimming school bag and applied it. Cars continued to go by. Finally I saw a taxi and stepped into his lane and waved him down , and asked him call an ambulance...he radioed to his base and told them send the police for 'an accident with a kei car and a scooter'. I was shocked and didn't speak immediately, but stammered out 'I just found, her I didn't hit her!' as he drove away. I was questioned at the scene and they told me I could continue on to my in-law's house. Thank heavens, when the lady woke up in the hospital she told them that she had overturned the bike herself and that I had helped her. People jump the gun and assume too much. I can see people being hesitant, especially with language issues involved.

  • 1

    Stewart

    In a similar situation with the girl on the train, I have asked the girl if she wants to swap seats with me - the perv usually doesn't want to chat to a 50 year old white guy and leaves.

  • 1

    John Occupythemoon Daly

    As a foreigner living in Japan I never get involved in anything if I can help it. It just isn't worth the trouble. I'm sure the high and mighty will not approve, but I've had a few too many negative experiences while "just trying to help," and it turned me off. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think I've ever been given the benefit of the doubt in Japan, and when I first moved here my Japanese wasn't good enough to try and talk my way out of situations. Being questioned in a police station for finding a wallet on the street, getting harassed by the police for asking a girl for directions... why even bother when something bad is going down? So sorry, but Japan is the reason I don't try to help in Japan much anymore.

  • -1

    Kakurenbo

    I would NEVER take a child to the police in Japan. NEVER. The guy who called the emergency number and requested that a cop get off his lazy ass to come get the child did the right thing.

    My girlfriend lost an antique Japanese 1,000 yen note that she was going to give to one of the children of one of our foreign friends. Fortunately it was found and taken to the police. When she requested the 1,000 yen note from the police they called her parents to verify if the money was hers. SHE'S AN ADULT. This gave her a lot of stress because she had never had anything to do with the police before and of course her parents were a bit put out wondering why the police were calling.

    J cops go out of their way to complicate a situation. Avoid them.

  • -1

    wasabizuki

    How is this specific to Japan?

    A helping hand may be completely misinterpreted. If a crying child is approached by a stranger, then to any other stranger it may appear that the first helping hand caused the child's distress, which may cause fuel for other later bystanders to call police on him. Even with the best of intentions, a helping hand may be pushed away or even taken advantage of. Misunderstandings can always happen, particularly to men. He may be seen as an abductor or molester, especially if the distressed child is a girl.

    The best course of action is exactly what he took. Call the police, have a uniformed officer escort the child, or have the uniformed officer get in contact with the child's school, parents/caretakers. An ordinary citizen may want to help, but even the parents of the child may feel "its none of their business" and they'd be 100% right. Just because you want to give doesn't mean they want to receive. It doesn't only apply to children. A homeless man rejected apples and sandwiches only to say " i dont need you to feel sorry for me nor do I need your food! Just give me money so I can buy booze and cigarittes." Sure, that is one example, and certainly not a child, but it has deterred me from offering anything to any homeless person. Some children may even be worse "monsters" than the homeless person. If you aren't directly related like a family member or of kin, it's best to contact those who are socially recognized to aid in those situations. A patrol officer, school assistant/teacher, or if near a store or place of business, a representative of that establishment to notify the police. If anything, if you're male, try to seek out help from an adult female.

    This is not a phenomena special to Japan or Japanese people. To think so is very naive.

  • 0

    cleo

    When she requested the 1,000 yen note from the police they called her parents to verify if the money was hers. SHE'S AN ADULT.

    Would you prefer it if some other adult had just walked in off the street and claimed it, and the police had handed it over no questions asked?

  • 1

    Kakurenbo

    Would you prefer it if some other adult had just walked in off the street and claimed it, and the police had handed it over no questions asked?

    @cleo They did ask questions. And they took my girlfriends info just in case another person came to claim the money. Calling her parents was not needed because my girlfriend was an adult at the time.

    • Moderator

      Back on topic please, which is what to do if you see a child crying in public.

  • -4

    Frungy

    cleoJan. 25, 2014 - 09:48AM JST Would you prefer it if some other adult had just walked in off the street and claimed it, and the police had handed it over no questions asked?

    Cleo, you're missing the point. She wasn't just some random person walking off the street saying, "Hey, got any unclaimed money I could have?", instead she was asking for a highly specific item, namely an antique 1000yen note (and she presumably could describe its unusual features, such as being a XXY era note with a small stain, etc.). Under those circumstances I would expect the police to take her details (in case someone else walked in 10 minutes later saying it was stolen) and hand the note over without complaint.

    I would NOT expect the police to pester other people who have very little to add to the situation. "Why yes, I do have a daughter, and yes sometimes she has money... when she doesn't she asks me for some more money. Oh, she has money. That's nice. Why are you calling me??!!".

    If the note was VERY rare and VERY valuable, for example am 1872 1000yen note, then the police officer may have been calling to check that the daughter was the legitimate owner, although this would still be very insulting, like a police officer stopping a black woman with a Gucci bad because they supposed that black people couldn't afford Gucci bags, and I would have had a word with the station commander about the officer being so insulting as to suggest that I couldn't have acquired it legitimately.

  • 0

    Meguroman

    The guy not helping a little girl crying in the street is a jerk, plain and simple in my humble opinion. I have 2 young children and Id like to think no one would leave them crying in the street. Now I know otherwise. I would and have intervened in similar situations when I lived in Okinawa as a Marine, inaka as a JET and now that I live in Tokyo. Been in Japan over 20 yrs and I know the potential consequences. I have administered first aid after car accidents a few times and taken chikan off the train to the station office. Ive also busted purse snatchers in Ueno koen and helped an old geezer passed out in the road in his underwear with bystanders walking past. I was taught that way by my parents and teach the same to my two boys - we all have to help each other, the most basic of morals. (I`m atheist, by the way before anyone thinks I have imaginary friends.)

  • -1

    Kakurenbo

    @Frungy Very well put. Thank you very much.

    And yes, her parent's reaction was exactly "why are you calling me?" Added to that my girlfriend's mother was going in to the hospital to have her uterus removed due to cancer and didn't need the extra stress. J police often lack common sense. Seems a prerequisite to get the job.

  • 2

    joumultiup

    Ignoring is another form of acceptance.

  • -1

    smithinjapan

    Tough one. If it's not a kid, or if I see someone harrassing others, I'm pretty quick to jump in and try and help, but in the situation above I can't say the man did the wrong thing; so long as he promised the police dispatcher he would keep an eye on the girl while waiting.

  • 2

    Peter McGreevy

    If I saw a crying child or ANYTHINGI would help for sure... It is a little more relaxed in my country but I often don't care about the law if I think something needs to be done, I am not a criminal but if a child needs help and the law makes it sound bad then I don't care.

  • -2

    Kakurenbo

    @Peter McGreevy

    I'm usually the same as you Peter in that I try to help those in need as much as possible. However, after you live in Japan for a few years and observe the J cops and get a general sense of their mentality you'd do exactly what that guy did -- call the emergency number, watch the kid and then split as soon as the cops showed up to get the kid. Trust me. Trust. Me.

  • 1

    KariHaruka

    In some ways I can understand why people would be worried about being wrongly accused of something when helping out a young child. We do live in a era now where you can't help someone without the potential risk of being accused of something ridiculous. However that said and in my own personnel beliefs stemmed from being a parent myself. If I saw a young child or even anyone else for that matter alone and in distress I would help them. Because the risks to a young child alone and potentially lost is greater than the risk of being accused of something. The guy called the police beforehand therefore you could think logically and expect that after you called the police and they told you to take the child to the nearest koban they wouldn't then accuse you of kidnapping or anything else similar.

  • 2

    presto345

    When I see a forlorn looking crying kid I always offer my help. Happens a couple of times a year. Once came upon a boy, 6 years old, trying to push his bike up a long ascending road. Clearly in distress. Crying, I notice in passing. It was a hot summer day. No side walk. Cars zipping by in numbers. I stopped, switching on my emergency flashers. Talked to the kid. Put the kid in the back seat and the bike in the trunk after asking him where he was going. I could have been accused of abducting him, but I was taking him home to a grateful mother. I owed her nothing, We love our children, don't we? We provide for them, we protect them. Our own and everyone's.

  • 1

    jinjapan

    if there is a child alone, i watch & follow them until they are reconnected ( hopefully ) with their parent .

  • -1

    darknuts

    @Jinjapan

    That could be misinterpreted as stalking. Be careful.

  • -2

    billyhelpher_33

    If it were a japanese kid, i would stick my tongue out at it and go about my business.

  • -1

    randombs

    We were on the train in the summer and a man collapsed as he was boarding. Hit his head on the floor, too. No one did anything. My gf got up to see if he was ok, by which time a station attendant had appeared and he had regained consciousness. Thankfully he was ok but I stayed in my seat the whole time. I'm like a documentary photographer here. I just observe. Like watching a lion eat a rabbit.

    But it brings up the dilemma - if I don't do anything, sooner or later my inaction will be responsible for something bad. I wouldn't want the one time I sat back and did nothing result in something really bad for the person.

    I'll wait until my Japanese gets better. I've read lots of police horror stories but a number of them involve the foreign 'perp' giving the police a mouthful. If I ran into an idiot/racist policeman I wouldn't give him even more to work with.

    In a way our decision to stay out of trouble means we end up doing the exact same thing the Japanese do(the same thing we accuse them of doing): nothing. Granted, our reasons are to avoid all that J-cop harassment but the more of us who get harassed, the more they'll grasp the number of people genuinely helping out.

  • 1

    AngieStars

    My friends and I encountered this situation shortly after moving to Japan. We were walking home one night to the train station in a dark, quiet neighborhood at about 9 pm when suddenly a crying child (Maybe 3-4 years old) called out to us from the corner of a cul de sac. None of my friends spoke Japanese, so I approached him, kneeling down and asking what was the matter, what his name was, why he was alone, etc.

    Turns out his mother worked until really late, and he was supposed to be staying with a neighbor. But he told me he didn't like the neighbor, and just wanted his mom to come and get him. None of us were sure what to do, so we decided to wait with him so he wouldn't wander out in to the street again, and tried to cheer him up. We considered going and finding the koban we had seen earlier in the day, but since we were knew, weren't 100% sure of the location. Eventually his mom drove up, and we went on our way, but she ran after us and thanked us for waiting with him.

    Luckily, in our situation, it went fairly well but its easy to understand how this might have been seen as threatening to the mother with 4 foreigners waiting with her kid in the dark. As many have stated, there are a lot of different factors to each situation you encounter that may have positive or negative impacts on you. Now that I'm more familiar with my area, I'd ring up the koban right away to seek help, but I still wouldn't change my position of trying to help out a crying child in any way I could.

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