Police /おまわりさん Omawari-san


There are two ways to call police in Japan. One is Keisatsukan (Keikan for short) and the other name is Omawari-san. Both are gender neutral terms, but the former is a formal occupational reference, and the latter is a friendlier reference that implies police as a part of the community, not as imposing authoritative figures. Omawari literary means patrolling, and San is an English title equivalent such as Mr./Mrs./Ms., so Omawari-san means Mr./Mrs./Ms. patrol person. In Japan, you will find small police kiosks called Kouban near train stations or in the middle of shopping districts. Kouban also are common in rural area as a branch office of the primary police station in a district. It’s less intimidating than going into a large police station, and you will find Omawari-san at Kouban. They patrol neighborhoods by foot or on a white bicycle to familiarize themselves with residents. Occasionally, they check on the locals by knocking on the door and talking to them. Kouban handle all sorts of crime, but most often deal with petty crimes such as pick-pocketing, groping in a train or lost property. Sadly, groping incidences are prevalent especially during rush hours in metropolitan areas. As a solution, some train lines have designated special cars exclusively for female passengers during rush hours. Since Omawari-san is familiar with the local map, many people also stop by Kouban to ask for directions. Typically there are two or three Omawari-sans stationed at a Kouban to staff 24-hour shifts. Kouban literally means “watching in turn” so the name reflects their actual duty.

Do police in Japan carry guns? Yes, they do, but the odds of using a gun are very low considering the few gun incidences in Japan. According to 2020 statistics, the number of gun violence cases was 12 with 4 fatalities in the entire country. Kouban often are attributed as a reason for the low crime rate in Japan. In recent years, unfortunately, less Kouban are operating a 24 hour-shift due to a shortage of police. A declining birth rate and the popularity of on-line businesses (such as being a blogger) might be contributing factors for young people staying away from this occupation. I believe the United States has attempted to replicate the idea of localized police in Honolulu and Los Angeles calling the kiosks as Kouban to increase the security in these metropolitan areas. I can only hope that those test cases will have the same effect as in Japan and spread throughout the States.

* I lost my wallet twice when I lived in Yokohama. Both times, someone picked it up and brought in to the nearest Kouban, and contents were intact.

Kouban, koban, Japan, Japanese, Tokyo Station, 東京駅、交番
Kouban at Tokyo train station


A: すみません。

B: はい、こんにちは。どうしましたか?

A: 財布(さいふ)を落(お)としたみたいんですが...

B: そうですか。それは困(こま)りましたね。 どこで落としましたか?

A: それが、わからないんです。ついさっき、そこの商店街(しょうてんがい)で買い物(かいもの)をしていて、お金(かね)を支払(しはら)おうと思ったら財布がないことに気(き)がついたんです。

B: なるほど。この近辺(きんぺん)で落としましたか?

A: はい。近所(きんじょ)に住(す)んでいますので、家(うち)から商店街(しょうてんがい)に歩(ある)いて行(い)く間(あいだ)に落としたんだと思(おも)います。

B: どんなお財布ですか?

A: はい、黒い皮(くろいかわ)の財布です。中(なか)に免許証(めんきょしょう)とクレジットカード、そして2万円(まんえん)ばかり現金(げんきん)が入っています。

B: わかりました。では、ここにお名前(なまえ)とご住所(じゅうしょ)、そして電話番号(でんわばんごう)をご記入(きにゅう)ください。財布が届(とど)けられたら連絡(れんらく)します。

A: ありがとうございます。見(み)つかるといいんですが

B: だいじょうぶですよ。多分(たぶん)、見つかりますよ。


どうしましたか? What happened, what is the matter?

財布(さいふ) n. a wallet

落(お)としたみたい seems I dropped.. Ta-form of 落とす(to drop) + みたいな(aux.v seem)

んですが... ん+です+が. んto emphasize the statement. It shows his upsetting state of mind. が... is a conjunction particle(not a subject maker) making the prior statement as a prelude for the main request, which is omitted here. The main request can be implied as "what's should I do?" "Can you help me?"

困(こま)りましたね That is concerning. It's in a past tense since the situation has already happened for the visitor.

ついさっき just a while ago. つい adv. just. さっき n. spoken word for 先ほど= a while ago

していて is doing てform of する+てform of いる, here, while I was shopping (tense is decided at the end of the sentence, 気が付いた=I noticed.)

支払(しはら)おう volitional form of 支払う=to pay

こと. that. used to create a nominalize sentence, here, I noticed "that" I didn't have a wallet. In this usage, you cannot replace こと with の since this is an internal thought.

近辺(きんぺん) near, same meaning as ちかく.

間(あいだ). while

どんな what kind of, here what kind of wallet

黒い皮のさいふ a black leather wallet

ばかり p. approximately. compare to the other usages of ばかり. there are several other usages.

ご記入(きにゅう)ください Please write it down. ご(beautifying particle for On-yomi nouns + noun+ください. Discuss the pecking order of two speakers. Why the policeman uses respect form here?

届(とど)けられたら. once being delivered, passive form of 届ける+たら

といいんですが hopefully, an expression.

多分(たぶん) adv. probably