Life in Japan

First encounter with the traffic police in Japan

11 January 2015

We were driving yesterday night, using Google Maps as our GPS. After following Google’s instructions to make a right turn, we came to a small road where we stopped for the light.

At that moment, someone ran up to the driver’s side window from behind and started tapping it to get our attention.

Feeling slightly bewildered, we wound down the window to discover that it was the…

Traffic police.

What? You already knew that? So you do read the title!

Apparently we made a right turn where there were explicit signs to indicate that no right turn was allowed.


GEH. Seriously?! TSK, GOOGLE MAPS!!!

We were instructed to drive further ahead and pull the car up by the side. We had no idea how far this “further ahead” was, so we just inched along, with the police car behind us using the loudspeaker to direct us. “A little more, a little more, ok, please stop right there.”

The policeman came by our window again, and explained again our offence in detail. He then politely asked for our driver’s license, name, address and phone number, and went back with the information to his car.

He returned shortly with a printed slip of paper in hand and said that for this violation, there will be a fine of 7,000 yen (ouch!)

Additionally, 2 points will be deducted. Every driver has 15 points, and if it goes down to zero, the license is revoked for a year. The interesting thing is… if the driver did not have any violations for the past 2 years, and there are no new violations in the next 3 months, the 2 points will be returned at the end of 3 months! Good as new!

The policeman then asked for acknowledgement of the violation. Except in Japan, they don’t use signature. Instead, they use an inkan, which is a seal that has their name engraved on it. We didn’t have one, so the policeman said we can print our thumbprint instead. One policeman bent over to the height of the car window and held out the stamp pad and paper to ink on, while the other policeman (also bent over the window) had tissue paper at the ready and promptly brandished it the moment the finger left the paper.


Not only that, but throughout this entire time, the policemen were nothing but courteous. It’s feels almost as if they were apologetic that they had to penalise us. They were so nice we almost felt sorry we violated the law and put them in that predicament of having to call us out!

… This was definitely an interesting experience!

Oh, by the way, the driver (also payer of the fine and deductee of points) was neither Fu nor me, but the real estate agent who was driving us around to look at houses. Fu and I were just audience in the backseat…

FYI: In Japan, it’s normal practice for real estate agents to drive people around to look at houses

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