I accidentally started a multicultural underground umbrella theft ring here’s how.
I live in shared accommodation. it’s an amazing way to exchange ideas, language, culture, art, fashion, jokes and make new friends from all over the world, just one problem, when it comes to Japan we are all clueless.
Don’t get me wrong no one wants to upset the Japanese people or insult the culture in any way so we have all done our own research to make sure we don’t offend anyone, sometimes to death! I live with one person that is paranoid about everything she does from coughing in public to what direction she places her chopsticks after a meal but nothing quite prepares you for all the strange things you see and hear along the way.
For me, the strangest thing I see is storefronts, the fact that all the trinkets, wares, items, and products are all just on display and not bolted down or security tagged, is mind-blowing to me. I passed a garage once and outside the front of the shop a good 40 meters away from the building was a wall of rims and tyers, all shapes and sizes Chrome, spinners, gold plated aftermarket stuff I know for a fact are hundreds of thousands of pounds just sitting there and I’m looking around to check if anyone else is seeing this!?
A smaller thing I have noticed is the sheer abundance of umbrellas there are, everyone has one, every shop sells them right next to the door, they hang unaccompanied on walls, railings, signposts, and sometimes just lying there at the side of the street. This is why I thought hmm maybe people just leave them out for others to take instead of binning them or taking them home where they already have a hundred or so, that makes sense, not to mention they are cheap! they start at about 500 Yen about (£2.50-£3.40) and you can buy a fancy one for 1500 yen (about £11). anyway I was on a review page for The Millennials Shibuya trying to find out a bit about it before I stayed there and one of the reviews said that there is a take an umbrella, leave an umbrella, stand, and sure enough when I visited, there was indeed an umbrella stand (that I deposited my umbrella in) and when I went to collect it in the morning it wasn’t there! so I took someone else’s, “of course!” I thought to my self, this must be how it works everywhere!
Fast forward a month later, I sat in the kitchen eating toast with a few of the other guys in the house talking about what we have been doing and what we will do in the coming days. One of my housemates looks out the window and sees it’s raining.
“oh for god sake!” “what?” I ask, he says
“its raining again! I can’t afford all these umbrellas! I keep losing them or putting them down and forgetting them!” so I say “don’t worry about it! just grab one from the umbrella stands out the front of the shops! people just leave them there for you to take. Stunned! REALLY!? I said yea! I read a review about a hotel with a take an umbrella leave an umbrella stand and its the same one that’s outside the front of like every shop. Five other people around the table chimed in, “really!? we didn’t know that!”
About a week later our umbrella stand that sits just inside of the front door which is usually barren was absolutely FULL of boosted umbrellas, the slots to put the umbrellas in were all full and umbrellas were strung up about the place, you couldn’t move for umbrellas, we could have started an umbrella warehouse fit for bulk orders.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to last, the guy I had told about the umbrella stands pulled me to one side and told me he had just had a lengthy telling off for stealing umbrellas and that the man in the shop that he frequents on his way to and from work that he had been robbing umbrellas off this whole time wants his umbrellas back! “I must have made a mistake/misunderstood!” “I had no idea!” “I’m so sorry!” “I didn’t mean to give you the wrong information!” “I’m just going off what someone else had said!” “we need to warn the others” “I feel really bad!” all the things I said to him and more! and I meant it! honestly, I did! but as soon as I got to my room and locked the door I burst out laughing, the thought of him getting caught and told off for stealing umbrellas for a week pushed me over the edge, I laughed for a straight 20 minutes, the state of the front door umbrella area, the fact that I had told six people that stealing umbrellas was totally fine, the look on his face when he told me he got in trouble. I just kept envisioning this Japanese shop owner telling off this guy.
Its fine, we’re still good friends, I laugh at him about it sometimes.
He doesn’t laugh back.