My 53 days locked up in Japan #1. Solitary. The first week.

in #prison5 years ago (edited)

I guess that some of you will be interested to find what it is like to be arrested and locked up in Japan. There is a lot to describe so I will tell you about my first few days in this post. My first 11 days were in solitary and then I was sent to a facility where you could hang out with others for 44 days.
By way of background you should know that I first went to live in Japan in 1992 and have now spent around 14 years altogether in the country. I have never done anything wrong nor ever been accused of doing anything wrong. Not even a parking or a speeding ticket despite having driven over 100,000 km. I have 2 Japanese daughters. I have also worked as a lawyer for 16 years in various parts of the world. I have no convictions in any country. I am very much a law abiding citizen in every way. This is not really a story of woe or anguish it is just a tale of what happened to me. I am a very lucky guy and have a wonderful wife. I am not sure that I would have got through all this anything like so easily without Yoriko.

I was approached about 4 years ago by a Canadian film company to visit a town in rural Japan called Taiji to be a translator for a documentary they were making about the annual dolphin hunting that goes on there. I was not going to be paid but they offered return train fare and hotel for my wife and I so I did it. We got to the town ahead of the film crew on a Sunday lunchtime and by 3 pm I was in prison. I was stopped by police and after explaining why I was there I was arrested for "volunteering without a work visa". I just had a tourist visa at the time.

My wife and I were driven to a larger town called Shinjo about 2 hours away. We were separated and both subjected to 5 hours questioning. at the time I seriously thought it was some kind of bad dream. The Police told my wife that I would be deported and that she should do the 10 hour trip back to Tokyo the next day. As for me I was sent to a room that had 3 small cells inside the Police station with nothing in them. No other prisoners were there. Just 2 Policeman who could not speak a word of English. To this day I wonder what the heck I would have done if I had no Japanese language skills.
It was an old building with no glass in several of the windows so I got lucky in that winter had not yet come.

This is not the place I was kept in and I was not allowed to take any photographs. After looking around in Google Images this is the fairest representation I could find. It was just big enough to stretch out on. Was a hard floor nothing in the room but the toilet.

Everything in my bag was itemised. I was not allowed pen and paper and not allowed any food or water nothing. I was expected to just sit on a hard floor staring at a wall. I did a lot of push ups and sit ups and stretching. At first I shouted regular abuse at the 2 Policemen watching me but after about 3 days I gave up on that as it seemed pointless. At about 8 pm they brought me a mattress to sleep on with a blanket. I did not sleep much. When I got given a basic breakfast of some white bread with jam with some watery tea the next morning and got given 3 minutes outside the cell to brush my teeth reality began to set in. I was never charged with any offence. Japanese Police can hold you for 2 consecutive periods of 10 days for no reason.

This is a fair representation of the building I was imprisoned in.

The next few days involved ridiculous questioning sessions where they attempted to learn my life story and asked me what I knew about the various environmental organisations that were represented from time to time in that area because of the dolphin hunting. I was not able to tell them anything that they did not already knew. They kept telling me I would be deported and I kept staring at them going "Really?".
There was nowhere to exercise and you could not see outside. I had to wear a prison uniform and was allowed to shower every 3 days. After asking several times to see a lawyer I was granted a 30 minute visit on day 3. A volunteer law graduate came and told me rights or more correctly my lack of them. She said that I was likely to be held there for 20 days.
Lunchtime and evening meals consisted of rice, some chicken or fish and one vegetable and some orange juice or milk.

Again I have found something close on Google Images but actually I never got anything this good. There was never half this much fish and usually just carrot or cabbage together with a bowl of cold rice. I lost a lot of weight each day. One time I refused to eat and lots of Police came and visited me urging me not to do it again.

There was no opportunity to purchase anything. I had no reading material. There was toilet in my cell with no set on it. Apart from that nothing. Some days they questioned me for 4-5 hours a day some days nothing. I asked to write a letter to my embassy but I am not sure if it was ever sent.
After 7 days my wife came from Tokyo to visit me. A 20 hour round trip. We were allowed 15 minutes together separated by bars. Were were only allowed to speak Japanese and there was a Policeman present throughout. I was not warned that she was coming just told that I had a visitor. It cheered me up that she had traveled all that way but I felt kind of bad at the same time that she had been put through this.

It has been interesting reflecting through those crazy few days. Thank you for reading this far. Things got much more interesting in the next few days so I will tell you all about that soon if it looks like you are interested. I am also very interested in your tips on how to make a post like this better as I am very new on here.




Incredible story. We really do take our legal system for granted in Australia.

Yeah that is exactly what I was thinking while writing this Stephen. Japan is harsh

That would have been so scary, You were treat lounge a criminal I hope things are better now

Thank you Karen. Yeah I pretty much could have assaulted someone and caused them serious injury and have been treated the same way.

Thank you for your kind words Michael this was truly a crazy time!

I'm looking forward to part two!

Great story im interested. Hope things work out for you

Thanks @Winglessss yeah things are all good now. Will check out your posts

Japanese legal system is crazy to me. It seems almost paradoxical that they have such a well functioning society otherwise (Such as low rates of serious crimes), with this super authoritarian legal system which gives so little rights to the accused.

This is exactly the conclusion anyone who has any meaningful experience with Japan's society will draw, unfortunately most are too enamored/distracted with the superficial to see beyond that. I've never lived or gone there as post-Fukushima made all of my most meaningful aspirations unattainable, but there Society carries with it a very thinly veiled form of despotism. An almost 100% conviction rate for the commoner, yet a processional bowing for egregious offenses committed by wealthy cooperate types is seen as a mere faux pas that covers the newspaper for that week and soon forgotten and swept under teh rug to resume the whole process again.

I've had a conversation with various Japanese friends and colleagues, and after the alcohol flows and they gain confidence that I'm not just seeking to judge they all sort of draw the same conclusion that the Japanese culture as a whole have never left behind the slave mentality of the feudal era, and their society and what they're forced to tolerate reflects that. I always wondered if such order, politeness was worth the price if this is the outcome.

Luckily post-Fukushima many have started to break the mould and speak out to authority. Watching female activists going toe-toe with police in a shoving match on the street outside of the PM's house while trying to stop the restart of the plant(s) was something I didn't think was possible before, I just wish it hadn't taken such extremes to see it happen.

While I'm deeply intrigued and fascinated with Japanese culture, I have to say that Japanese Society is fucking revolting.

While I don't disagree with you, at least the Japanese police manage not to shoot every man and his dog whose path they cross like in a certain other country...

The same kind of sociopathic scum has risen to the top of every government on Earth, because the commoners(servile, poorly-educated conformist empaths, mostly) didn't demand the one refinement of government that results in more freedom: common law jury trials comprised of randomly-selected jurors. That concept was too difficult for people to learn, so now, they're enslaved. All other politics is pure distraction from the incumbent sociopaths.

The people of the USA and the UK bear the greatest onus for this decay, because they created (and briefly enjoyed) that refinement, for a period of about 50 years. The degradation didn't happen all at once. Clay Conrad documents how it happened in his book "Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine."

Michael ,, Give me a follow , that is how i pick content to look at ,, Much Love Brother !!

Haha sure Nate thanks for coming by my post

Congratulations @mqtodd! You received a personal award!

Happy Birthday! - You are on the Steem blockchain for 3 years!

You can view your badges on your Steem Board and compare to others on the Steem Ranking

Vote for @Steemitboard as a witness to get one more award and increased upvotes!

What a strange situation, didn't you had the possibility to make a phone call ?

No phone calls from that place Jake. I could not call into it either

Jail is a jail. In Africa mostly the same as you mentioned, although some a bit better than others, depends on your wealth, and what you are 'in' for.

Sounds like you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, giving authorities an excuse to pounce on a 'foreigner' to show who is on control.

Obviously the dolphin hunting is a touchy subject, some feel it is a cultural right, whereas others are horrified by the thought! As an interpreter you got caught up in the middle.

Yoriko and You still stand against dolphin hunting, so this bad experience did not sway your love of nature and animals, notched up to one very bad experience.

Thanks for sharing this saga, it gives one insight into how others live, just glad I have never had to endure an experience like that.

This is really interesting. I spent two years working in Japan, but of course I never got the slightest sense what it might be like to be in a prison as a 外人. The police were always polite to me. Scary!

Wow what a story @mqtodd!

I'm glad you're free to write this and that you had enough Japanese to help you when you were arrested. That would have been awful to not understand anything; that's something easy for me to imagine, since I began living in Spanish-speaking countries without adequate Spanish

I guess your arrest shows us just how sensitive Japan is to bad publicity re dolphin and whale hunts. I didn't realize that volunteering could be considered a visa violation in some countries.

Laws vary so much; in a lot of places, it's guilty until proven innocent or you cough up some cash.

I look forward to reading the rest of this story.

Very interesting. I've never been outside of US. aside from Canada. I have heard of similar horror stories where innocent people have spent years in jail, for nonsensical reasons, in even US friendly countries. That's why I don't have a great desire to go outside the US.

...Of course, if you're black, there are a lot of countries (and areas of the USA) that are a lot safer than most of the USA. For example, if you're black in Louisiana, you should immediately get the fuck out.

Thank you for sharing your story - I'm following and looking forward to the rest of it. btw If you check out my first Steemit entry, you might see why I'm interested. ;)

It's an interesting look at how things are not the same all over. As to how to make your post better, you're doing great. Lots of images and short paragraphs seem to be the ticket. Keep doing what you're doing, you'll gather some followers and then it's just a matter of producing quality content.

wow harsh to say the least - guess human rights are not heard of? what happened to the canadian film company , did they turn up or heard what had happened and stayed away??

Congratulations @mqtodd! You have received a personal award!

Happy Birthday - 1 Year on Steemit Happy Birthday - 1 Year on Steemit
Click on the badge to view your own Board of Honor on SteemitBoard.

For more information about this award, click here

By upvoting this notification, you can help all Steemit users. Learn how here!

I can only imagine how un-fun of an experience that was.
Good to have it behind you!