Imagine being a taxi driver in Japan. No, we’re not talking about an episode of Oddtaxi. I mean a legit taxi driver. You get to meet travelers (both gaijin and domestic) with varying levels of politeness instilled in them. So you have to have impeccable social skills whenever you run into someone who is, let’s call them, rough or uncouth. This doesn’t just apply to your average mundane situations, however. Sometimes taxi drivers in Japan have to deal with unruly passengers whose goal isn’t to get a trip but your tips by robbing you of your nightly wages! Someone barking orders at you to hand over your money can be a scary situation. Recently, a college student in Masuda, Shimane Prefecture, was accused of that; however, it’s entirely possible that this Japanese student is upset about the wrong thing.
This true crime story begins in October 2022 when a taxi driver says 22-year-old college student Suguru Takahashi robbed him of 30,000 yen (~$233 USD as of this writing). Prosecutors alleged in court that the student used the money for transportation and entertainment. This is where things become a bit weird to anyone who isn’t from Japan or used to the Japanese language. Because Takahashi wanted it to be known on the first day of his trial that while he robbed the taxi driver, he wasn’t a jerk about it!
As SoraNews24 helpfully explained, according to reports, when Takahashi robbed the driver, he was gruff about it. He used “dase” (which is a rough/commanding form of the verb dasu which means “to give”) to say, “Give me 30,000 yen!” Takahashi took exception to that point and wanted people to know he used the much more polite phrase of “dashite moraemasen ka?” He claims he said, “Can I have you give me money? I’d be OK with 30,000 yen.” See? Big difference! It’s worth noting that Takahashi doesn’t deny robbing the taxi driver. So it doesn’t seem likely that anyone will give him genuine sympathy or extra credit points for being nice about his crime.
Our own Peter Payne has written features in the past about how the internet can create more out of something happening in Japan than is really the case, particularly with crime stories. Not that crime does not occur in Japan, or it isn’t a severe problem in any part of the world. However, when a country is reporting on stories on the level of politeness used during one of these heinous acts, it’s hard not to chuckle.