People in J-List’s home prefecture of Gunma are going to be extra careful driving this week, for two reasons. The first is that it’s time for the Spring Driving Safety Week, when police will be especially vigilant watching for speeders and drunk drivers, and anyone driving is apt to be stopped by elderly people with Haruhi-style armbands and thanked for being mindful of others while behind the wheel. Pop groups like HKT48 (the offshoot idol group from Hakata, Kyushu) get into the spirit, too, becomming the official spokes-idols for traffic safety. The other reason we’ll be a little more careful when driving is found in a fax we received by the Gunma Prefectural Police. Supposedly there’s a big problem with 当たり屋 atariya right now, yakuza gangsters affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi mafia group from Osaka who get into accidents on purpose so they can extract money from innocent drivers and their insurance companies. (The word comes from 当たる ataru “to hit,” which is the root of Atari by the way, and 屋 ya which means “roof” but in this context denotes a profession.) We’re supposed to watch out for cars with license plates from Yamaguchi, Kobe and the Naniwa area of Osaka, among the shadiest parts of Japan. If you’re ever in an accident with a yakuza you’re supposed to refuse to give them any personal information but instead call the police, who have special experience dealing with these unsavory characters.
It’s traffic safety and yakuza awareness week in Japan.