As this blog was going to be about food, I decided to include a picture of a local grocery store. I was in a bit of a rush and decided to take the picture using my mobile phone “drive by” style, as I was riding my bicycle. As I approached the shop, I steadied my bike skillfully with one hand and snapped the picture with the other, before happily riding off into glory. Or so I thought…
A few seconds later I heard a voice firmly speaking to me in Japanese and saying the word “Keitai” (mobile phone). I turned and saw a policeman on a motorbike riding up beside me. What the hell? He motioned for me to stop and asked if I could speak Japanese or English. At this moment my Japanese is terrible, so he proceeded to give me a warning in English. It’s illegal to use your mobile-phone while riding a bicycle. Even for just a moment, on a side-street, on a knackered looking, rusty red, second hand-bike with a basket.
I gave him my details and he checked my bike registration (all bikes have a unique I.D number here) and much to my annoyance phoned the station to verify that it wasn’t stolen or something. As I was waiting in the hot sun, feeling the soft breeze of humiliation, I suddenly had a flashback to past times in London when I went through a phase of getting stopped for the simple fact that I was driving a new car. For the briefest of moments, a surge of forgotten anger made its way to my head and I considered saying something I knew I would regret. Instead I saw the ridiculousness of the situation, acknowledged that the Japanese can be pretty anal about the law and smiled. The policeman gave me my warning, cracked a joke, and bid me on my way.
I quickly rode on, I had somewhere to go, I couldn’t stick around in the past.