Over a year ago I got stopped by a plainclothes police officer outside of Chiba station because my bike looked “suspicious.” The guy was real cool and didn’t even ask for ID. He just wanted to check some stuff out because I never use the built-in lock on my bike and I guess that looks weird to them. Well hey guess what? I got stopped again today for the exact same reason.

I was over at the Tsutaya near my apartment renting a DVD, and headed out to get on my old lady bike and go home. It was windy, cold, and raining, and it didn’t help at all when I got approached by 2 cops when I was getting ready to ride away. One was in plainclothes, the other was in the usual Japanese cop outfit complete with neon-yellow security vest. Just like last year they were both really nice, not hassling me or anything, but they wanted to ask me a few questions. The built-in lock that all Japanese old lady bikes (ママチャリ) have as standard-issue looks super weak, so I never use it. Instead, I have a wire lock that I usually string through my rear tire and seat. I also have a fairly new seat on my bike, which I guess makes it stand out also. Here’s a picture of the two locks on my bike for reference:

locks on my mama bike
The little black ring with the thin metal inside near the middle of the bike is the built-in lock.
The big blue thing is my real lock.

At first I think they wanted to make sure I hadn’t had my seat stolen by kids before, because that seems to be a growing problem in the area. Plainclothes guy asked me why I don’t use the built-in lock, and I told him pretty straight up that “it looks cheap and I don’t trust it.” He laughed a little bit and admitted that “yeah, to be honest those locks are pretty useless.” After that, partially as a formality, they wanted to check my bike registration number to make sure everything was clear. They looked at the number on my little orange sticker and called it in. We waited for a few minutes in the rain (they had let me open my umbrella at least) until the office called the plainclothes’ cell phone back. “OK, so you’re Mr. Aoyagi?” “Uhhhhh, no that’s not right.” So that was weird. I didn’t freak out or anything because I knew I bought this bike and registered everything properly. I told them they must have made a mistake, and he checked again. Yep, the guy at the station had checked the wrong number. So another check later and I was of course fine, 10 or 15 minutes down the drain for the whole encounter but that was it.

After the name Aoyagi popped up at first, I could tell the cop was a little surprised when I told him my name was Leong, because we had been speaking Japanese the whole time and I don’t really think he expected me to have a foreign name. Even with that, the cop or his partner (who had wandered off to look at other bikes at some point) never hassled me or made things difficult. No checks of my Gaijin Card or other IDs, nothing. I hear so many stories of foreigners getting hassled by cops during random ID checks or something, but with my few run-ins with the police I can’t say I’ve ever experienced any kind of discrimination, etc. Always makes me wonder what gets some people so worked up.