“The human who steals this item shall die…”
In Japan, a nation of low crimes and high social order, there’s one recurring petty microaggression that has plagued the populace for years: umbrella theft. It’s so common, particularly in urban areas, to have your umbrella stolen that the phenomenon has been parodied in anime like Samurai Flamenco, and some stores offer protective wrappers for anyone who doesn’t want to leave their umbrella in the stand when they shop.
There’s also a widespread assumption on the part of many Japanese that if someone takes your umbrella, you can just take someone else’s. In other words, umbrellas are Japan’s version of “leave a penny, take a penny”—until you’re the person unlucky enough to be stuck without an umbrella in a downpour, like this poor Twitter user who had their umbrella stolen less than an hour after they bought it:
Earlier this week, social media users on Naver began sharing their umbrella-related tales of woe, along with tips for how to avoid having your rain buddy nabbed by someone else. Most of the tips included things like buying umbrellas that stood out and couldn’t easily be mistaken for someone else’s. One suggestion involved carrying a child’s umbrella so that everyone else would be too embarrassed to steal it.
But there’s another, more direct way of avoiding theft according to a number of Japanese tweets rounded up in this Naver post: writing curses on the item itself.
Since umbrella theft is the most rampant social plague most Japanese have to deal with on a routine basis, most of the collected tweets show examples of people writing messages on handles or on the screen of the umbrella in order to ward away thieves. Some people, like this man, just make it clear the umbrella is theirs:
This guy wrote “Police Station” on his umbrella, because why not?
— Masato Onuki (@masato_onuki) July 18, 2013
Here’s a Twitter user who wrote “this is mine” on their umbrella—but they used creepy, rune-style handwriting. Apparently, it’s worked to keep their umbrella from ever being stolen.
— 妹尾雄大 (@senooyudai) May 12, 2015
This woman took a more Lovecraftian approach, although this cute little monster might be an extra theft incentive instead of a deterrent:
— yun または ぽめらにぽめこ (@olsinger_yun) April 8, 2015
One frustrated artist drew creepy Junji Ito-style art on their umbrella, because nothing says “crime prevention” like implying that whoever steals this umbrella will suddenly find their hole.
— 孔雀草 (@think0preacher0) June 22, 2014
— ヒデタカ (@takasyu12) April 2, 2014
But umbrellas aren’t the only items the Japanese have been looking to protect. They want to insure everything from plants…
…to toilet paper.
— すけろくちゃん (@2012wat) April 17, 2015
Of course, if the cursing doesn’t make the criminals shy away, there’s always the age-old solution of just securing your stuff a little more thoroughly:
— Nix (@Nagato1ndex) September 11, 2014
Well. Maybe not quite that thoroughly.