“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?
傘の盗難対策。悲しいことにたまに傘の盗難にあってしまうので、何か対策はないかと調べていました。いろんな対策グッズなどあったのですが、まずは最も手軽にできるこの手法を試してみたいと思います(^^ゞ pic.twitter.com/hrouFDq4Mk— 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.
僕もビニール傘盗難対策してますよ。ルーン文字で「オレノモノデス」って書いてます。こうしておくと、気味が悪いのか、この数年間まったく盗まれたことがないですわ。梵字もおすすめです。 pic.twitter.com/fNT7Mf0b3G— 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:
傘が盗まれないように工夫してみた(*´ω`*) pic.twitter.com/IFqAv4PWjJ— 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.
盗難防止の傘の落書き。— 孔雀草 (@think0preacher0) June 22, 2014
傘買った。気休めだけど盗難対策のつもり pic.twitter.com/kZbLPmdKyB— 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.
最近気になること。スーパーや公共施設に行くと、ストックのトイレットペーパーに必ずこうやって『盗まれないように目印』が書かれてること。立派な犯罪だよ。タバコのポイ捨てもそうだけど、誰も見てなきゃOKな感覚。凄く嫌いだな pic.twitter.com/C3k8oVcCI7— 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:
みんなも自転車盗難対策にn重ロックを心がけよう！！！ pic.twitter.com/hLFM06EYdr— Nix (@Nagato1ndex) September 11, 2014
Well. Maybe not quite that thoroughly.