Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Little Patrol Cars•ちびっこパトカー

One of the first things that I saw upon arriving in Inakadate that made me look twice in surprise was the little tiny patrol cars driven by the police.

These cars are what in Japan is called a keijidosha, or a light car. They are very popular in Japan. I would easily guess that they make up half of the personal use vehicles on the road today. They are inexpensive to cheap, get good gas mileage and, have low insurance and tax costs.

I can easily understand why other people drive them, but for some reason it seems strange when I see them painted black and white with lights attached to the top. In the USA, patrol cars are generally the largest and most heavy duty vehicles police can find. When you look into a US police car it is full to the gills. There are weapons, computers, radios, walls, restraints, sirens, extra lights, extra batteries. It is almost like a mini tank; there is hardly enough room for the officers and a couple of passengers.

そんなわけで、どうして多くの人が軽自動車に乗っているかはわかりますが、その軽自動車が白黒に塗られて、上にライトが取り付けられて警察の車として使われているのはちょっと変な感じがします。アメリカでは、パトカーって買えるものの中で一番大きくて、一番丈夫な ものに決まっています。その中を見ると、あふれるほど、物が詰まっています。その中に、武器、コンピューター、ラジオ、そして運転席と後ろの席との間には壁があって、犯人が動けないようにするベルトがあって、その他にサイレン、補充のライ トや乾電池などがたくさんあります。まるで、ミニ戦車のようで、警官が座るスペースははもちろん、後部座席にも人が座るスペースはほとんどありません。

Contrast this to the Japanese keijidosha patrol car. It probably isn't more than seven or eight feet long. I think a couple people could pick it up and roll it over if they wanted. Even if you filled it full of stuff, it couldn't hold much. To me all keisha look small and cute, but when you paint it black and white, it seriously looks like a toy.

One good explanation for this probably can simply be found in crime rates. Police in Japan deal with far fewer violent criminals and (because Japan is so small) assistance is usually much closer. I would also however maintain that this difference probably stems from the image that police project in both countries. American policemen aim for an independent tough image for themselves, something like John Wayne. Contrast that to Japanese policemen who, as far as I have seen, aim for a helpful and approachable image.

It is only my own personal observation, but if I am right and Japanese police are aiming for approachablility, the cute little patrol car is certainly a step in the right direction.



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