Know the right words to use when speaking to the police in Japanese

Japan Times -- Jul 17
OSAKA – Imagine it’s late at night and you just got off the train, ready to head home. You go to the bike rack, pull out your bicycle, hop on and start pedaling. The night breeze is refreshing, and you know you’ll be home in no time.

Then, you get flagged down by the 警察 (keisatsu, police).

自転車の窃盗は、窃盗の中でも特に多い犯罪の一つ (Jitensha no settō wa, settō no naka demo toku ni ōi hanzai no hitotsu, As for bicycle theft, among thefts [in Japan] it is one of the most common crimes), so if you get stopped by a 警官 (keikan, police officer), it could be nothing more than a mildly annoying check to see if your 登録シール (tōroku shīru, registration seal) matches the information on your ID.

With the Olympics taking place next week, though, there’s a good chance that what is called 職務質問 (shokumu shitsumon, ID check/police inquiry) will increase — whether you’re on a bike or not.

While non-Japanese residents generally have positive things to say about Japanese police officers, there is still no shortage of stories of those who have had the opposite experience, with 人種差別 (jinshu sabetsu, racial discrimination) possibly playing a part.

Interactions with the police can be intimidating at times, and thus not the easiest situation in which to practice your Japanese. To make the process run smoother, it’s good to know what an officer might say in advance so you can respond to their questions.

Let’s take a look at the bike check scenario, since it is one of the most common. To get your attention, the first thing an officer might say to you is: すみません、ご協力お願いします (Sumimasen, go-kyōryoku onegai shimasu, Excuse me, can I have your cooperation, please?). The officer may also identify themselves as being 防犯パトロール中 (bōhan patorōru-chū, on security patrol).

This might be followed by follow-up questions like, どこに向かっているんですか (doko ni mukatte-iru-n desu ka, where are you headed) or どこに行くところですか (doko ni iku tokoro desu ka, where are you going)?

The officer will then want to confirm who owns the bicycle: 自転車の登録番号を確認させてください (Jitensha no tōroku bangō o kakunin sasete kudasai, Please let me confirm the bicycle’s registration number) and follow up with, あなたのものですか (anata no mono desu ka, is it yours)?

- Japan Times