In the middle of this month, 41-year-old Kazunori Terashima must have felt some sense of satisfaction as his bankbook showed a transfer of 350 yen (US$3.33) from the Saitama Public Safety Commission. After struggling against the police for two and a half years over an improper traffic stop he had finally won his inalienable right to clean his ear in traffic.

The Ticket

In May of 2010, Terashima was driving his car with his elbow resting on the seat’s arm rest and hand busy cleaning his ear. Reports hadn’t confirmed whether he was using a tool or simply his finger.

Suddenly, a police officer came out from behind the large sign of a glasses shop on the side of the road. They blew a whistle and held out a red flag to pull over Terashima’s car. He could see what they must have thought he was doing and immediately told them when they approached the car, “I wasn’t using a phone.”

“Show me your license,” the officer said ignoring him.

Terashima tried to rationalize with the police officer saying “Please, just look at the phone’s history…” but they did not.

The conversation (or lack thereof) devolved into a 20-minute argument which resulted in the officer yelling, “If you don’t show me your license, I’ll have you arrested.” Terashima then reluctantly gave in and showed the license, but refused to sign the ticket they tried to issue him.

The Trial

In October of the same year, Terashima had to get his driver’s license renewed. During the process he learned that he had gotten a demerit point from his ear cleaning incident a few months back.

In Japan, driver’s licenses have a color coding system in which a gold (perfect) license means you have a record free of accidents and violations. So with this demerit, Terashima’s license was demoted to a blue (general) one, which can have implications on his insurance premiums and how often he has to renew. In addition he must attend a lengthy traffic safety lecture for which he must pay a small fee.

In the following year he decided to sue. His argument was simple: “Why didn’t they check the mobile phone records? I want policing to be objective and fair…”

Over nine trial hearings that lasted until March of this year, the court finally ruled in favor of Terashima. They said that “the credibility of the officer’s investigation report and statement was poor.” Saitama Prefecture had appealed but it was rejected.

When all was said and done, Terashima now has his 350 yen that he paid for the traffic safety lecture. However, he had never received any type of apology from the police or prefecture over the incident and presumably still carries a blue license. Online reaction was somewhat mixed with many accusing the police of abusing their power while some others had felt cleaning one’s ears while driving wasn’t responsible driving either.

Regardless of whoever was right in this situation, we still recommend that everyone refrain from cleaning their ears in their cars. Please do it on public transportation such as trains or buses instead. You’ll be surrounded by witnesses and will always have the seats next to you open for your belongings.

Source: Tokyo Web via Hachima Kiko (Japanese)
Images: Wikipedia (1,2)