After spotting a suspicious stranger in Shinjuku, Mr. Sato is connected with someone he’d never have expected.

It started off like any other weekday morning. After leaving his home. Mr. Sato rode the train to Shinjuku Station in downtown Tokyo, then walked out the southern exit on his way to SoraNews24 headquarters.

That’s when something strange happened. As Mr. Sato made his way to the office, he noticed a middle-aged man walking in the opposite direction. As the man passed a street light, he nonchalantly stepped behind it, leaving a piece of paper folded over a cord tying a sign to the lamppost.

The man quickly walked off, but Mr. Sato’s curiosity was piqued. He approached the lamppost, where he discovered that written on the paper were girlish hearts and a phone number starting with 042, one of the area codes for Tokyo.

Even stranger, the cryptic note was written on the backside of an application paper for a student commuter rail pass.

Mr. Sato wasn’t sure what to make of all this. Between the feminine handwriting and the choice of paper, it seemed like the man who left the paper behind was trying to make people think the note was written by a young woman, perhaps a college student. Men posing as amorous women is an element in many dating service scams, but this was such a subtle form of temptation that Mr. Sato couldn’t tell what sort of fraud, if any, was afoot.

And so he did the only sensible thing, which was of course to dive headfirst into this vague trap by calling the number on the paper.

First, though, he consulted with our coworker Go Hattori, who knows a thing or two about dealing with scam artists.

▼ Go, looking a little suspicious himself in his cold mask, examines the note.

“This is really fishy,” Go said. “It might be the sort of number you’re better off not calling…”

“Seriously?” Mr. Sato replied. “Sounds pretty scary.”

“But…I can’t see what anyone would gain by having you call it.”

Unable to crack the case by going at it from a theoretical approach, Mr. Sato sat down and dialed the number. Courageous reporter that he is, he left his own phone number unblocked, figuring that would produce the greatest chance of the other party picking up.

The phone rang once, but with no answer. Then it rang a second time.

And then, finally, after three rings, the person on the other end of the call picked up!

It was indeed a woman’s voice that greeted Mr. Sato’s ears, as you can hear in this video of the call.

However, her voice had neither the harshness of an extortionist nor the sultriness of a phone sex operator. Instead she was friendly and courteous, enunciating clearly as she said:

“Thank you for calling the [redacted] Post Office. This is [redacted] speaking.”

It took Mr. Sato’s brain a moment to process this unexpected development. “Um…have I reached the post office?” he asked. “Yes, you have,” came the friendly reply.

“Oh, really?” our reporter said, fumbling for words, which the woman once again confirmed by saying “Yes.”

Not wanting to take up any more of the woman’s time while she was working, Mr. Sato fibbed, telling her “Sorry, I must have dialled the wrong number.” “Oh, I see,” she responded, before Mr. Sato apologized once again and ended the call.

In the end, we’re not sure why the man outside Shinjuku Station wrote the note. Maybe he’s just really impressed with the service at that particular post office, but that wouldn’t explain the hearts. Perhaps he’s especially fond of the voice of the employee we spoke to, but most post offices don’t have a dedicated phone operator who answers calls, with the task instead falling to whoever happens to have their hands free.

So hopefully Mr. Sato and the mysterious man’s paths cross again some morning, so that he can ask him “Why?”

Images ©SoraNews24
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