Leaving your belongings unattended to save a seat doesn’t mean you’re sure to lose your stuff, experiment shows.

Last weekend, my wife and I went to check out Tokyo’s new life-size Gundam statue, which was so awesome that we could only stop staring at it when our stomachs started growling. So we headed into the nearby shopping center to get dinner, only to find its food court packed with other hungry mecha fans.

After some searching, my wife spotted two empty seats along a counter, and without missing a beat she pulled a hand towel and a pouch out of her purse, placing them on the counter in order to save the seats while we went to buy our food. Yes, this is indeed how you stake out seats in Japan, but if you’re a new arrival in the country, it can be a little nerve-wracking at first. After all, leaving unattended belongings lying around is a good way to get them stolen, right?

Not necessarily. Japan’s famously law-abiding society means that the odds of someone stealing something of such little value as a handkerchief, just to piss the owner off, are incredibly low. But what about more desirable items, like a smartphone or laptop? Wouldn’t some unscrupulous person snatch those, either to sell or use for themselves?

To find out, YouTube channel Life Where I’m From conducted an experiment, and the results can be seen in the video below.

To carry out the experiment, the presenter and his daughter visited the Tokyo Skytree’s Sola Machi entertainment complex’s food court and left a smartphone, purse, and shopping bag full of recently purchased items on table for two. Then they positioned themselves at another table and surreptitiously filmed what happened.

A solid hour passed, with no one at all disturbing their unprotected belongings. As a matter of fact, while at the food court they saw a number of other people also stake out tables using bags, purses, and even baby strollers, which, being wheeled, are particularly easy to run off with. Eventually, the presenter decided to retrieve his possessions, not because he was worried that someone would steal them, but because he thought the cleaning staff might think they’d been forgotten and take them to the lost-and-found.

This remarkable trustworthiness wasn’t a fluke, either. Next, the presenter and his daughter made their way to a Starbucks branch where he decided to leave even more tempting bait: his MacBook Pro.

He even placed the laptop, all by itself, on a table behind where he was seated…but 25 minutes later, it was still there, and the presenter decided to call it a wrap.

Now, we should remind everyone that not every single person in Japan is so virtuous as to never take something that’s not theirs, and that it only takes one such individual to ruin your day by swiping your stuff. However, if you spot and open seat in a crowded coffee shop and want to hang onto it while you go up to the counter to order, and you’re carrying, say, a notebook or an umbrella, you can toss it on the table and be reasonably sure that it’ll be there waiting for you when you get back.

Source: YouTube/Life Where I’m From
[ Read in Japanese ]