Programmer from overseas leaves change out in public to test Japanese honesty, ends up with more money than he started with.


Ask just about any traveler who’s been to Japan what their impression of the country was, and somewhere within the first three words, you’re likely to hear “safe” (“clean” and “polite” are the other top-three candidates). Japan’s low crime rate has become internationally well-known, but to see for himself just how safe it is here, Canadian-born, U.S.-based programmer Godfrey Chan decided to try a little social experiment.

Chan (who goes by @chancancode on Twitter) recently attended RubyKaigi, a conference for software developers using the Ruby programming language, which was held in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, from May 31 to June 2. While there, he decided to leave two 100-yen (US$0.92) coins on a piece of artwork in the lobby of the Sendai International Center, to see if and when someone would swipe them.

But instead of Chan’s research funds disappearing, they actually increased.

As shown in his video, not only were Chan’s coins left undisturbed, when he checked back on them the next day, they had been joined by a third 100-yen coin!

Chan was amazed by the results, which quickly prompted tongue-in-cheek theories from other Twitter users, such as:

“Darwin, the coins show survival features and are evolving into their environment.”
“The third ¥100 is the second generation. You know what I mean.”
“It’s just common sense. Two happy ¥100 [coins] got married, and produced one more ¥100. Now they are a happy family.”

Jokes aside, Chan’s experiment had other international travelers and foreign residents chiming in with their own experience of how refreshingly respectful Japan is of other people’s property.

Of course, none of this is to say that Japan is completely crime-free. There’s also the question of whether the coins would have stayed safe for as long if they’d been in a more trafficked, less-scholarly environment than a conference center.

Still, the ability for unattended loose change to survive in the wild for so long is remarkable. As for the extra 100 yen, some speculated it might be connected to the Japanese practice of osaisen, offering coins to gods and spirits. However, osaisen is generally done at shines, temples, or natural areas such as forests and mountains (in keeping with traditional Japanese beliefs about the divinity of nature). It’s not really something you see happen inside of modern, secular buildings, so it seems more likely that someone added the third 100-yen coin on a lark.

Speaking of Japanese cultural values, perhaps the most Japanese response of all was the one asking people to be careful not to damage the artwork.

And finally, expanding the discussion of crime and safety to include the other side of the coin, law enforcement, one Twitter user said:

He’s definitely got a point, but that means it’s awesome for just about everyone else.

Source: Twitter/@chancancode via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@chancancode