Baffled commenters don’t see why basic politeness is being treated like a crime, but police say the exchange was suspicious.

Last Wednesday afternoon, shortly after 5 p.m., a schoolgirl was standing outside a building in Midorimachi, a neighborhood of the city of Kobe. Hearing a sound behind her, she turned around and saw a man, in either his 30s or 40s, standing there.

“Hello,” the girl said to the man, who responded with “Hello.” The two then went their separate ways, and while that may seem like just about the most mundane encounter possible, website Hyogo Bohan Net (bohan translating to “crime prevention”) feels differently, and has informed local residents to be on the lookout for the man.

The “suspicious man” (as the website refers to him) is described as being approximately 170 centimeters (five feet, seven inches) tall with black hair. At the time of the incident he was wearing a gray sweater and black-framed glasses.

“For your safety, call for help in a loud voice,” advises the website, along with “Immediately run away and inform the police.”

While Japanese society is particularly sensitive to personal safety issues, Hyogo Bohan Net’s dramatic advice confused many online commenters in Japan, whose reactions have included:

“Saying ‘Hi’ makes you a criminal?”
“Is saying hello back to a schoolgirl who said hello to you first not allowed?”
“It’s like no matter what you do, you’re going to get reported to the police.”
“So in Kobe, if someone says ‘Hi,’ and you say ‘Hello to you too,’ you’re considered a suspicious person?”

On the surface, the website’s condemnation of the man’s actions, and the recommendation that people flee screaming from him, definitely does seem ludicrous.

▼ It’s not like he was dressed like this when he said hello, after all.

However, police investigators from Kobe’s Kita Ward Precinct, which has jurisdiction over the Midorimachi neighborhood, say they’ve purposely withheld information from the public regarding the incident, saying that the information could be used for third parties to determine the girl’s identity. Depending on how close the man had been standing to the girl, as well as whether he just happened to be passing by at the moment she noticed him or was actively trying to conceal his presence and purposely sneaking up behind her, it’s not entirely impossible to imagine a scenario in which he had some sort of sinister intention, but aborted his plan and simply said “Hello” after the girl noticed him.

For his part, the Kita Ward Precinct’s sub-commander insists that the man’s behavior was clearly suspicious, implying that he feels exercising caution is called for, and the schoolgirl herself was apparently bothered enough by the encounter to report it to the police. Currently, the man’s identity remains unknown, as does the other man in Hyogo who was reported for saying that a baby was cute (whom residents are also advised to flee from while shouting for help).

Sources: Hyogo Bohan Net via Jin, J Cast News, Twitter
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24
Insert image: Pakutaso

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