Super-hospitable senior citizen even gives him a second helping.

Japan is ordinarily an extremely law-abiding society, but the strains and stress of the coronavirus pandemic are leading to some unusual crimes connected to currently coveted commodities, especially masks. Since the beginning of the outbreak, we’ve seen a street fight break out among customers waiting in line to buy masks at a drug store and a hospital robbed of 6,000 of the coverings.

Now comes another mask-related crime, but with a twist. Actually there are several weird surprises involving the home invasion robbery that took place this week in the town of Iwamizawa, Hokkaido Prefecture, so let’s go through them one by one.

At around 11 o’clock on Sunday morning, an 88-year-old woman living in Iwamizawa’s Kurisawacho Kurigaoka neighborhood was startled when a man barged into her home through an unlocked back door. While it’s customary to bring a gift when visiting someone’s home in Japan, the man, said to be in his mid-50s or early 60s, had instead brought a saw, which he was waving around as he advanced into house.

▼ Japanese saws tend to look like long knives/small swords, and can give off a menacing aura even when the person holding them isn’t licking the blade.

“Give me food!” the man shouted repeatedly, and so the woman did just that, and with unusually thorough hospitality, considering the circumstances. “I gave him both rice and okazu,” the woman says, the latter referring to the main course and non-rice sides that make up a traditional Japanese meal. “I think he broke in because he was hungry.”

Rather than take his order to go, the man ate his brunch right there, and even asked for a refill of his rice bowl, which the woman provided. When he was done, he had another demand. “He said ‘Give me money!’, so I gave him 2,000 yen (US$19),” the woman reports.

That’s a perfectly acceptable amount of cash to find in your birthday card from Nana when you’re in elementary school, but it’s quite a bit less than most armed robbers are willing to settle for. But apparently it was enough to satisfy the man, because he took the offered bills and left…but not before leaving behind a stack of about 10 masks for the woman.

All anyone can currently do is speculate as to the man’s psyche, but it seems as though he gave the woman the masks as a way to say “Sorry for robbing you.” You could even argue that in the current market, 10 masks are more valuable than 2,000 yen and a meal, even one with a double helping of rice. In normal times, a 10-pack of masks will run you about 500 yen at a drug store in Japan, but coronavirus fears have resulted in them being sold out for weeks at most stores.

The question then becomes why bother robbing someone when you’ve got some high-demand goods that you’re apparently not planning to use yourself? The answer might have something to do with a law that went into effect in Japan last month that bans the resale of masks at anything above their initial purchase price.

The robber remains at large, though police are searching for him. In the meantime, should someone get the drop on you and break into your house, don’t try to play hero. Cooperate and avoid agitating the intruder, while also holding on to the hope that maybe they’ll give you some masks when it’s all over.

Source: Livedoor News/Kyodo via Otakomu, STV via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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