We’re not sure if this is a crime, but it is creepy.

The evening of January 1 is a pretty quiet, laid-back time in Japan. Most people do their New Year’s shrine/temple visits either at the stroke of midnight as the new year begins or by the afternoon of New Year’s Day, so after the sun goes down, the majority of the country is relaxing over a leisurely dinner, either in their own home or at a relative’s house.

And yet, at around 9:30 p.m. on January 1, one person was out for a walk, alone, in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward, where they stopped to do something very strange. The person, with their face obscured by a knit cap and mask, walked up the empty driveway of an Edogawa house and stood staring at the for door for a minute, before turning around and walking back to the start of the driveway, where the home’s owner had hung a string of festive blinking Christmas lights on the shrubs in their planter. Then things got really weird, as shown in this security video.

After spending two minutes looking at the twinkling Christmas decorations, the masked person began pulling the string of lights off of the plants, and for a moment, everything seems to add up. Standing in front of the door for a minute without being noticed suggests that no one is home, or at least watching what’s going on in the driveway, and so maybe the masked person, after being enchanted by how pretty the Christmas lights are, is planning to steal them, right?

Except apparently the masked stranger wasn’t looking at the lights with a feeling of childlike wonder, but aggravated annoyance. Once all the lights are off the tree, the stranger pulls the cord out of its power socket to kill the lights, wraps up the cord, and puts it in a box that the home’s owner had lying by the planter. With that accomplished, the stranger walks away, leaving the lights behind.

In other words, this wasn’t a theft, but a walk-by clean-up. “I’d been thinking that I need to put away my Christmas lights soon,” says the home’s owner, “So in that sense, I’m thankful to them for doing it for me, but it’s creepy to have someone you don’t know do this kind of thing…I guess they appointed themselves the Christmas light police, and this is their way of saying ‘The time for Christmas cheer is over.’”

YouTube commenters have reacted to the video with:

“Even if the owner had caught the person in the act, they’d probably just say something like ‘All I did was clean up for you.’”
“It’s like a battle between a lazy homeowner and a New Year’s busybody.”
“There will always be self-righteous people in this world who decide you need them to do something for you even though you didn’t ask them to.”
“They didn’t cause any damage, but I’d be worried that someone who did this is checking to see if the people who live in the house are out of town, and might come back to rob the place later.”
“Maybe this’ll be the start of a new folk tale, and 1,000 years from now people in Japan will tell stories about the ‘Christmas light clean-up yokai spirit.’”

Going with the homeowner’s theory that the reason for the unauthorized clean-up was someone who was upset about her still having her Christmas decorations up, January 1 might seem pretty soon to get bent out of shape about it. However, in Japan the peak of Christmas celebrations and events is Christmas Eve, and by December 25 itself Christmas is already gone from most people’s thoughts. Meanwhile, Japan has a number of traditional New Year’s decorations, such as special pine and bamboo cuttings, that are placed outside the home, thus making Christmas and New Year’s feel more separated than the combined late-December holiday season in some other countries.

On the other hand, Christmas lights are simply called “illumination” in Japanese, with no specific mention of Christmas, and it’s not unusual for cities and shopping centers to leave their lights up for most of the winter simply because they look pretty, especially if they don’t feature any specific Christmas imagery like Santa or reindeer. For one reason or another, though, the masked stranger in the video decided that January 1 was past time for them to come down.

Source: YouTube/ANNNewsCH, Tele Asa News via Yahoo! Japan News via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
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