And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that meddling JR and its clerical errors.

Japan recently went through its Golden Week holidays, which are a cluster of public holidays all bunched together around the end of April and early May. For the first time since the pandemic began, many Japanese people took the opportunity to go out to various parts of the country for some R&R.

However, this also means that transportation once again become a nightmare, with clogged highways and booked-out trains. These desperate times called for desperate measures, and for one wayward retired Member of Parliament it even led to an arrest.

Former member of both the House of Councilors and House of Representatives Yasuo Yamashita was arrested for fraud and forgery of signed documents. According to Aichi Prefectural police, on 27 April the 79-year-old politician pretended to be another Member of Parliament who is still active, in order to secure tickets on the Shinkansen bullet trains.

▼ A news report showing Yamashita’s arrest

More specifically, Yamashita was trying to acquire a Green Car ticket on the high-speed train. For Japan Rail (JR) trains, a basic fare ticket will allow you to ride normal trains wherever you want to go, but if you want to ride a Shinkansen or other long-distance express trains, you often need to purchase a second Limited Express ticket that works in tandem with the basic ticket. Moreover, if you want a more spacious seat, you can also purchase a Green Car ticket on top of all that, to access the train’s first class section.

▼ Inside a Green Car

Apparently, Green Car trips are a perk regularly enjoyed by active Members of Parliament, so Yamashita applied for one from JR using the name and personal information of a different parliamentarian without that person’s knowledge. He was only caught by chance because someone at JR Tokai had made a mistake with the reservation and contacted the real MP, whom Yamashita was impersonating, to apologize.

After his arrest, Yamashita reportedly admitted to the charges, saying something to the effect of: “The old days are hard to forget…”

Wistful platitudes, though novel as a criminal defense, probably won’t get him too far with law enforcement. Readers of the news, meanwhile, were wondering about the logic behind any MP getting first-class train tickets in the first place.

“Just abolish this privilege altogether. They’re supposed to be civil servants, not the upper class.”
“This privilege should be reviewed. If they want to buy the tickets with their own money, fine, but it’s a luxury.”
“Does one’s sense of shame dry up with old age?”
“These people are supposed to understand the problems of average citizens. How can they do that with free first-class transportation everywhere?”

“Why are people this old in government anyway? They’re probably not concerned about Japan 30 years from now.”
“We just need to flush all current politicians out of government and start over.”
“He doesn’t want to give up his seat to someone from the next generation. That really sums it up.”
“Watch how quickly he is not punished for this in any way.”

Yamashita currently works as a permanent advisor with the Gifu chapter of the Constitutional Democratic Party, but it is unclear how this brush with the law will affect his standing there. Police are also investigating the very likely possibility that this wasn’t an isolated incident, but it’s still unclear what punishment he stands to face, if any.

I know it’s something I’ll be watching closely though. As someone who used to work at McDonald’s as a teenager, I may be tempted to head on down, hop over the counter, and cook myself up some burgers again for old time’s sake if he gets off. After all, the old days are hard to forget.

Source: YouTube/Mee-Tele News (1, 2), Hachima Kiko
Top image: ©SoraNews24
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