You should never take your work home with you.

Given the general rarity of firearms in Japan, knives are frequently used by those looking to intimidate others or inflict violence. And among those, kitchen knives are frequently mentioned in armed robbery reports, likely due to their imposing size and sharpness.

So these kitchen tools can be a cause for alarm when seen outside of their natural habitat, such as on an express train running along the Keikyu Airport Line in Ota, Tokyo, at about 6:40 p.m. on 26 August. It was there that three kitchen knives fell out of a man’s bag, causing one panicked passenger to hit the emergency door cock, a lever that allows passengers to manually open carriage doors.

▼ A video of how to use the emergency door cock

Luckily the train made an emergency stop at Awamori Inari Station so passengers could escape through the doors onto the platform. Some also called the emergency number 110 for the police or posted on social media that “there is a person with a knife” on the train.

All service was temporarily suspended on the Keikyu Airport Line for up to 40 minutes due to the commotion. However, it was quickly learned that the owner of the knives was simply a sushi chef in his 50s who was moving the blades to his new workplace. He was a little tipsy at the time and had dozed off while riding the train and a sashimi knife, regular kitchen knife, and a pointed carving knife known as a deba bocho that he kept in a drawstring bag had gotten loose and fell out when he moved.

▼ News report showing passengers evacuating the train

A witness in one of the other train cars said he saw the passengers flee, but noticed that the owner of the knives was not acting violently and calmly cooperated with the police when they arrived. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police said that they would not press charges since he had a legitimate reason for carrying the knives.

Online comments, however, were not so lenient about the careless handling of sharp objects.

“Wrap it up properly!”
“Shouldn’t they be in cases? That way even if they fall out, it’s not obvious what they are.”
“He doesn’t seem very professional.”
“Imagine if someone had jumped out onto the tracks and got hit…”
“When I went to cooking school, I would always carry knives on the train. I guess you can’t do that anymore.”
“As punishment he should do community service by sharpening people’s knives for free.”
“I think he should be arrested for that. People have been arrested for much less with knives.”
“If we had guns, this wouldn’t happen.”
“People get arrested for carrying screwdrivers, but this guy is OK.”

The rule of thumb with carrying knives in Japan is that you need to have an immediate, lawful reason for having it. Recently the police issued a warning to people who take knives camping to not leave them in their car. If an officer finds the knife during the camping trip, then it’s generally permitted, but if they find it three days after, then it can be deemed an offence.

This creates a lot of ambiguity, and people who carry knives and sometimes even other tools like screwdrivers for “just in case” purposes can find themselves at the mercy of the judgment of the officer who finds the item. So, be careful with tools while out in public in Japan, because it’s risky business…unless you’re a drunk sushi chef apparently.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun 1, 2, Asahi Shimbun, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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