1,000 is the loneliest number.

For many around the world, the holidays can be a very painful time. It’s a time when messages of togetherness, family, and relationships are plastered across all media, making it sting more for those who don’t have some or any of these things.

And in Japan, New Year’s Day is generally considered the biggest family holiday of the year. It is also one in which a custom is to send special holiday greeting postcards to just about every family member, friend, and even business acquaintance you know. As a result, some people receive large stacks of cards as a testament to all the people in their life.

▼ Then again, having a lot of people in your life can be overrated too, so some are happy to just get six

It all seemed to be enough to drive one 38-year-old resident of Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture, to do the unthinkable and steal over 1,000 New Year’s cards from people’s mailboxes.

The suspect was first arrested on 14 January for the theft of five New Year’s cards from the mailbox of an apartment complex. He admitted to the crime and told police he stole them to read the messages and distract himself from loneliness. He was released soon after, but in addition to the five cards, there were numerous reports of nearby residents not receiving their cards. Many of the people who were missing cards didn’t lock their mailboxes.

Then, on 16 January, the Nishinomiya Post Office reported to the police that upwards of 1,000 cards were found in various mailboxes around the city. Also, a person fitting the suspect’s description was seen putting cards into a mailbox. The suspect was then arrested again for stealing a calendar from a mailbox in the same apartment complex and charged with the theft of the other cards.

▼ News report showing all the stolen cards which were beautifully arranged by the Hyogo Police

While it now appears that the suspect’s loneliness is a lot more serious than previously thought, there is a unique feature of Japanese New Year’s cards that is very important to consider in this case.

Each New Year’s card printed on postcards issued by Japan Post has a six-digit number on the bottom of the back. These are lottery numbers for a draw held in the middle of January by Japan Post, with various prizes up for grabs such as a 30,000 yen (US$225) gift certificate or food. And for those who match only the last two numbers, they can get a set of two New Year’s stamps worth 63 yen ($0.47) each.

▼ The lotto number for this 2018 card can be seen in the bottom right corner

After the suspect was arrested the second time, the police searched his home and found four New Year’s stamp sets, suggesting that he may have redeemed some of the cards that he had stolen. To make matters more suspicious, the draw was held on 15 January, one day before the Post Office reported hundreds of cards turning up in public mailboxes.

It’s very suspicious but not damning evidence as he might have attempted to the return the cards at that time so that the rightful owners could still claim the prizes, which they can do until 18 July. As such, online comments about the news were mixed about what his true motives may have been.

“News that will make you lonely.”
“I feel bad now…”
“I was going to feel bad for him, but the prize stamps are very suspicious.”
“What a sad incident.”
“The police did a beautiful job of arranging the evidence.”
“It seems small, but this could really affect a lot of people’s relationships.”
“The fact that he had exchanged stamps shows what he was looking for from the start.”
“He’s lying and just wanted to win the lottery.”
“Living alone in the city, your relationships seem to dry up. I know the feeling.”

It seems a lot of people are still willing to give the suspect the benefit of the doubt in this case. It’s not unreasonable since according to Japan Post, the odds of winning the grand prize of just 30,000 yen is one in a million, which meant he still had only a 0.1 percent chance of winning even with 1,000 cards. So, if his motive was purely greed, it was a poorly thought out crime…unless he’s really into stamps.

If loneliness is the cause of this crime, hopefully the suspect will get the help he needs and maybe even a nice New Year’s card from the Hyogo Police next year to help keep him on the straight and narrow.

Source: The Sankei News, Japan Post, Hachima Kiko
Photos ©SoraNews24
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