For many people, Japan is the safest country in the world. In other words, the chances of getting your wallet or any valuable item stolen are quite low in Japan when compared to other countries. Although violent crimes are rare, pickpocketing and other stealth crimes are pretty common in urban areas, especially in Tokyo’s Akasaka and Harajuku neighborhoods. There were also many cases of stolen passports at Narita Airport, according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council of the United States.
Pickpocketing might be extremely troublesome because most of the documents you could lose, besides the money, are essentials for living or traveling in Japan. Stealth robbers generally aim tourists and foreigners, taking advantage of their blind sense of safeness in Japan and careless behavior. Also, this trend suggests that the chances of retrieving your documents (such as residence card, health insurance card, passport, etc.) are low since pickpockets seem to benefit from targeting foreigners’ documents as well.
If you, unfortunately, happen to be caught off guard and get your wallet stolen in Japan, here’s what you need to do!
Your first action should be to file a police report. It is quick and it can be done in more than one hundred police departments around Tokyo. Although it is not a rule, you are encouraged to file your theft/lost item report at the nearest police station. You also have the option of calling 110 to report a crime, however, you will still have to go to the police station (koban) afterward to report more information and sign your name.
If you lost important documents, such as your passport or residence card, they might transfer your case to the nearest main police department. So be aware that you might need some money for public transportation to take care of this initial procedure.
Big police departments are usually fairly multilingual, which makes tourists’ and foreign residents’ lives easier. If you are speaking in English, speak clearly and try to omit most articles from your sentences. Nonetheless, a basic level of Japanese should help you the most.
If you want to see the instructions and a sample of the “Lost Property Report” that you will submit to the police department, you can check here.
If your credit cards were stolen, you should definitely call the responsible company immediately because shopping online with your card could be a perpetrator’s first option. If you are unable to make a call from your cell phone or hotel, look for public pay phones (koshu denwa), which usually come in green or gray. They allow international calls and accept Japanese coins and calling cards, which you can easily buy at any convenience store.
If you are a tourist and you have lost your passport, then your third action should be to contact your country’s consulate or embassy in Japan. Keep in mind that most consulates work with short schedules, from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, for example, so you are most likely to deal with reissuing your passport the next day.
Find your embassy or consulate quickly here.
If you are a foreign resident in Japan and lost your residence card (zairyu card), then you need to go to your nearest Immigration Bureau. The one in Shinagawa is generally open between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM every weekday.
Your new residence card will be issued on the same day free of charge, however, the procedure might take a very long time. You will need to bring:
- an ID photo (you can take a photo with the necessary specifications at nearby photo booths for approximately 900 yen)
- your police report number (bring a copy of the report because they will scan it to keep a record)
- your passport or certificate of status of residence (you will have to present a statement of issues, probably provided by your consulate, if you cannot bring your passport)
- fill in the new residence card request form (you can print it yourself or simply take one at the Immigration)
It takes a long time to request and reissue a new residence card because, at every step of the process, you are told to wait in line again and again. So be sure to bring all your documents and completely fill in the request form. One of the information required is the number of your stolen residence card; if you have a photo of your previous residence card, bring it with you as it will save you time.
If you also carry the documents listed above in your wallet and happen to lose them, then your next step is to go to your respective ward office and request new cards.
Health insurance card
The health insurance card should be reissued quickly (on the same day) if you have your new residence card with you. If you have difficulties with Japanese, try saying, “Saifu wo nusumare mashita,”(“My wallet was stolen”). Your residence card and police report number are the only documents required to reissue a health insurance card.
To use national health services in Japan, it is necessary to present two documents: residence card and health insurance card (hokensho). In some hospitals, you do not have to pay at the cashier, you use a machine, which makes the use of a stolen ID easier. Be careful, the only way to protect yourself from having your identity used in this situation is to check your annual health insurance use report (that is mailed to your house) and communicate it to your ward office afterward.
“My Number” card
A stolen “My Number” card is more complicated. It is also reissued at your ward office, and you generally need to bring a copy of your police report, your residence card, and 500 yen.
If you lost your “My Number” card or your ward’s card (some prefectures have ID cards, such as Shinjuku Ward), then it is quite dangerous as the perpetrator might use your “My Number” card and residence card to do bad things under your name, which could be very troublesome in the future. This is why you should request to change your “My Number” and not simply reissue your card. Although the procedure may take longer, it is much safer to do it earlier than later.
Finally, the best advice is to stay mindful and always carry important documents in different compartments. Unlike other countries, your documents have value in Japan and are prone to be stolen. Indeed, for criminals, stealing your ID to use the expensive health facilities in Japan is more valuable than just taking a couple thousand yen from your stolen wallet.