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5 Embarrassing Stories of Tourists in Japan

From eyebrow-raising antics to dumb crimes, here are five news stories showcasing foreigners' absurd and embarrassing moments in Japan.

By 5 min read 3

Nara’s Toshodaiji is an eighth-century temple founded by the Chinese monk Ganjin, one of the greatest influences on Buddhism in Japan. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Toshodaiji is an iconic and historically significant temple. Among its treasures are its golden hall, Ganjin’s preserved living quarters and sacred text, wooden statues over a century old and, more recently, the letter “J” carved into one of the temple’s pillars that symbolizes Julian—some kid from Canada.

The teen, whether bored or just dense, made headlines after he got caught carving his initial into the ancient temple during a trip with his family. Naturally, people were pretty angry.

Not that Japanese tourists aren’t free of making goofs, but it’s always kind of funny (and embarrassing) when you read about foreigners coming to Japan and disrupting the wa (harmony).

That being said, here are five stories of tourists making headlines in Japan.

1. French Man Throws Hands Over Bento

Photo:
How to get kicked out of Japan in one easy step.

Charlie, a 23-year-old French national, was stumbling through Tokyo’s Roppongi district when he collided with a young woman carrying a bento. The bump caused her to drop her dinner, and so she demanded Charlie compensate her with a new bento.

At the convenience store, Charlie, apparently shaken by the ¥500 price tag, had second thoughts and made a run for it. The woman, already hungry and annoyed, grabbed his arm to stop him. And, as only a distinguished gentleman from the country of Romance could, cocked back and slugged her in the face before fleeing down the street in a running style we can only describe as “dastardly.”

Video of the incident went viral quickly, and Charlie was arrested a day later. Despite being on video, he claimed, “Since I do not recall [the matter], I do not know [anything about it].” It’s unknown if Charlie was charged, but he’ll at least be remembered forever as the guy with a goofy run ready to ruin his life for ¥500.

2. Danish Artist ‘Leaves His Mark’

Photo:
Do as I say, not as I do.

Visiting Japan is an experience you never want to forget. It’s understandable when someone takes lots of pictures or buys souvenirs. But, for a tourist from Denmark, that wasn’t enough.

In 2018, the Dane allegedly broke into Myogadani station on Tokyo Metro’s Marunouchi Line after operations and graffitied a train car with his name, hearts and the number 18 (likey for 2018). He was caught on security cameras and detained while on his way home at the airport by police. He claimed he did it to “leave a memory” of his visit to Japan.

Funny enough, graffiti and poor excuses aren’t rare in Japan. That same year, two Australians caught graffitiing their names at a Shibuya department store tried to excuse themselves with, “We saw graffiti in other parts of the neighborhood, so we thought it was okay to do that in Shibuya.” Some Americans arrested in 2016 also thought “Shibuya was a town that allowed graffiti.”

3. Australian Woman Scams the Shinkansen

Photo:
You son of a… I’m in.

The Shinkansen (bullet train) is amazing. In just a few hours, you can zip from one end of Japan to the other. But that convenience comes at a price. For short-term foreign visitors, the Japan Rail Pass is a great option. It allows practically unlimited travel on the railways and shinkansen for 7, 14 or 21 days, starting at around ¥29,000.

Karen, from Australia, probably thought the train attendants in Shinagawa station see thousands of rail passes a day. Surely if she just photo-copied a real pass and flipped the photocopy at them real fast like a fake secret agent, they wouldn’t notice. Right?

Unfortunately for Karen, the attendant noticed the fake immediately, and she was arrested by the police. Karen was a teacher living in Tokyo and not actually a tourist, thus unable to purchase the Japan Rail Pass legally. Still, with news that the rail pass will see a massive 77% price hike this year, don’t get any funny ideas.

4. Italian Steals a Kiss

Photo:
That’s not amore.

Italians are known for being affectionate. While movies, songs and expressions of love have likely helped to romanticize it, Italian men are considered suave when it comes to wooing women. Enter serial kisser Vincenzo D, a 40-year-old Italian tourist with boundary issues.

In 2015, Vincenzo was taking an evening ride on the JR Kisei line between Iwashiro and Minabe in Wakayama Prefecture, and, apparently overcome with the coastal view and setting sun, firmly planted his lips on the closest (young) woman within arms reach.

Vincenzo was immediately arrested for harassment under the law against “insulting and indecent acts.” In custody, Vincenzo’s argued it was just a “simple greeting,” and the only thing he was guilty of was being “contrary to Japanese customs.” Guess no one ever told Vincenzo “when in Rome.” Or just don’t be a creep.

5. British Chap Takes a Dip

The Imperial Palace has been home to Japan’s imperial family for centuries. More than just deep cultural significance, it’s considered sacred ground, which makes it an unfortunate choice for the daring Brit and his skinny-dipping escapade in the palace moat.

In front of hundreds of onlookers, God and, supposedly, Emperor Akihito himself, who was in residence, the man stripped and cannonballed into the moat—taking long enough laps for TV news crews to show on the scene. Whenever the police would corner the man, he’d dive back in and scale the other side—walls 35 feet tall, so the guy had some spunk.

Despite leading police on a naked chase for over an hour and threatening them with a rock and a construction zone rod (and his own rod), the man was released without charge. His identity was also kept hidden by the British Embassy. So either everyone involved had a good laugh, or some rich politician’s uncle had a lot of explaining to do.

What are your favorite embarrassing tourist stories? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Tye Roseas says:

    Foreign douche bags.

  • Rolando says:

    Well done writing. Very entertaining.

  • John says:

    I think it’s only fair to mention that the man who went into the moat was having a mental health episode. The police weren’t sure what to do, so instead of calling in a professional counselor, chased him around – and the episode was prolonged due to their ineptness.

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