Shopping in Japan means having a bunch of cash on you at all times; hardly anyone takes cards. And that is where our story begins: Our Family Was Pick Pocketed in Japan.
► Ranking: #stinkydiaper
A couple days earlier we had been by the Don Quijote in Shinjuku East, because we had heard they were a great place for novelty items, like a huge selection of unique Kit Kat flavors you can only find in Japan. We left as quickly as we arrived, children in hand, as we discovered they housed plenty of other novelty items. However, since we hadn’t had much luck finding the same variety of Kit Kat’s elsewhere, we were lamenting the fact that we didn’t just buy the ones we had found at the nasty store on the cheap. So, we decided to head back.
It was the weekend and the place was shoulder to shoulder packed full of people. That was probably our first mistake, but we were on the tail end of our trip and running out of time. Our baby was asleep in the stroller, and we didn’t much want the kids in there anyway. I gave Catherine my wallet, full of cash, so she could run in and grab the items, while I stayed outside with the kids. She put my wallet in her back pocket and headed in.
Right? You can see where things are going.
How Our Family Was Pick Pocketed In Japan at the Don Quijote
While I was waiting for her I decided to head back across the street with the kids to the Game Taito Station. They had a whole bunch of brightly lit skill crane machines on the bottom level directly on the sidewalk. Since cash is king in Japan, my pockets were already full of coins so I let the twins take a stab at winning some Pokemon stuffed animals. In short order, Widmore was able to snag a large Pikachu stuffed animal. He was pretty excited, and to this day still likes to take his Pikachu with us on our trips.
After that, we headed back across the street, and I was really surprised Catherine was still taking her time. After all, she was just supposed to be grabbing some Kit Kats. It didn’t seem like the lines could have been that long. I sent her some texts, which she mostly ignored or gave vague answers. So, we impatiently waited.
Finally, she came out of the store with all her bags, and had tears streaming down her face. She promptly told me that somebody had stolen my wallet and taken all of my money. At first I thought she must be joking because she was holding the wallet and all of her merchandise, but it would seem that some opportunist had used the packed store to their advantage, and pick pocketed the wallet while she was shopping. It wasn’t until she got to the counter to pay that she noticed it was gone. She swiftly went to search the floor of the store where she’d been hoping that it had just fallen out. After frantically searching for what seemed like forever she miraculously found the wallet sitting on a shelf of an aisle that she had not been down.
Fortunately, I guess, all the cards, licenses, etc. were still there, but every bit of cash, including some Chinese bills that I was waiting to exchange, had been swiped. All in all, they got away with about $350USD. At least they were courteous enough not to take the wallet and cards with them; that’s right, I just referred to my thief as courteous!
Getting pick pocketed in Japan is supposed to be extremely rare. Japan is well known for being a remarkably safe place where things like this are so rare it is nonexistent. The thing to remember is that Tokyo is also the most populated city in the world, and one of the top 10 cities in the world for tourists. While the Japanese may not frequently pick pocket you can’t say that for everywhere else in the world. The vast number of people and tourists from every walk of life packed into downtown Tokyo creates a certain recipe. My guess is that somebody saw us exchange the wallet outside and followed her in. It was a complete violation, but honestly, it could have been a lot lot worse.
In all of our travels, we have only had something like this happen once. Read about how we became victims of credit card theft in St Maarten without even knowing it.
This experience definitely falls in the #stinkydiaper category.
Lessons learned from getting pick pocketed in Japan:
- For several years we have always carried our passports with us, under a shirt in a neck pouch. After this experience we realized that just one card need to go in there as well.
- We have since purchased another neck passport holder which also blocks RFID, along with two very small RFID blocking wallets that we can keep in our front pocket. We will keep one credit card in there with our cash. That way if we do get mugged or pick pocketed we will only have to cancel that one card and won’t be left stranded.
- The reason for two neck pouches is because we now have five passports, and it gets pretty thick and bulky. We will keep copies in each so we can be as prepared as possible if the worse were to happen.
- We also have digital copies of our passports in our email, and google drives.
► For Kids: Downtown Tokyo is a unique and exciting place. While Don Quijote is not a place I’d recommend bringing your kids into, the Shinjuku district is bustling and lively with lights that fill the air.
Keep a tight grip on their little hands, and it’ll be a great experience.
Make sure to check out the Godzilla peeking over the movie theater.
Have you ever been pick pocketed in Japan, in any other foreign country, or even at home? We want to hear about it!
► Nap Time version: Pick pocketed in Japan at the Don Quijote Shinjuku East. They took the cash but left the wallet with all the cards and ID’s resting on a shelf.
Have fun out there travelers! But also, be careful.