Getting locked out in Japan!

After a long 3 hour car ride that should have been 2 from the Nomaoi Horse festival in Minami Soma (相馬野馬追い) , I arrived at my front door, and realized I had not seen my keys in the last 24 hours, and had no idea where they were. The possibilities were that I may have left them in my bike lock at the bus terminal where I had parked my mama-chari, which I have done several times when I park my bike at school. If they were there, that would really make my day, but I considered how reckless it was for me to leave my keys in such a a public place. I would have been smarter than to leave my keys, so the other possibility was that I’d put them in my pockets, and they had slipped out on the bus, or one of the 3 houses I was at this weekend.

I figured I’d call the bus company after checking with my friends, but in the meantime, I needed to get into my house where my spare keys were. My building is managed by a property company, Apaman Shop, but I didn’t have their support number. I called up an awesome friend who works for the city’s international association, and he had it on him! Knowing that he with the foreigners in the city, I definitely called the right person. After telling them my story and answering their strange questions (“Does you turn your key once to open the lock? Does your door have a peephole? Do have identification to prove that you live there?”), I waited for a return call. When they called back, they said the locksmiths would come by in 2 and half hours…


I called up a friend to kill some time, and we walked about 45 minutes to her house since none of the cafes were open past 9. When I got back to my house, the locksmiths came right on time, and got to work right away.

Picking the lock didn’t work. Something about tumblers and old locks. The keyhole would turn, but the tumblers wouldn’t. The guys seemed to have experienced this before, as they went straight to the next step: punching out the peephole. This meant replacing it with a new peephole, and 3240 yen on me. About $30 to replace a peephole seemed like a lot to me, but I wanted to get in, and I’ve had locksmiths charge me $50, so this seemed like a deal.

After checking with the property manager, they removed the peephole, and stuck a 90 degree crank thing through the peephole, with the intention to turn the lock. What ended up happening was the crank got caught on the frickin chain, and they couldn’t get it loose. It was a really sad sight to see. After about 5 minutes, they gave up, and eyed the bars on my bathroom window. My friend had joked that if the locksmiths didn’t come, I could always remove the bars on my bathroom window to get in.

My friends need to stop joking about last resorts! I ended up in Fukushima, and now I have to get in through my bathroom window!

At this point, they had already been making a bit of noise trying loosen the crank from the chain, and now taking apart the bars on the window. I could hear my neighbors start to get anxious and I could hear their worried voices from their home. The mom finally popped her head out to see what was going on, and she was finally reassured that I was getting help getting into my own house. After seeing our troubles, she came out with cans of coffee for us all. Phew! My neighbor isn’t one of the most friendliest, so I’m glad she was understanding of the silly foreigner girl who doesn’t wear make-up and who loses her keys, so it’s not unusual that she can’t take care of herself! I gave her a couple of Trader Joe’s low fat super-sweet pumpkin cereal bars in return.

Once the guys got the bars loose, I told them I would get in, and one of them offered his back as a booster. Oh man.

The rest is history, but what an ordeal!!

The worst thing is, they had driven all the way from Sendai in the next prefecture, probably the HQ, which is why it took 2.5 hours. At late hours, the branch offices aren’t open, so the property managers have to call the main office. Sometimes they’ve had to go as far as Aomori prefecture, at which they’d explain that they wouldn’t be able to get there until the next day even if they leave right away, and the property managers would insist anyway, with merely an “Onegai shimasu.”

Anyway, my keys actually did fall out when I was napping at one of my friend’s places. I am one lucky cat, but I don’t know how many lives I have left.


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