Koban – What to do at a police station in Japan?

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Koban (交番) are the small and famous police stations in Japan. The word koban can also refer to a small police unit. There are over 6,000 police stations spread across Japan.

In these small urban posts, few police officers work, who act preventively, advising and helping the local community. Koban are very useful and you can turn to them if:

  • Lost or found any item of value
  • Was robbed or threatened
  • tried to molest you
  • Borrow money..;
  • use a phone
  • When having an accident
  • Find maps and directions

That's right, if you have been robbed or lost your wallet, you can ask a koban for help, they will analyze your case and even lend you money to return home.

Police stations are often located near stations, banks and entertainment areas. They are built in strategic locations to deter criminal activity as well as provide community support. Most of the time koban are used to ask for information, find street addresses and report a loss.

Koban

Curiosities about the koban

A koban can be found in almost every neighborhood, in Tokyo alone there are over 1200 police stations, unfortunately not all of them are open 24 hours a day, but in a large number of koban you may be able to find at least one officer. Another curiosity is that most police stations in Japan have unique architectures, and are modeled to match the neighborhood or city.

In street areas, instead of koban, there are chuzaisho (駐在所) which are residences that have the same objective, but only an officer and his family live.

Each koban is usually made up of a group of 4 police officers – 3 officers under the command of a sergeant working in 3 8-hour shifts under the control of the area. Most of the times it is young and old that make up a police station.

Koban

Police stations typically have a red light or a pair of red lights above the doors, plus a five-pointed gold star. Officers also often have this five-pointed gold star on their shoulder on their uniform.

Communicating in a Koban

If you do not want to go to a police station, you can call 110 (for emergencies) and 9110 (non-emergencies). Below we will leave some phrases and information items that will help you to get by if you need to communicate in a koban:

最寄りの交番はどこにありますか?
Moyori no kōban wa doko ni arimasu ka?
Where is the nearest police station?

秋葉原 の 行き方 を 教えてください
Akihabara no ikikata or oshietekudasai
Please give me instructions on how to go to akihabara.

パスポートを落としてしまいました
Pasupōto wo otoshite shimaimashita
I left my passport somewhere.

鞄 を 盗まれ ました
Kaban wo nusuma remashita
My bag was stolen

痴漢 に 会いました
chikan ni aimashita
I found a pervert

電話 を 貸してください
Denwa wo kashite kudasai
Please can I use the phone? (enterprise me).

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