Kōban 交番, Japanese neighborhood police box

koban Japanese naighborhood police box

In Japan, the Kōban, or neighborhood police box, is a ubiquitous feature of the urban landscape. These small police stations, typically staffed by one or two officers, play a critical role in maintaining community safety and order. They serve as a point of contact for residents and visitors, provide information and assistance, and work closely with other local authorities to prevent crime and respond to emergencies.


Lost & Found

One of the most important functions of the Kōban is managing lost and found items within their respective neighborhoods. When someone finds a lost item, they typically bring it to the nearest Kōban, where it is registered in a database and stored in a secure location. If someone reports a lost item, the Kōban officer will check the database and try to match the item with the owner. If the owner is identified, the Kōban officer will contact them to arrange for the return of the item.

The main role of Koban

The lost and found role of Kōban is just one example of their commitment to public service. They also provide a range of other services related to public safety and crime prevention. Kōban officers (aka Omawari-san) patrol their assigned neighborhoods on foot or on bicycle, providing a visible presence and deterring criminal activity. They also provide information and assistance to residents and visitors, such as directions, transportation schedules, and emergency services.

In addition, Koban officers work closely with other local authorities to maintain a safe and secure community. They collaborate with schools, businesses, and community organizations to develop and implement crime prevention programs and provide support during emergencies or natural disasters.

Who are the Omawari-san?

Kēsatsu 警察 means police in Japanese and Kēsatsukan 警察官 is the Japanese word for police officers. On the other hand, “Omawarisan お巡りさん” is a friendly term for police officers who work at police boxes or police stations. Mawaru means to go around or patrol, and “o” is a prefix for politeness.

Omawari-san     Source: https://www.keishicho.metro.tokyo.lg.jp/saiyo/2022/type/community.html

The Koban is a unique feature of Japanese society, reflecting the country’s strong emphasis on community and public safety. Their lost and found role is just one example of the many important functions they serve, and their commitment to public service is deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of Japan. If you ever find yourself lost or in need of assistance in a Japanese city or town, look for the nearest Koban, where you can find help and support from dedicated and knowledgeable officers.

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