David Gardner, Daily Mail (London), August 17, 2011
Japanese citizens have shown incredible honesty in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that brought the country to its knees.
It emerged yesterday that the Japanese returned almost $78million in cash found in the quake rubble.
In the five months since the disaster struck, people have turned in thousands of wallets and purses found in the debris, containing nearly $30 million in cash.
More than 5,700 safes that washed ashore along the coastline have also been hauled to police stations by volunteers and rescue crews.
Inside the safes officials found about $30million in cash. In one safe alone, there was the equivalent of $1,000,000.
Other contained gold bars, antiques and other valuables.
Japan’s National Police Agency said nearly all the money found in the areas worst hit by the tsunami has been returned to its owners.
Most people kept bankbooks or land rights documents with their names and addresses in their safes.
At one point, there were so many safes handed in to police that they had difficulty finding room to store them.
Even now, Koetsu Saiki, of the Miyagi Prefectural Police, said a handful of safes are handed in every week.
It is not unusual for the Japanese to keep large amounts of money at home and at offices, particularly in the coastal regions where fisheries companies prefer to deal with cash transactions.
From early April to late July, Ofunato Police Station hired three safe specialists to help open the safes it had recovered.
‘In most cases, the keyholes on these safes were filled with mud,” said Mr Saiki.
‘We had to start by cutting apart the metal doors with grinders and other tools.
‘The fact that these safes were washed away, meant the homes were washed away too.
‘We had to first determine if the owners were alive, then find where they had evacuated to.’
‘There must be some safes that were stolen after the quake.
‘But the fact that a hefty 2.3 billion yen in cash has been returned to its owners shows the high level of ethical awareness in the Japanese people,’ said Ryuji Ito, professor emeritus at Yokohama City University.