Losing something important while holidaying or living in a foreign country can be a stressful experience. Add in a language barrier and you have a recipe for a headache. Today we are going to look at what your options are if you lose something valuable, from goods like a phone, to more scary things like your residence card.

Lost property in Japan

The good news is that with Japans low crime rate and communal nature, lost items are far less likely to become stolen items. The small police stations, known as koban, found on many street corners act as lost property stations. This means your lost item has a high chance of being turned in near to where you lost it, and that is very convent indeed!

With all this in mind, your best bet and first stop should be the closest koban to where you lost your valuables. If someone has been kind enough to pick it up and turn it in, you will simply need to describe the item. The officer will then check if they have something matching that description. You will then need to sign off and leave some details, so make sure you have an ID of some form. When making such a request at the koban, the Japanese word is “wasuremono” (忘れ物). Throwing that word out there will get you on the right track to finding your lost item.

Japanese koban buildling
The Japanese system of small community based police stations known as “koban”

A convenient search page for all the kobans in the Tokyo metropolitan area can be found here [Japanese]. However it is only available in Japanese, so alternatively a search in Google maps is usually completely accurate. There is also a link where you can search through lost property online, however it too is only available in Japanese.

If on the other hand your item has not been turned in, you can choose to file a missing item report. Naturally they will not search for it, but if something does later get turned in matching the description, they will contact you. The form is available in English, and you can download it from the link here (for the Tokyo metropolitan region).

Japanese taxi
Taxi companies in Japan handle lost property to high standards.

Finally, taxi, train and bus companies are also very good with lost property in Japan. With the bus taxi it’s just a simple matter of visiting or calling them up and telling them the time and route you were on. With a taxi you will probably need your receipt, so try to get into the habit of grabbing one! Having your train ticket can also help you identify the time and line you rode.

Train stations have dedicated lost property offices, and the process is similar to the police. If you lost something on the train or in the train station, this is a better first stop than the local koban.

Most trains stations have a dedicated lost property.

What to do if you lose your residence card

If you lose your residence card the first thing you should do is file a lost property report at the koban. The reason is twofold. One, you might get it back, and two, you are legally required to carry your residence card at all times in Japan. Filing this report will therefore make you legally safe until it’s found or you get a replacement.
If you lose your Residence Card, you must re-apply for a new card at the Immigration Bureau within 14 days. The punishment for not having a residence card is harsh, so it should be a priority. When applying for a new card, bring the recipe of the report you filed at the police station, so you don’t have to explain it all over again.

FAQ on lost property in Japan

Can I contact lost property counters in English?

Some private companies can accommodate English, but it is rarely an official policy. If you are not confident with your Japanese, either go in person or get a friend to help you with inquiries.

How long will my lost property be held?

Police will generally hold lost property for three months. Trains, taxis and so forth vary be the company and type of item, but generally after a few days they will send it to the police.

My item has been found, but I am no longer near that city. Do I have to go back?

Fortunately, most lost and found services will allow the item to be sent via collect on delivery. Some services require in person identification however, so your best course of action is to give them a call and ask.

I don’t speak any Japanese. Will the police understand me?

The paperwork exists in English and is standardized, so even if the officer does not speak English, they can help you fill in the form. The hardest part will be getting the process started. Here is some Japanese you can use to let the officer know why you have come in.

English Phonetic Japanese
I have lost my ____ _____ wo na ku shi ma shi ta ____ を、なくしました。
Please give me a certificate I shi tsu bu tsu to do ke ju ri sho mei sho wo ku dasai 遺失物届受理証明書いしつぶつとどけ じゅり しょうめいしょをください。

Losing things is always a nuisance, but at least in Japan the excellent systems in place make getting your item back much more likely. Crime is low, so even expensive things like phones or laptops have a high chance of being turned in to lost property. Don’t write off your loss! Contact the appropriate lost property center, and you have a good chance of getting it back. If you lose your residence card, make it your top priority to file a report and start the procedures to getting a new one. I hope this information will help you, mishaps happen but we can be prepared.