Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I remember back in the eighties when the Japan that used to be was rolling in wealth and the government gave back to each township in Japan a tax rebate of ichi oku en (a million dollars or so, whatever the exchange rate was back then) to do with as they wished. The towns used the windfall in various ways: to build new facilities, augment their schools, spruce up the parks and what not; one town however, apparently with no further need for practical amenities, had a solid gold carp made and put on prominent display in a 'theft-proof' showcase in an unguarded town building.

Not too long after, needless to say to any expat from New York, somebody smashed the showcase with a hammer and made off with the golden carp and you can't trace gold, so it was never recovered and the thieves were never caught. At the time, it was such a prominent story that I figured its like would never occur again. However, I underestimated the old Japanese public safety mindset.

Turns out that the Ohashi Collection Kan museum in Takayama, in central Japan, was displaying a 100 kilo block of gold (225 lbs., worth about 2 million dollars) that, being so dense and heavy, was left publicly accessible so that visitors could actually touch it (mindset: now who in Japan would stoop so low as to try to steal 100 kilos of someone else's gold, that the general public enjoys so much?). In keeping with this naivete, the gold was also unguarded and unsecured. Doubly needless to say, on Sunday three thieves walked in and carted the block off into history.

There's a lesson in there somewhere, that's about as old as ownership. Wonder how those museum folks missed it.


Maya's Granny said...

During the winter, in the Alaskan interior, if you don't have a place to plug in the various heating thingies you have installed in your car, you go out and turn it on every couple of hours so the engine doesn't freeze. You go back to your office and let it run for at least 15 minutes, doors unlocked, and then go turn it off.

But even there, one would hesitate to just leave that much gold laying about.

Robert Brady said...

I imagine that gold was sitting there in the open for quite a few years!