(Hell) Raising Teenagers in Asia

Warning- Graphic Images, not to be read while eating. Don`t say I didn`t warn you.

One day last spring I was walking with several thousand of my closest Japanese neighbors through Yoyogi park in central Tokyo. Just enjoying the day while the Japanese twentysomethings played chase, hopscotch and jump rope while I took clandestine pictures with my hat cam. My contemplation of how I would fare in a game of chase at any age beyond 7 was interrupted when a police car screeched to a stop in front of me and emptied four policeman on to the pavement- billy clubs pointed in my direction. Running toward me and my thousand or so friends, they grabbed a foreign guy a few feet from me (to my great relief- I was afraid an informant blew the whistle on my accidental bike stealing- read here) and commenced to deliver a butt kicking like I`ve only seen on the news. I don`t recall them asking for ID or confirming his name. No words were exchanged. None of the pedestrians  stopped to watch, no one took pictures, everyone just rerouted their path around the scene as if a delicate flower bed had just emerged from the ground.

We`re not in Kansas anymore.

I went home, pulled two teenagers out of bed without explanation, and assaulted them with an uninvited lecture. In Asia, there are no “3 strikes your out” laws- you`re just out. In some locations, literally.

Got Weed? Get Out.

That summarizes the Japanese stance on drug use. A minor caught with pot gets a mandatory 30 days in jail during which time the parents, or the appropriate embassy, may or may not get informed of Junior`s spend the night plans. Unless the Japanese penal system employs a family member with a fully loaded key ring, Junior`s not seeing anyone for a while including a lawyer. Assuming Junior got caught with a microscopic stash, once released he goes directly to the airport for deportation. Junior`s family will then find out of his fate when they receive a surprise trip to the airport for an immediate deporture – I mean departure.

While in Malaysia, the tour company was baffled at why I turned in to a screaming banshee when I discovered our luggage had been sitting unattended outside a hotel for several hours. It was due to the line on the customs declaration which read, “Drug Traffickers will be hanged.”

In Malaysia I couldn`t understand why everyone wanted to buy cigarettes from the street hawkers. My guess is those don`t have picture warnings regarding the risks of smoking:

Who wants to look at that while enjoying a smoke with your morning cup of coffee? Certainly leaves more of an impact than the fine print conveying a similar message.

When moving to Singapore, my friends skipped the teenager sales pitch going directly to the “Don`t carry anything for anyone at anytime- including a back pack.” People caught with illicit drugs are promptly caned.


Jail in Japan is rather dull. A daily head check while everyone sits in seiza position followed by a full day of solitary reflection. Folks who demand tv, internet service, or daily work outs in the facility gym are treated instead with an opportunity for more intensive reflection conducted in the seiza position while a guard ensures appropriate posture is maintained.

Seiza Position- Image Source Wikipedia

After 5 minutes in the seiza position, most mortals would prefer  jumping in a tank of circling sharks for relief from the pain. I`ve attended Japanese tea ceremonies where the participants sit in the seiza position for hours. Andretti-san had to carry me out with a feeble explanation that I suffered from something – oh not contagious and no not rabies-which caused me to froth at the mouth. It took my legs 3 days to return to normal. In my mind, this is a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why Japanese guards are able to maintain such control over their inmates. Before Offspring #1 goes to parties, Spouse and I make him sit in the seiza position for several minutes prior to leaving lest he decide the reward is worth the risk by succumbing to peer pressure.

The only Hell raising the Clampitt teenagers will be doing better be a result of drinking too many liquid sugars at Starbucks or the Japanese authorities will be the least of their worries…

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27 Responses to (Hell) Raising Teenagers in Asia

  1. Tar-Buns says:

    OMG! I remember my ‘Welcome to Japan Orientation’ where we were strongly exhorted NOT to bring any drugs with because of the penalties.
    I recall when (Sir) Paul McCartney was arrested and asked to leave for having some weed when they entered Japan for a concert, oh, back in the 1980s or so. They are serious about no drugs!
    Hopefully your teens won’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time.


    • I don`t know if any other media source reported this but when Katy Perry came to do concerts in Japan and brought her then husband Russell Brand, Japanese authorities wouldn`t let him in due to his previous drug history.


  2. Ashmore says:

    Thank you ever so much for the info on the seiza position…I am forwarding to the dorm head at D’s school. They are always looking for new forms of torture, um, I mean punishment. D is in Nicaragua visiting friends this week, and I made him watch 5 episodes of “Locked Up Abroad” before he left. Much like Spouse in Japan, a 6’5″ blonde kid in Managua just screams “I’m American and will be flying back home through Miami, please feel free to use the zipper pocket in my carry-on for all your contraband.”


    • I really wish I knew about the seiza position during the kids time out phase. It would`ve been more effective.

      When I was part of the working world I as supposed to go to a very dangerous place in the world. We were trained by the FBI on driving a car from the passenger seat if our driver was shot, all the tricks to get away from an assailant etc. What struck me is just how STUPID we can be- like- don`t put your name on your luggage- just your initials and a phone number. Bad guys use it all the time to trick you, follow you, go to your house, find you in a hotel. etc.

      As a side note, I think your boy is too large to be taken anywhere unnoticed!!!


  3. Ann says:

    LOL! Love it! I will have to have my Offspring #1 “assume the position” before he goes out from now on! Miss you!


  4. Pingback: Systema (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Getting Hit in the Face) « Jaredwindover's Blog

  5. Elsie says:

    its so scary!!


  6. Judy says:

    There used to be a sign in Cairo airport (maybe it’s still there) just before you arrived at passport control which said (approximately) “The penalty for drug trafficking is death.” A sobering welcome I must say which always tempted me to drop my bags and run for fear my stash of varied migraine medication might be misunderstood.


  7. Our cigarettes packs have gruesome photos in the back. Does that stop me from buying one? No, I just cover up the awful photo with something. Japan sure seems strict, but I suppose it must work from deterring people about drugs, which can’t be a bad thing.


  8. And by the way, during my smoking days- I had no deterent. Pictures would not have stopped me either!


  9. Oh, yes, I remember that incident of bicylce theft! Criminality runs in the DNA, you know? You’re doomed! LOL


  10. Just in case – you’ll need to do a full pat-down of your kids every time they leave the house and when they return home. Or adopt a drug sniffing dog.


  11. By the way, I nominated you for a One Lovely Blog Award. I just think you’re such an interesting blogger! http://littlewonder2.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/one-lovely-blog-award-nominee/


  12. Dana says:

    That’s pretty scary, Emily. Gives the “just say no!” mantra a little more weight when your neck and/or life are at stake.

    By the way, Canada has a ton of graphic photos on our cigarette packages, too. Blackened lungs, plaque build-up in the body, etc. I don’t think they deter anybody except the already non-smokers. 😉


  13. genn says:

    Oh Emily, Singapore does more than caning for carrying in illicit drugs. Too much of it (which is not very much) and one will also receive a mandatory death sentence.


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