Just how honest are the Japanese?

A woman's purse is seen amongst the rubble on March 21, 2011 in Motoyoshi, Japan.
Credit: Chris McGrath

In the five months since the tsunami struck Japan, people have returned $78 million in missing cash and valuables that they found amid the rubble, police said.

Thousands of missing wallets containing a total of $48 million in cash were turned in, as well as nearly 6,000 safes containing another $30 million.

According to ABC:

The National Police Agency says nearly all the valuables found in the three hardest hit prefectures, have been returned to their owners.

"In most cases, the keyholes on these safes were filled with mud," said Koetsu Saiki with the Miyagi Prefectural Police. "We had to start by cutting apart the metal doors with grinders and other tools."

The number of lost items recovered has declined with every month, but Saiki says his department continues to receive a handful of safes every week.

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There were a lot of awkward if accurate characterizations of Japanese culture in the wake of the tsunami. "Polite" and "disciplined" were words often used to describe the Japanese population in the absence of widespread looting.

As GOOD references in its post on the matter, Slate had a piece about how the absence of looting in Japan was due to more than a cultural norm.

The Japanese may very well be more honest than most, Christopher Beam writes, but they also benefit from legal incentives to be honest:

For example, if you find an umbrella and turn it in to the cops, you get a finder's fee of 5 to 20 percent of its value if the owner picks it up. If they don't pick it up within six months, the finder gets to keep the umbrella.

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