Japan is one of the greatest place to find a lost item, as most lost items will get back to their original owner.
This page will explain in great detail you what to do in case you lost or found an item. You will also find additional information in case you lost your phone or important identification documents.
- What to do BEFORE you call or visit
- I lost an item, what should I do?
- What is the process to get my item(s) back?
- I found a lost item, what should I do?
- What if there is nobody in the police box?
- What NOT to do when finding an item
- I got robbed
- Can I let someone else pick up the items?
- What if I am unable to pick up the items?
- I lost important documents right before my flight back, what should I do?
- I noticed I lost items after arriving in my home country, what should I do?
- I have been contacted by the police / phone provider / other about a lost item, is this normal?
What to do BEFORE you call or visit
Make sure you can describe your lost item(s) as detailed as possible. Here is a small list of things to help you.
- When did you lose your item (date and time)?
- Where did you lose it? (e.g. in the train going from XXX station to YYY station)
- What is your item exactly? Color, brand, size, eventual marks? (e.g. red iPhone 7, with a floral pattern case. There is also big dent on the lower left corner. It is locked, with a Tokyo Tower wallpaper.)
- Other characteristics
If you decide to go directly instead of calling, you should also have a valid piece of identification with you. As a tourist, this is your passport. If you are a resident, they will ask for your resident card, or your eventual driver’s license.
I lost an item, what should I do?
If you lost your item moments ago, try to backtrack your steps and find your item. If you still cannot find it, try to contact the last place(s) you went where you might have lost your item.
In case your item is nowhere to be found, go to a police box called koban, and file in a police report. They will contact you back if or when they find your item.
I lost my phone, but the power has been turned off
Because your phone has its power tuned off doesn’t mean it has been stolen. In case you lost your phone on a public place, especially on public transports, as a rule, the first thing they will do is to shut off your phone.
You should try to contact the place(s) you think you’ve lost your phone first, and if it’s not there try to contact the police.
I lost my passport / other important documents
The most important thing is to take a copy of your important documents and leave them at your place of stay in case you lose them in case you lose them. If you lost important documents, you should do the following:
As a tourist
The first thing you have to do is to report the loss to a local police station. Once you have the report, you should contact your embassy immediately to ask for more information.
Click here for the official list of foreign missions in Japan.
As a resident
You will also have to report the loss to a local police station as a resident first. If you lost your passport, contact your embassy (LINK) and ask for further assistance.
In case you lost your residence card (zairyu card), you will have to go to your local ward to request a new card. You should do that within a period of 14 days, or you could be faced with a penalty of up to 200,000 JPY.
What is the process to get my item(s) back?
The process will depend on if you get your item(s) back at the police station, a public place, or if you asked to send your items back.
Get items back at a public place
Once you can confirm which item(s) you’ve lost, you will need to bring a piece of identification. If you are a tourist, the only valid piece of identification while in Japan is your passport. They will write down your name, passport number, and sometimes also your address before giving your item(s) back.
In case you are a resident, your residence card or eventual driver’s license should do. Again, they will write down your name, address and ask for a phone number.
Some places, such as the Japan Railways Company (JR) offers to send your item(s) back by postal service (postal fees to be paid at arrival). Depending on the item and circumstances, they might not offer this service and ask you to come and get your item yourself.
Get items back at the police station
Again, you will need to take a piece of identification with you when going to the police station. They might ask you once again about the characteristics of your lost items before taking your information.
I found a lost item, what should I do?
Lost item found in a public place
If you found a lost item in a public place, such as a train station, museum, or shop, you should give it to a staff member, explaining that the item was lost. In most cases they will hold onto the item for at least one day before going to the police.
Public transport institutions will usually hold onto the item for about one week before they deposit the item at a police station.
Lost item found on the street
If you find an item on the road, you should go to a police box called koban. A police box in Japan is like a small police station. All police boxes have a golden symbol that looks like a star as shown in the picture, making it easy to identify. Most police boxes also have a red light, and some also have “KOBAN” or “POLICE” written on them.
What if there is nobody in the police box?
Sometimes, a police box can be empty, but that shouldn’t deter you from going inside. Once inside, you will find a telephone with a number to call if nobody is there. This will connect you to the central, where a person will assist you. A police officer will usually come within a few minutes, sometimes longer, depending on the area and the time of the day.
What NOT to do when finding an item
It goes without saying that you should NEVER keep the item for yourself. Apart from that, and in order to avoid any trouble, you should not attempt to give an item back to someone yourself. The only exception being if you see someone drop an item in front of you, of course.
Even if you find a wallet with an address, or a cellphone without password protection, ALWAYS give the item to a staff member, or bring it to the police yourself.
Even if you call someone, they might tell you to just bring their phone to the closest police box.
I got robbed
If you got robbed, contact the police directly, and file a theft report.
Can I let someone else pick up the items?
Yes! All you need is a letter of authorization from the owner, stating they allow you to pick up the item. A family member who lives with the owner can pick up items without writing authorization, with the exception of mobile phones. However, it is always best to get a written letter anyway, just in case.
What if I am unable to pick up the items?
If you are unable to pick up your items, you can ask to send them by mail. They will send it to your address after you have sent the necessary identification documents, but you will have to pay for the shipment fees at arrival.
Most places, whether it is a police or train station will only send items within Japan.
I lost important documents right before my flight back, what should I do?
If you lost any form of identification, the police stations will usually send those to the appropriate embassy. The best thing to do is to contact the place where you think you’ve lost your documents, or directly to the police station. After that, you should contact your embassy within Japan.
Click here to see the official list for all the foreign missions in Japan.
In case your flight is soon, and you are uncertain whether you will have your documents back or not, it is recommended to also contact your airline to ask what your options are concerning your plane tickets.
I noticed I lost items after arriving in my home country, what should I do?
If you have a vague idea where you forgot your item(s), try to contact that place, either by phone (I strongly recommend to use a program such as Skype for international calls, as this will be a lot cheaper than a cell phone or land line), or by email. Most places such as police or train stations will not ship overseas. You could ask to send your item to someone you know within Japan, who would then send it back to you.
Another option would be to contact your embassy to ask if they could help to retrieve and send your item(s) back. Click here for a complete list of all the foreign missions in Japan.
If you lost your items at the airport, or within the airplane, try to contact said airport or airplane company. Airlines usually provide services to send your items back, even from overseas.
I have been contacted by the police / phone provider / other about a lost item, is this normal?
Yes. The police may contact you if they have enough evidence that the item is yours. You might also get contacted by your cell phone provider or card issuer for a lost credit or bank card. They will give you a report number and tell you in which police station keeps your item.
Make sure to take the necessary identification documents, the report number they gave you, as well as check the service hours before you go.