Quirky Japanese Kōban, or Police Boxes

Chiba, Owl Koban (Police Box)

I have a lot of photos from Japan, but this owl-shaped building in Chiba city may be the token entry for kōban (交番) neighborhood police stations.  On second thought, that might be too generous – and incorrect – a term for them, so let’s call them police boxes or capsules.

You know, there may be good subliminal reason for the lack of koban pictures– 1) every time I’ve tried to ask someone for Tokyo tourist help, the response was あそこに聞いてみて下さい (asoko ni kiite mite kudasai), or “please ask over there,” and 2) when was I ever really in trouble?  OK, maybe that one time.  In spite of this, kōban have good local maps, a particular joy for an amateur cartographer like myself.

When were kōban first established?  Possibly in the late 1800s, with inspiration possibly drawn from Prussia and other Central European powers.  Furthermore, there’s a good chance that the word kōban is a jumble of the two words 交替 kōtai, meaning in rotation, and 立番 tachiban, or standing watch.  But it’s Japan, so someone was probably just flipping through a book, and consequently had an epiphany.

Have you ever walked into a kōban, and then left with more optimism?


This entry was posted in Architecture, East & Southeast Asia, Japan, Languages and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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