Japanese Essentials: How to Find a Lost Item in Japan

Between the rush hour and hopping off train stations, it can be easy to lose an item in Japan if we’re not paying attention. Thankfully, pickpockets and thefts in Japan are almost unheard of, so if you lose something in Japan, chances are you just forgot and misplaced it. Still, losing an item can be a stressful and frustrating experience, especially if you’re in a foreign country. Whether you’ve misplaced your phone or your luggage, this article will guide you through the process of finding your lost item in Japan.

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Understanding Japan’s Lost and Found System

Japan’s lost and found system is well-established and widespread. You can find lost and found centers in public facilities, train stations, airports, and police stations. The country’s lost and found system is so efficient that there’s a recovery rate of over 80% for lost items.

But how did Japan develop such a comprehensive system? The answer lies in the country’s culture and values. In Japan, there’s a strong emphasis on honesty and integrity, and returning lost items is seen as a moral obligation. This cultural mindset is reflected in the country’s laws, which require citizens to report lost items to the police and make an effort to return them to their rightful owners.

The Role of the Police in Lost and Found

In Japan, the police play an essential role in handling lost and found items. If you lose an item, the first step is to report to the nearest police station. The National Police Agency even has an English guide on what to do when you lose an item in Japan!

But did you know that the police also actively search for lost items? They regularly patrol public areas and transport hubs, looking for items that may have been misplaced or forgotten. This proactive approach helps to ensure that lost items are quickly found and returned to their owners.

Lost and Found Centers in Train Stations and Public Facilities

If you lose an item on a train, bus, or at a public facility, you can check with the nearest lost and found center. Japan Railways (JR) has a comprehensive lost and found system with branches throughout Japan.

Public facilities such as museums and theme parks also have their own lost and found centers. In some cases, these centers may hold onto lost items for an extended period, in case the owner returns to claim them.

Keep in mind that these facilities might keep hold of your item for a period of time before they hand it to the police. For example, the Tokyo Metro will only keep a lost item for 3-4 days before over to the Metropolitan Police Lost & Found Center located near Iidabashi Station.

Lost and Found in Taxis and Buses

If you lose an item on a taxi or bus, your chances of retrieval are still high. Taxi companies and bus operators have their own lost and found systems and may keep the item in their offices or garages. But did you know that some taxi companies go above and beyond to help customers retrieve their lost items?

For example, the Tokyo-based taxi company, Nihon Kotsu, has a dedicated lost and found center that’s open 24/7. Customers can call the center at any time to report a lost item, and the company will do everything it can to retrieve the item and return it to the owner.

In conclusion, Japan’s lost and found system is a testament to the country’s culture and values. The system’s efficiency and effectiveness are a result of the police’s proactive approach, advanced technology, and the dedication of lost and found centers and transportation companies. If you ever lose an item in Japan, you can rest assured that there’s a good chance it will be found and returned to you.

Steps to Take When You Lose an Item in Japan

Japan is a country that is known for its honesty and efficiency, and this is reflected in its lost and found system. If you happen to lose something in Japan, there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of finding it.

Retrace Your Steps

The first thing you should do when you realize you’ve lost something is to retrace your steps. Think about where you last had the item and go back to that location. Check with the places you visited to see if anyone has found your lost item. If you don’t find your item, you may come across someone who saw or picked it up.

For example, if you lost your wallet while shopping at a department store, go back to the store and ask at the customer service desk if anyone has turned it in. You should also check the aisles where you were shopping and ask the staff if they have seen anything.

Contact Nearby Establishments

If you lose an item in a public area, it’s worth asking any nearby establishments if they’ve found it. This includes convenience stores, restaurants, and shops. If someone picked up your item, they might turn it into the nearest establishment. Leave your contact information with them and ask them to call you in case they find your item.

For example, if you lost your phone while walking in a park, you could ask the nearby convenience store if anyone has turned it in. You could also ask the park staff if they have seen anything.

File a Lost Item Report at the Police Station

If you can’t find your item, report it to the nearest police station. You’ll need to provide a detailed description of the item and the circumstances of where and when you lost it. The police will give you a lost item report number, which you can use to check back on the status of your item.

For example, if you lost your passport while traveling on a train, you should go to the nearest police station and file a report. They will ask you for details such as the train number, the time of day, and a description of your passport. They will then give you a lost item report number.

The station in which the item was found will hold your item for around 1-2 weeks. During this time, the train employee will register the lost item in their internal database. There may be a lag between the discovery and the registration, so if you inquire at the station too soon, they might ask you to wait some more time and inquire again.

The policy, of course, varies between train companies. For Tokyo Metro, for example, all the lost and found items are stored in Iidabashi Station for 3-4 days before the unclaimed property is turned over to the Metropolitan Police Lost & Found Center located near Iidabashi Station.

Reporting a Lost Property in Japan to Police

If you’ve retraced your steps and still find that none of the store clerks or train stations had your lost property, it’s probably best to report it to the authorities. You can do this by going to the nearest koban (police box) or lost and found center. In Japanese, you can say “wasuremono o nakushita” (忘れ物をなくした) which means “I lost something”. Be sure to provide a detailed description of the lost item and the location where you last saw it.

You’ll need to be as specific as possible on where and when you lost it because it’ll help the police cross-reference the time and place where the lost property was found. It’s also helpful to mention any distinctive details of the lost property, like the color, shape, and any decorations or characteristics that will help the police speed up the process.

Keep in mind that all lost items stored by the police will only be stored for 3 months, and they can’t be returned beyond that period.

Vocabulary for Lost Items in Japan

While police and store staff would try to accommodate you as much as possible if you have limited Japanese speaking ability, it’s still good to know some common items in Japanese to make sure nothing gets lost in translation. Here are 20 common items that people might lose in Japan, along with some useful vocabulary to describe them:

Sure, here are 20 common items that people might lose in Japan, along with some useful vocabulary to describe them:


When you want to describe them, you can use adjectives such as:


You can also look at our guide here to learn how to describe size, length, width, and depth in Japanese

What to Say When You Lose an Item in Japan

Here’s an example of a dialogue between you and the police when you’re looking for an item in Japan.

You: すみません。先日、財布を失くしてしまって、紛失届を出したいのですが。
Sumimasen. Senjitsu saifu o nakushite shimatte, funshitsu-todoke o dashitai no desu ga.
Hello. I lost my wallet the other day and I would like to submit a lost property report.

警察官 (Keisatsukan): はい、わかりました。失くされた日時と場所をお聞かせください。
Hai, wakarimashita. Nakusareta jiji to basho o okikase kudasai.
Yes, I understand. Please tell me the date, time, and place where you lost the wallet,.

You: 午前11時ごろ駅で使ったのが最後だったと思います。電車で市内に移動して、降りたときにはなくなっていました。
Gozen juuichi-ji goro eki de tsukatta no ga saigo datta to omoimasu. densha de shinai ni idou shitte, orita toki ni wa nakunatte imashita.
I last had it at the station around 11 am. I took the train to the city center and realized it was missing when I got off.

警察官: わかりました。財布について詳しく教えてください.
Wakarimashita. Saifu ni tsuite kuwashiku oshiete kudasai.
Understood. Please provide me with more details of that wallet.

You: 財布は黒色の革で、中には現金、クレジットカード、免許証が入っています。
Saifu wa kuro-iro no kawa de, naka ni wa genkin, kurejitto kaado, menkyo shou ga haitte imasu.
It’s a black leather wallet with cash, credit cards, and my driver’s license inside.

警察官: わかりました。お名前とご連絡先をお教えください。
Wakarimashita. Onamae to go renrakusaki o oshite kudasai.
Okay, can you please tell me your name and contact information?

You: 私の名前は山田太郎です。電話番号は080-1234-5678です。
Watashi no namae wa Yamada Taro desu. Denwa bangou wa zero-hachi-zero ichi-ni-san-yon-go-nana-hachi desu.
My name is Yamada Taro. My phone number is 080-1234-5678.

警察官: 了解しました。これらの情報を元に、調査を行います。見つかった場合はすぐにご連絡いたしますので、しばらくお待ちください。
Ryoukai shimashita. Korera no jouhou o moto ni, chousa o okonaimasu. Mitsukatta baai wa sugu ni gorenraku itashimasu no de, shibaraku omachi kudasai.
Understood. Based on this information, we will conduct an investigation. If we find anything, we will contact you immediately, so please wait for a while.

You: はい、よろしくお願いします。
Hai, yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Yes, thank you.

Tips for Preventing Loss of Items in Japan

Preventing the loss of your items is obviously the best solution. Here are some tips to follow:

Keep Your Belongings Organized

Keep your items organized when traveling. Use bags and pouches to separate your valuables from your essentials. This will help you quickly check if you have everything when you leave a place.

Take Advantage of Lockers in Japan

Places like museums, theme parks and other public attractions usually have a designated locker to store your belongings before you continue your activity. Most of them are free, but you will have to insert a coin (usually a 100-yen coin) as a deposit, which will be returned once you retrieve your belongings.

Use Tracking Devices for Valuable Items

If you have valuable items such as smartphones or cameras, consider using tracking devices. Tile and other similar devices can help you locate lost items via GPS.

Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

Being vigilant of your surroundings can also help prevent you from losing your items. Keep a mental note of where you place your items, and be careful not to leave them behind when you move from one place to another.

Other Relevant Phrases to Search for a Lost Item in Japan

どこかに落としたかもしれませんdokoka ni otoshita kamoshiremasen I might have dropped it somewhere.
何か情報はありませんか?nanika jouhou wa arimasenka?Do you have any information?
警察に届け出たいですkeisatsu ni todoke daitai desuI want to report it to the police.
携帯電話をなくしましたKeitai denwa o nakushimashitaI lost my cell phone
財布をなくしましたSaifu o nakushimashitaI lost my wallet
この近くで落としたかもしれませんkono chikaku de otoshita kamoshiremasenI might have dropped it near here.

How to Claim Your Lost Item in Japan

If you’re lucky and your item is found, here’s how you can claim it:

Providing Proof of Ownership

You’ll need to provide proof of ownership before collecting your lost item. This could be a receipt, an ID card, or any other form of identification that links you to the lost item. Without this, you won’t be able to claim your item.

Understanding the Waiting Period

Generally, lost items are held for a limited period, usually between one to three months, before they’re donated, discarded, or auctioned off. Be sure to check back frequently on the status of your item before the waiting period ends.

Collecting Your Item from the Lost and Found Center

When you go to retrieve your lost item, bring your lost item report number and proof of ownership. You may be charged a handling fee, depending on the item and the lost and found center. Your lost item may also undergo an inspection to verify its condition before releasing it to you.


Losing an item can be a headache, but in Japan, you have a good chance of retrieving it. By understanding Japan’s lost and found system, taking the right steps after losing an item, and following tips for preventing future loss, you can significantly increase the likelihood of a happy reunion with your lost item. Remember to always stay calm, organized, and mindful, and good luck with your search!

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What should I do if I lose something in Japan?

If you lose something in Japan, go to the nearest police station and file a report. It is important to file a report as soon as possible, as it increases your chances of finding your lost item. You will need to provide the police with a description of the lost item, including its color, brand, and any unique features.

Is it common to lose items in Japan?

Japan is a relatively safe country, and the crime rate is low. However, it is not uncommon for people to lose their belongings, especially in crowded areas like train stations and tourist attractions.

How can I prevent losing my items in Japan?

Here are some tips to prevent losing your items in Japan:

  • Keep your belongings close to you at all times.
  • Use a wallet or bag with a zipper or other secure closure.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings and don’t leave your belongings unattended.

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