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Offbeat

Police in Japan search for well-dressed man who offered to pay schoolboy to sneeze for him

The ‘creepy’ case inevitably attracted the attention of internet chat rooms

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 3:17pm

Police in central Japan are looking for a well-dressed man who approached a schoolboy in the city of Hamamatsu and offered to give him Y1,000 (US$9) if he would sneeze.

The boy was apparently able to provide the required sneeze, accepted a Y1,000 note and a tissue from the man and went on his way, the J-Cast News website reported. The transaction was sufficiently odd for the boy to reconsider, and he reported the incident to police. 

Authorities have described the man as being in his 30s, around 180cm tall with a slender build and with dark hair. He was wearing a dark suit and carrying a black bag over one shoulder.

Police emphasise, however, that there is no law against asking someone to sneeze and the closest they might get to filing charges would be under a catch-all law that is designed to “maintain public safety and order”.

Still, police in Hamamatsu are scouring footage from security cameras as they try to identify the man and have issued a statement to residents.

“Never take him up on the offer,” police said. 

“If you feel uncomfortable, please go to the nearest police box and file a report.”

The case has inevitably attracted the attention of internet chat rooms, with one poster on the Japan Today website saying: “It’s very creepy and obviously has some kind of sexual motive, but is it illegal?!”

Another claimed: “Nobody does subtle creepiness like the Japanese”.

Several others, either suffering from colds or hay fever, suggested that the suspect might like to arrange a meeting if his offer still stands.

But a lot of posters were taking the matter very seriously.

“Considering kids have been lured into dangerous situations and even killed before it is better to stay on the safe side and at least find out what this guy is up to,” said one message. 

“Yeah, it’s expensive [in terms of police man hours], but as a parent I would be creeped out if my kids came home with the same story.” 

Remarkably, this is not the first time that a man has approached strangers on a street in Hamamatsu and asked them to sneeze for him. 

In October 2016, a boy went to police after a man described as being in his 20s claimed to be doing research into sneezing and asked him if he could sneeze for him. 

Police were able to identify the man and issued him with an official caution not to ask people for sneezes again. It is likely that police have contacted the individual over the latest case.