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Supposed Shanghai students setting Japanese up for swindles

Shanghai skyline
The Shanghai skyline
TOKYO (TR) – “Konnichi wa! Welcome to Shanghai! I’m a student of Japanese language. Do you mind if I practice my Nihongo kaiwa with you?”

Before you say kekkou (all right), be on your guard, warns the Asahi Shimbun (Oct. 1). Reports have been coming in from businessmen and tourists to China’s largest city that under the pretext of practicing their conversational Japanese, some locals have been steering unsuspecting visitors from Nippon to coffee shops or bars, where they are hit with exorbitant charges.

Already so far this year, 70 cases have been reported with total losses approaching 10 million Japanese yen.

According to the Japanese consulate in Shanghai, a common modus operandi is for Chinese females to approach Japanese males blurting out broken Japanese, and invite them to “have a cup of tea.” One victim complained that after ordering two beers he realized there was “something suspicious” about the shop. Asking for the check, he was slapped with a charge of 17,000 Chinese yuan (about 210,000 Japanese yen). He complained but was pressured to pay, and wound up using his credit card.

In another case, people approached the Japanese victim saying they were worried about a Chinese sibling or relative stranded in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Responding sympathetically, the Japanese was then guided to a bar where he was charged an exorbitant fee.

“I’m so sorry — I hadn’t realized it was that kind of place,” the Chinese woman insisted. After he shrugged it off, she then guided him to a local restaurant, where the bottakuri (overcharging) was repeated a second time.

According to the Asahi article, most of the incidents took place in areas where tourists congregate, such as in the vicinity of the Nanjing Road shopping district or along the Bund, the scenic row of old banks and official buildings from the former Foreign Settlement along the Huangpu River.

Some victims said when they objected to the charges they were intimidated by hulking hoodlum types. While most of the victims were male, two Japanese women also reported that they were coerced into entering an establishment and charged 50,000 yuan (about 620,000 Japanese yen).