Some people might think I am being over the top in claiming that an unattended bag at an airport is a sign of complacency and lax security.
Of course I understand that 99 times out of 100 (more, even) an unattended bag is just that. But I just mean that this is the kind of assumption that terrorists rely on.
And there is a pattern. I remember just after the sarin gas attacks, when all Japan was supposedly on super alert, that I got off the Saikyo Line at Shinjuku (the terminus then) and saw a plastic bag left on the train, with something in it. I alerted a JR staff member on the platform and he... walked over, picked it up, opened it and peered into it. With me three feet away.
Another time (circa 2014), I stepped onto a Ginza line subway train just as the doors were closing. Very unusually, there were only a couple of people on that carriage – all at one end or the other. Even more unusually, there was a large, packed rucksack on a seat in front of me. There was, in my view, no conceivable way someone could leave home with a rucksack that big then “forget” it in the same way people put a new purchase on the luggage rack and forget it. It was very suspicious.
It seemed to take ages to get to the next stop but when we did I leapt off and went straight to the man on the platform and began to tell him what I saw. He shushed me and ignored me. I insisted but he was “busy” operating some device on the platform. I said that he must look where I was pointing but he stepped across the platform to deal with the departure of a train over there. Meanwhile the train with the huge rucksack left.
When I eventually told him that there was a large rucksack that could contain a bomb he looked at me as if I was mad. When I left the station, I told the staff at the office. “Mōshi wake arimasen” he said perfunctorily. Not: “A massive rucksack, you say? The train that just left? Do you know which carriage? I will call the next station...”
I think it would have had to have wires sticking out of it and loud ticking for anyone to take notice.
Another time (2007), I am embarrassed to say that I accidentally carried small box cutter through security at Narita (in a forgotten pocket in my jacket).
When I hear announcements about heightened security on trains, or see a drill on TV with staff evacuating a station and robots investigating a bag, I don’t think it’s real. It’s basically just an attempt to reassure people that everything is okay. Until it isn’t.