Video Series “Only in Japan”: Part 3 – Orange Ball

Orange Balls

UPDATE: Video no. 4 in this series is now available HERE.

How the weeks fly by! Here we are on our third of our weekly series of “Only in Japan” videos. Once again Simon Adams takes us on a mission to unravel the mystery of the “Orange Ball”.

They are round, colourful and embedded deep in the Japanese retail culture. Every bank and post office has two at each teller’s booth. They are hard to miss at convenience stores, and you wont enter another Japanese “gasoline stand” without seeing one. What are they? I am talking about Orange Balls of course. If you have lived in Japan for any amount of time, you must have seen them (you certainly will after watching this video anyway!).

Orange Balls come in many colours!In last week’s video we discovered the “Magic Hand”, the all-purpose tool for handling any I’ve-dropped-my-*insert item here*-on-the-tracks situations at Japanese train stations. This week, we learn that Orange balls are the ubiquitous anti-crime tool in Japan used for stopping all sorts of criminals in their tracks, well almost… They are, orange balls, filled with a thick florescent ink that glows in the dark, and has a strong smell. Police dogs in Japan are actually trained to be able to track this particular odour (said to be similar to rotting pineapples), and are taught that it is the smell of a criminal.

Orange balls are available for about 1500 yen each, and actually come in lots of colours. However, Orange – for some reason – is the only one that is in wide use (I have never seen another colour in use anyway). These spheres of ink are called 防犯ボール (bohan ball) in Japanese, and a simple Google search for the term shows that they are widely available on the internet, here, here and here for starters! You can even buy clear water filled orange balls for practice! (Don’t ask me why you cant just use a normal tennis ball or something.. it’s just good marketing I suppose)

How are they used? Well, I couldn’t be bothered writing a thousand words, so you can watch the cool short video below, and check out this demonstration picture. (The video is much more enjoyable – trust me!)

Once again, thanks to Simon Adams and Andrew Johnson for kindly letting us present you these videos for the first time on the internet.

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Enjoy “Orange Ball” in Quicktime (click image above) for best quality, or there is a (bad quality) Video on YouTube version here.

32 thoughts on “Video Series “Only in Japan”: Part 3 – Orange Ball”

  1. Great vid, can’t belive they caught that slip on camera! I’m almost embarrassed to say… I’ve never noticed these balls! Will keep my eyes peeled though!

  2. I am Japanese, but I never had realised that those balls had a smell that the police dogs can follow! 勉強になった! Thanks

  3. Yes, it is really amazing how the guys caught it on video.. But, Andrew does operate steadicams so I guess he is not new at catching the scene.

  4. Didn’t they have something similar to this in Lost in Translation? But it was more of a paintball gun.

  5. Cool idea,

    Wouldn´t work here in Brazil though. If you even looked at the balls the robber will blow your brains up.

  6. Surely the first thing a robber would do in a robbery then would be
    to grab the orange balls, perhaps even throw them at the shop staff to confuse things?

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  8. i dont get why people wouldnt buy them and just throw them at others they dont like.

    even if it was made a crime to do that, i bet people would still do it (stupid ned gangs etc)

  9. It wouldn’t necessarily hurt to spell “fluorescent” correctly instead of writing “florescent”.

  10. I have been looking a bit, but I finally saw one of these yesterday! What a crazy way to “tag” criminals… I didnt think this was for real… but I guess I was wrong! Gonna keep an eye out for flouro coloured robbers from now on.

  11. Personally, it seems like this is a good way to just piss off the criminals more. I mean…if you were gonna rob a bank and you had a gun, probably you’d go in there thinking, “Well, I’ll wave it around at ppl so they’ll take me seriously and gimme money, but I don’t wanna KILL anyone.”


    Smacked with a giant paint balloon. Wouldn’t that just make you want to shoot the person who threw it?

  12. all the people commenting such as “throwing a marking paint would make the crook shoot you” don’t realize that guns are not common in Japan. the Yakuza have them, but they dont really have an interest in robbing a small time store…

    just because they sell them all over the usa doesn’t mean everywhere else in the world is the same. wake up.

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