OK, so this isn't going to be my finest hour, but in the interests of serving the community I'll reluctantly recount this tale.
One evening I did the laundry (yawn), hung it out on my 3rd-floor balcony using one of those 100 yen store peg rack thingys, went to bed, got up the next day and went to work. (Well this is a belter, isn't it?!)
I came home, did my usual post-work ablutions and went out to take in last night's laundry. Some of it was missing. Of all the bloody things to not be there it was a selection of my best (or worst, or most inappropriate) undies. Why couldn't it have been something banal like a ... towel?! As I said, I'm on the 3rd floor, well out of reach of any passing by pants fetishists (for which Japan is disturbingly well known, not that there are many people in this world who've shown much interest in my under things to date).
No, the sodding wind had taken them, and dropped them plonk in the middle of the car port (shelter) of the house next door.
I contemplated leaving them there to rot, but the shelter is made of clear plastic, so they would have been spotted eventually. I also contemplated packing a suitcase (sans pants), giving up on my life here, and heading for home (leaving my shame on the car port). No, too expensive.
Down at street level, loitering in the dark outside the house, I figured I could climb up and get them down. The thing is though, I know someone important lives there. Local police are always stopping by, making visits. Plus, it's a busy enough street and there's no way I wouldn't be spotted. Of course I rang the doorbell a number of times, but no answer. So, rather than risk explaining my actions to a passer by who I'd likely never see again, I decided to go down to the police box and fess up to local authority figures whom I see every day on my way to/from the station. Naturally.
Still, I've always suspected that police in Japan don't have an awful lot to do, so maybe they'd appreciate a bit of mild amusement at my expense.
Actually, they were almost heartbreakingly helpful. Two of them were on duty. The gentleman I approached listened intently to my shame. Initially, they said it should be fine for me to climb up and get them down myself. If there was any trouble I could report back to them. They then asked where I lived, and more specifically where the laundry was (I hadn't mentioned pants at this stage). I wasn't sure I should tell them that I knew police kept stopping by this house ... but I did (I wanted to see the reaction). They talked together in hushed tones initially, but then just came out and said who's house it was (I won't reveal that here, not that it's particularly exciting). Given this, they said it would be better for them to come along and assess the situation.
I thought about warning them it was my pants that were at stake, but decided not to. I'd just play it cool, 'Yeah it's my pants! What of it!?'. Hilariously, they brought along a long pole, should it be needed. It wasn't. But they did get my pants down for me (nothing was said, but both sides knew).
So, to cut a long story short, if the winds takes your undies (or any other laundry) off your balcony in Japan, you can always go and get the police to retrieve them. Personally though, I'd try ringing the doorbell first.