Thursday, May 27, 2010

Unfinished random thoughts

Offenses committed by people from overseas remain vicious and adroit.* They aim at making crime inconspicuous by cooperating with Japanese Boryokudan** and by conspiring with fewer people for their crimes. Crimes in Japan 2007. Police Policy Research Center, National Police Academy.

It wasn't so long ago---under Koizumi and "Beautiful Country" Abe---that foreigners were being hit so hard with accusations of being near DNA-bound to be criminals that you would have thought we were all members of the Yakuza, or at least adroit enough to cooperate with them. I could barely go shopping back then because every time I reached for my wallet to buy something, I'd slap my own hand away for fear that I was picking my pocket.

One of the things that amazes me about a country in which everyone obeys the rules, in which the crime rate is said to be so low that women can safely walk the streets alone at night, that you can go out and leave your apartment unlocked without fear of being burglarized, a country in which guns are illegal for citizens to own, is the fact that folks don't obey the rules, Japanese women are not so dumb as to think they can walk the streets safely at night***, that only soon-to-be-educated victims leave their apartments unlocked, and where firearms ownership is not illegal. (Oops, apologies for that sentence.)

OK, forgetting the just-off-the-boat myths, I am intrigued by the fact that the rule-obeying, law-abiding Japanese that I see aren't so rule-obeying or law-abiding. That and the fact that the koban-sitters---at least where I live and work---don't seem to be motivated to go out of their way to enforce any laws until after an incident. I guess we could call this reactive law enforcement.

I watch people disobey all kinds of traffic laws (especially cycling laws, and many of these violations I understand to be criminal offenses) right in front of "police officers" who routinely ignore it. I live near a koban and can go outside any evening and watch dozens of people ride by with no lights on their bikes---illegal---and I have yet to see any of them stopped for it. I have seen cyclists blow right through crosswalks against the light and ride within a few feet of a cop standing at parade rest and all he could do was eyeball me. I saw a cop jump up out of his box and run 3 feet outside to yell at two kids riding double on a bike causing them to slow for a few meters before taking off while still riding double as our hero went back to sitting in his box. There is a traffic light about 20 meters from my local koban that folks occasionally run with no fear from the cops. Folks park illegally right in front of their noses---no reaction. I could continue for hours, but of course these are minor infractions, not the viscous stuff of foreigners. Just because folks seem to have little respect for these types of rules, laws, and koban sitters, doesn't mean anything beyond that. I'm sure.

You'll have to forgive me for skepticism when I hear how foreigners disobey Japanese laws more than the Japanese do themselves. And you'll have to forgive me when I start doubting simplistic comparisons of crime rates between countries when the laws are so different, when the enforcement of these laws are so different, and when the rate of reporting of crime by victims is likely different, and especially when the rhetoric of the folks who gather the statistics does not match the statistics.

Back when I was in the USAF, my friends in law enforcement at Yokota AB often remarked on the very high burglary rate in Tokyo. They knew 'cause lots of military personnel were victims of these mostly professional burglars. That was back before the "surge" in foreign residents here and nobody thought to claim that the criminals were non-Japanese. I do not recall ever seeing such a thing in the Japanese press though. The burglaries that most recently became notorious were mostly blamed on Chinese and others of foreign origin. Have all the Japanese burglars retired?

*As opposed to the kinder, gentler, more innocent and naive crimes committed by the natives.

**Yakuza. I'd guess that the yakuza is a Japanese problem and maybe if something more effective were done about that problem, the vicious, adroit, foreign criminals would have to find another way to make their crimes inconspicuous. (Hire Japanese thugs?)

***I have been repeatedly surprised at how much attention Japanese women pay to the lighting of an area, how well-traveled it is, and all sorts of things that I, as a man, pay no mind. Last Saturday, I was walking with a friend through Denenchofu, an expensive, upper-middle class/wealthy area that is notorious for burglaries, and she immediately noticed (at 3PM) what areas would be risky to walk at night due to isolation/ lack of adequate lighting. What's she afraid of, I wonder? This is Japan.

2:15PM: Edited


  1. I tutor students in my home as part of my collection of freelance work and my female students are also very concerned about lighting if they come after dark. I've also actually had students beg off of coming for lessons once the daylight hours dwindle because it will be dark in the winter and they don't feel safe walking around at night.

    Some Japanese women have actually been followed and chased at night by strange men as has a foreign female acquaintance of mine. Luckily, they were able to outrun the men pursuing them. One of my husband's coworkers was raped in Japan (again, a foreigner) and the police didn't even want to take her report. I agree completely that those who believe all of the safety myths are victims waiting to happen. I had enough stuff stolen in my early days here to believe that.

  2. I wonder if you remember the article published in The Japan Times in 1992/93 or a little later about how the police dealt with women who had been sexually assaulted in Japan. It may have dealt with police response to citizen/non-citizen complaints in general. I have tried to find that in the online archives, but naturally it isn't there. It covered the police response to sexual assault complaints at the time which was to more or less doubt or even accuse the women of some wrong-doing.