crime in 2004
Peter Hessler wrote in The New Yorker: Japan is not a dangerous country. Each year, approximately one murder is committed for every two hundred thousand people. This is among the lowest rates in the world, on a par with Iceland and Switzerland; the odds of being murdered in the United States are ten times higher. In Japan, it's a crime to own a gun, another crime to own a bullet, and a third crime to pull the trigger: three charges before you even think about a target. [Source: Peter Hessler, The New Yorker, January 9, 2012]

The number of criminal offenses reported to police decreased by 5.4 percent in 2010 from the previous year to 2,271,309, falling for the eighth consecutive year since a record high was reached in 2002. According to the white paper, 322,956 people were arrested or subject to police investigations for Penal Code offenses in 2010, not including violations of the Road Traffic Law, with 54 percent of involved in cases of theft. The crime rate in Japan in 2010 was the lowest in 23 years. The total number of reported crimes in 2010 (1,585,951) was 6.9 percent less than in 2009 and fell below 1.6 million for the first time since 1987 according to the National Police Agency (NPA). The crime rate in Japan rose every year from 1996 to 2002 and has fallen every year since then.

Crime hit a record high in 2002 with 2.85 million crimes reported. About 80 percent of these crimes were not serious. Most were thefts. There were 22,294 serous crimes such as murder, robbery, arson, rape, kidnaping and sexual assault. In 2003, the number of crimes dropped for the first time in nine years. The drop was modest, 2.2 percent, and was attributed to a drop in motorcycle thefts of 22 percent and a drop in street crime of 12.4 percent.

fake policeman
In 2005, there were 2.56 million reported crimes in Japan, fewer than half the 5.6 million crimes reported in England and Wales which has less than half the population of Japan. Only 3.5 percent of the crimes in Japan were violent, compared to 21 percent in Britain. These included 1,392 homicides, 5,988 robberies, 2,076 cases of rape, and 60,299 cases of violence and bodily harm.
In 2006, 2.05 million crimes were reported, down 28 percent from 2002. During this four year period murder and robbery rates dropped 16 percent and bicycle thefts and thefts from cars fell by 40 percent. The number of crimes fell below 2 million in 2007 for the first time in 10 years. The decrease was attributed to increased street patrols and crime prevention programs.

Crime dropped in 2008 for the 6th straight year, with the number of crimes falling 4.7 percent to 1,818,337 cases. The number of violent crimes such as murder, robbery, arson and rape dropped 5.1 percent to 8,558 cases.

The majority of crimes called into Japan's emergency number concern shoplifting, traffic accidents, fights and accidental activation of office alarms. Most violent crimes involves gangsters. Insurance fraud is a big problem in Japan. Some of Japan's worst murders were committed to collect life insurance money. There have even been reports of people insuring their car after it was stolen and crashing a car into the same lamppost 36 times to collect $250,000.

Forty-two percent of crimes in Japan are committed by repeat offenders. Many of them are convicted stimulant drug users, among whom 57 percent are repeat offenders.

Websites and Resources

yakuza movie

Good Websites and Sources: Statistical Handbook of Japan Crime Section ; 2010 Edition ; News ; Nationmaster Japanese Crime Statistics ; Murder in Japan ; Cultural Study of Low Crime Rate in Japan (have to pay to see) ; Bookmice Summary on Crime in Japan ; Books “Tokyo Underworld” by Robert Whiting (Pantheon), describes of world of street pimps, ambitious gangsters and corrupt politicians; “Tabloid Tokyo” volumes 1 and 2 (Kodansha International), tales of sex, crime and the bizarre.

Travel Advisories U.S. State Department Advisories British travel warnings: . Australian travel warnings: ; Overseas Secuirty Advisory Council Report ; Travel Advise Web sites: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Thorn Tree

Famous Crimes and Legendary Criminals in Japan

yakuza movie
Famous criminals in the old days had names like "Devil Bear" Iwabuchi and "Bucktoothed Turtle" Ikeda. They did terrible things like torturing their victims with live snakes, dangling them naked from trees in the snow and tickling them beyond the point in which they could stand it.

Legendary Japanese Robin-Hood-like thieves include Ishikawa Goemon (1558-1594) and “Nezumi Kozo” Jirokichi (1797-1832).

During the infamous urination riots of 1860s and 1870s soldiers battled with police and urinated en mass to protest laws against public urination passed to satisfy demands of prudish foreigners in Japan. The clashes — actually a cover for a conflict between police and soldiers — resulted in the creation of a military police.

Kunisada Chuji (1810-1850) is a popular Edo period figure. To some he is yakuza gambler. To others he is a a Japanese Robin Hood who gave aid to the poor. He remains highly popular among local residents in Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture, where he resided for a while. Residents there had planned several events to honor him until those ideas were quashed by the town’s mayor who didn’t want Isesaki to become known as a “yakuza city.”

Legend has it he used his own money to help save people during the 1836 Tempo Famine. Satoshi Takahashi, 70, professor emeritus of the National Museum of Japanese History and author of the book, "Kunisada Chuji," told the Yomiuri Shimbun it is a historical fact that he saved people."He goes beyond mere yakuza. I think his chivalrous spirit appeals to the heart of Japanese people," he said. Some experts say Kunisada gained a reputation as a social outcast after the American forces in Japan concluded he was a yakuza and prohibited use of his image in a set of karuta picture cards featuring local landscapes, celebrities and events.

Shimizu-no Jirocho (1820-1893) is another legendary Edo period gangster hero. The Shizuoka city government provides funding to maintain the house where he was born and promotes it as a tourist attraction.

Book: “The Dark Side: Infamous Japanese Crimes and Criminals” by Mark Schreiber (Kodansha, 2001); “Shocking Crimes of Postwar Japan” by Mark Schreiber (Kodansha).

Lack of Crime in Japan

Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. The rates of violent crime, vandalism, truancy, street crime and drug abuse are all very low. The streets are safe to walk at night; and nine-year-old girls routinely take trains and buses by themselves to visit faraway relatives or theme parks.

After World War II, a period of intense urbanization around the globe, the crime rate in the United States soared while the crime rate in Japan declined. Today the United States has 13 times more murders, 51 times more rapes and 80 times more robberies than Japan. It also has 12 times as many prisoners but only twice the population of Japan.

While American schools have metal detectors to keep out weapons, Japanese schools have open boxes where club members deposit money to pay their dues. It would be easy to steal the boxes but no one ever does. In many parts of Japan it is possible to leave a bicycle unlocked and a briefcase unattended on a train and not worry about it being stolen. It also not uncommon for people to leave their cars running with the key in the ignition while they are shopping or leave their houses unlocked when they go out.

In Japan, people have been chased down to return a dropped coin or left a cell phone in park and found it the next day exactly where they left it. Handbags found on trains are sometimes delivered to the home of the owner by the person who found it, using a driver’s license to track down the address. Many Japanese don't jaywalk even if the road is free of cars and they are in a hurry.

In 2005 there were only four reports of pickpocketing from 12 million visitors to Aichi Expo

Many attribute Japan’s low crime rate to the homogenous population and group-centered society. Education Michiko Matsui told U.S. News and World Report, “The idea of collective responsibility is deeply rooted in Japan. Once a family member commits a violent crime, even his cousins can be subject to criticism.

Crime gets a lot of coverage in the media. Highly publicized murders, rising juvenile crime and the Aum subway attack have given the impression that Japan is becoming a more dangerous place. Despite the low crime rate many Japanese are fearful. A survey in April 2008, found that 70 percent of those asked said they or a family member were either “very likely” or “quite likely” to became a victim of a crime.

Number Of Crimes Drops in 2011 for 8th Straight Year

In December 2011, Kyodo reported: “The number of crimes in Japan detected by police between January and November dropped 6.5 percent from a year earlier, results of a police survey showed Thursday, suggesting the total for all of 2011 will decrease for the ninth straight year. [Source: Kyodo, December 16, 2011]

The police detected 1,369,279 crimes in the 11-month period, down 95,633 or 6.5 percent, according to a preliminary report by the National Police Agency. The data cover criminal offenses but exclude crimes linked to road traffic accidents. Suspects were identified in about one-third of the crimes -- or in 31.6 percent, down 0.2 percentage point from a year earlier.

The number of robberies declined 9.3 percent to 3,361, while car thefts rose to 22,906, an increase of 973 from a year before.The agency said it also looked into crimes between March and November in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures in northeastern Japan which were hardest hit by the March 11 earthquake-tsunami disaster and the subsequent nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The number of crimes in the three prefectures decreased 17.7 percent from a year earlier. But the Futaba Police Station in Fukushima reported the number of thefts increased more than three-fold in its area, which includes most of a no-go zone near the damaged nuclear plant.

Honest Society Japan

If you loose something in Japan there is good chance you'll get it back. Everyday, laptop computers cell phones, and umbrellas are dutifully picked up by the people who find them and taken to local lost and founds. Of the 1.6 million or so items — including dentures, baby carriages, gold bags and a cash register — turned into the Tokyo Metropolitan Lost and Found about 72 percent have been returned to their owners.

If someone finds your wallet or purse there is a good chance they will check out your address on your driver's license and personally deliver it to you with all the cash and credit cards inside. One time my wife lost her wallet and the person who found it tracked her down using our her video rental card. Keys and jackets that are found in parks and along sidewalks are hung from a fence or bush so the person who lost them can find them the next time they pass the same way.

If you lose your subway or train ticket, train station attendants will generally take your word and let you out of the station without any problem. In some cases, if you are short of cash and need to buy a train ticket to get home, you can borrow money from a policeman or a train station attendant. Most Japanese who do this dutifully pay back the money the next day.

In 2008, 17.34 million items were handed in by Japanese train passengers, an 86 percent increase from 2007. Among the items left behind on Japanese subways and trains have been two dozen marching batons, a life-size inflatable albatross and three prosthetic left legs.

In Japan there is law — Article 28, paragraph I of the lost property law — that says the finder of a lost object should receive between 5 percent and 20 percent of the value of the object. At lost an found's if no one claims the object after 6 months and 14 days its finders keepers. In the mid 1990, a bag worth $90,000 worth of cash was found and returned to its owner. In 1980, $950,000 was found and never claimed. The finder got to keep it. During the hard times of the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 some people used the law to make money, with some finders taking their cases to court. One man in who found a briefcase with three bankbooks in it with a total savings of $33,000 demanded 15 percent of the bank savings. [Source: Times of London, November 2009]

See Tsunami

Forty-three Percent of Crimes in Japan Involve Past Offenders

In November 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: Of people arrested or subject to police investigations for nontraffic Penal Code offenses in 2010, forty-three percent had criminal records--the highest rate since the Justice Ministry's annual survey began in 1989, and marking the 14th consecutive annual increase, according to a white paper on crime. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 12, 2011]

Of the 322,956 people people were arrested or subject to police investigations for Penal Code offenses in 2010, 137,614, or 43 percent, had previously committed a criminal offense, and 85,846, or 27 percent, were minors. Of those minors, 32 percent had previously been arrested or found guilty of a separate crime, or taken into protective custody. That figure was the highest on record, and has increased every year since 1998, when the juvenile recidivism rate was 22 percent.

The ministry conducted a follow-up survey on people who were discharged from juvenile reformatories between January and March 2004. The survey included 606 males and 38 females who were 18 or 19 years old at the time they were discharged. By the time they reached 25 years old, 248, or 39 percent, of the people surveyed had been found guilty of another crime. Of the 248 repeat offenders, 93 had been found guilty of two or more subsequent crimes. The crime most commonly committed after being discharged was theft, accounting for 76 of the 248 cases. This was followed by inflicting injury, accounting for 43 cases.

Juveniles who are discharged from reformatories are required to have regular meetings with local volunteer probation officers, who provide guidance for daily life, until they are 20 years old. Of the 248 juvenile recidivists, 136, or 55 percent, reoffended within 12 months of their probation period ending, and 83 percent reoffended within 30 months. The white paper noted minors are at high risk of recidivism for several years after their probation ends, and said it is important to take preventive measures. It is necessary to provide minors with a stable foundation for their daily lives and offer appropriate support in their local communities, the report said.

Crime-Fighting Efforts and Security Measures in Japan

Large numbers of security cameras have been installed in popular nightlife and drinking areas in Tokyo like Kabukicho. Police had 50 cameras installed in Kabukicho in response to rising crime rates.

The Japanese government is so security conscious that all carpenters in the entire country were ordered to keep their nail guns at home during an APEC meeting in Osaka in 1995. Before the meeting, carpenters and other workmen were sent letters telling them to keep the nail guns at home. Asked what he thought about the measures, a representative of nail gun manufacturer said that is very difficult use a nail gun as weapon. For one thing they don't aim very well. "it's much easier to hit someone with a hammer.”

Among the other measures taken in the $40 million security campaign before the 1995 summit were the removal of all trash cans (as possible bomb drop off points), the meticulous inspection of the stone walls around Osaka castle by repelling policemen, the curtailment of massage parlors and yakuza activity, the rounding up of homeless people and the dispersal of noodle vendors. Some 25,000 policemen (10 percent of the nations force) was placed on duty for the meeting.

During the Winter Olympics in Nagano in 1998, baseball tossing machines were locked up out of fear that they could be used by in a terrorist attack. The guns used in the biathlon were kept in high-tech rooms with optical scanners to keep intruders out.

In April 2010, the National Police Agency instructed police nation wide to begin cracking down more seriously on “small” crimes like shoplifting, littering, graffiti writing and other “behavior that could disrupt social order” as a way isolating petty criminals early and preventing from committing worse offenses. The aim of the effort was to make Japan “a society in which crimes cannot easily take place.”

Research by the Justice Ministry the recidivism rate among robbers and rapists in Japan is 40 percent.

Safety Measures at the World Cup in 2002

When Japan hosted the World Cup soccer tournament in 2002 there were big worries about hooliganism, particularly from hard-drinking British fans, some of whom were barred from entering the country. Security was tight during the games at the stadiums and before and after the games in nightlife areas. As many as 7,700 police, some with dogs and many with the latest plexiglass shields, showed up for the games.

Because of concerns about hooliganism parents kept their children indoor; schools were closed; barbers considered locking away their scissors lest they be used as deadly weapons; car dealerships near stadiums moved their inventory to prevent theirs from being stolen; businesses were offered “hooligan insurance”; courts cleared the dockets so hooligan cases could tried quickly; police were given the power to arrest suspected hooligans and detain them for three weeks without pressing charges; shopkeepers and residents near the stadiums were advised to pack away flower pots and bottles so they couldn’t be used as hooligan projectiles.

Brit-free zones were established to keep British fans separated from other fans. At some games the exit signs for British teams were in English while those of the other teams they were playing were in the language of that team. A Japanese railroad company worried about hooliganism glued down the stones that line the tracks near Shizuoka soccer stadium. Japanese rugby players were recruited for crowd control duties.

The government allocated $35.6 million for anti-hooligan measures, which including the development of special gun-fired nets that could be thrown on unruly fans and pole-mounted wire nooses that wrap around the ankles of rowdy hooligans and catch like wild animals. “The best way to defeat taller opponents would be to trip them and then subdue them on the ground,” police were told. In the end all the money and traing went for nought as nothing much happened.

Increases in Crime in Japan

Japan's reputation as a crime-free haven was tarnished by the Aum sarin gas subway attack and some widely publicized murders. Bicycle, motorcycle and car theft is increases as are attacks by youth gangs are also increasing. It is widely believed to be that many crimes — especially rape and extortion — are underreported.

While the overall crime rat rate is declining the number of violent crime is increasing. In 2006, 20,000 people were arresting on suspicion of committing violent acts,34 times more than in 1997. The sharpest increases are among middle-aged and elderly people, with those over 60 committing 12.5 times as many acts of violence in 2006 as they did in 1997 and those between 50 and 60 committing 5.6 times as many.

Serious crime increased 14 percent in 1999 and 17 percent in 2001 and 7.5 percent in 2003. The increases have been blamed on economic hard times and breakdown in family values and the inability of police to anything about the crimes. In December 2004, alarmed by the increase in crime, parliament passed tougher sentencing laws. There has been a call for tougher laws for juveniles.

Crime rates are higher in urban areas than in rural areas. In 2001, Osaka surpassed Tokyo as Japan's crime capital. Some 298,000 criminal cases were reported in Osaka compared to 268,000 in Tokyo even though Tokyo has a larger population, but Osaka still lags behind Tokyo in serious crime.

Weird Crimes Over Little Things in Japan

In February 2009, a 65-year-old woman was arrested on charges of defamation of character for calling her neighbors liars and shouting out things like “You lie and blame others for everything!” and “You’re truly evil” for ten years in a dispute that began when the neighbors asked the woman if she placed a garbage full if leaves in front of their house.

In 2006, a woman in Nara was given a two year prison sentence for playing music almost nonstop 24 hours a day, to get revenge against neighbors who complained she made too much noise when she beat her futon to clean it at 5:00am. A 65-year-old neighbor who suffered hypertension, dizziness and sleeping disorders blamed on the noise. Her house was only 20 feet away from the house of the woman making all the noise

In May 2009, a man stabbed to death three people in their 60s and 70s with a 20-centimeter kitchen knife in an apartment in Saiwa Ward, Kawasaki,. The killer, who was drunk when arrested, reportedly took the extreme measure because he couldn’t stand the noise the victims — his neighbors — made when cleaning their rooms and opening and closing doors.

Foreigners and Crime in Japan

Shinjuku Entertainment district

Chinese commit around 40 percent of the crimes committed by foreigners. The crimes include robbery, creation of illegal underground banks and taking part in arranged marriages with Japanese to obtain residency permits.

Chinese are blamed in an increase of crime in Japan. On the news there are often reports of crimes by Chinese. Sometimes Chinese are stopped police and question without any reason.

There is strong tendency to blame crime and social problems on foreigners. Even when Japanese are the perpetrators foreign influences are regarded as the root of the problem. One Japanese sociologist told the Los Angeles Times, “The crime rate among foreigners living in Japan is actually lower than among Japanese...But many Japanese still have a biased image.”

The media has frequent reports about crimes committed by foreigners. A televison survey in 2003, found that 40 percent of the Japanese population did not want foreigners to come to Japan because they are fearful there would be an increase in crime. More than half the crimes committed by foreigners are victimless crimes, mostly overstaying their visas. Most of the crimes that do involve victims are thefts.

The number of thefts and other crimes committed by Japanese-Brazilians, other foreigners and temporary workers shot up after many of these people were laid off after the Lehman Brothers shock. A second-hand store that was rumored to accept stolen goods said that many people showed up with stolen motorbikes, bicycles, televisions and even washing machines after the economic crisis began. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun , January 4, 2011]

Elderly and Crime in Japan

There are reports of elderly people turning to crime out of poverty and isolation. The majority of the crimes committed are shoplifting and petty theft. There are even reports of lonely old people committing crimes with the aim of getting caught and sent to prison, where their needs are taken care of.

A record number (48,605) of senior citizens were arrested in 2007. Of the 31,573 arrests recorded for theft, 25,834 were for shoplifting, 82 percent involving elderly women pilfering items from stores. The next most common crime among the elderly was embezzlement (10,672 cases).

The proportion of total crimes committed by the elderly jumped from 2 percent in 1988 to 13 percent in 2007, with the number of arrest involving the elderly increasing fourfold between 1997 and 2007. The trend is blamed in the increased isolation and financial troubles faced by elderly people.

Counterfeiting, Spies and Attacks on Flowers

Ikebukaro game arcade
Counterfeiting is also a problem. In 2003 new banknotes were introduced to thwart forgers. Some people use Korean coins worth a few cents that are the same size as ¥500 yen coins in vending machines. The Korean coins have holes drilled in them so they weigh the same as Japanese coins

There is a lot of industrial espionage in Japan but surprisingly few laws to prosecute those accused of it. If a company employees steals information and copies it on a DVD they can only be arrested for theft of the DVD. One Japanese newspaper went as far as calling Japan an industrial spies paradise. In 2007 the government decided to create new laws

In April 2008, there were a number of attacks on flowers across Japan, including damage to 580 tulips in Fukuoka, 100 daffodils in Miyagi Prefecture, 200 pansies in Saitama Prefecture and 300 cherry tree branches in Shimonoseki. Many of the flowers were planted by local communities to beautify their streets.

Crime in Roppongi

Roppongi has a reputation for being one of Tokyo’s most crime-ridden districts. Once a U.S. serviceman's haunt, it is known as a home of mobsters, drug dealers, yakuza offices, hostess bars, drink spiking and murder. In 2004, four foreign businessmen died after snorting cocaine laced with heroin. For years, the Inagawa-kai, a major crime syndicate, has been based in Roppongi. In 2007, there was a mob hit in broad daylight nearby. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2010]

For years, Roppongi has also attracted countless foreign women lured by the prospect of making big money talking to customers in the area's numerous gentlemen clubs. Lucie Blackman of Britain, a former flight attendant who worked in a Roppongi hostess bar, disappeared in 2000 and the remains of her dismembered body were found in 2001. "The irony of Roppongi is that the rest of Japan feels so safe and suddenly you're in this unknown territory," Clare Campbell, whose 2009 book, “Tokyo Hostess”, detailed Blackman's death, told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't assume that every place in Japan is safe, because it isn't."

Roppongi Bar Touts

Describing Roppongi’s bar touts in action John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Popping up sometimes five or six to a block, the mostly young men from Nigeria and other African nations have a particularly un-Japanese way of doing business. In a country protective of its personal space, the hawkers sidle up to male foreigners, taking them in by the arm to suggest the charms of the scantily clad women waiting inside nearby hostess clubs.” [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2010]

“Many take the bait of cheap drinks and casual sex — and wind up with a headache the next morning. Patrons have had their drinks spiked, then woozily regained consciousness hours later with no memory of the previous evening or knowledge of the thousands of dollars charged to their credit cards.

In an unprecedented move, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo last year warned the 40,000 American citizens here to avoid Roppongi and its nearly 350 bars and clubs. Without citing numbers, officials pointed to a "significant increase" in drink-spiking incidents. "The U.S. Embassy continues to receive reliable reports of U.S. citizens being drugged in Roppongi-area bars," the warning read. "Assaults on Americans have also been reported in connection with drink-spiking." The July bulletin followed warnings by the British and Australian embassies.

The bar touts began appearing a decade ago, Glionna wrote. Slowly, their tactics have gotten more brazen, merchants say. Merchants have posted signs warning against harassment of passersby and last year police made 28 arrests — double from the year before. But the touts won't go away. A tout who identified himself as Smithy, a Nigerian wearing a Scottish cap, denied that he harasses anyone. "I do not pull people into bars," he said. "They go in on their own free will."

In an interview, a 31-year-old American said his drink was spiked in a Roppongi bar last year. He later learned of more than $10,000 in unauthorized charges to his credit card. After going to a bar with two friends, the man's group was approached by two women. The men bought a round of drinks. The victim said he woke up the next morning, in his own bed, with blood on his shirt, the evening wiped from his memory.

The man, who said he did not want to give his name out of embarrassment, believes that Tokyo police were less than responsive to the case. Authorities say there is too little evidence to act on. "I always avoided the area with the aggressive touts — we called it the gantlet," said the man. "I never thought this would happen to me."

Masatoshi Shimbo operates a crime watch group. He told the Los Angeles Times his group began a night patrol in 2005 to pick up street trash and erase graffiti, but now the volunteers spend much of their time observing the touts, reporting violations such as aggressive solicitation. Some visitors say that Tokyo police, in trying to bring order to the area, have harassed foreign bar patrons, searching them for drugs without proper cause, demanding urine samples. "Nowadays, everyone is a mark in Roppongi," said human rights activist Debito Arudou, who has written about police practices on his blog. "I don't like being made a mark of."

Traffic Accidents in Japan

See Transportation, Automobiles, Traffic Accidents

Assaults and Attacks in Japan

In August 2010, a young man attacked a policeman in Tokyo with a traditional Japanese sword, severing the policeman’s thumb before being subdued by other officers.

In December 2010, a 27-year-old man went on rampage and stabbed 14 people in two parked buses in the morning in Toride, Ibaraki Prefecture, slightly injuring 12 students and two women but not killing anyone. . The perpetrator — an unemployed man named Yuto Saito — bought the 25-centimeters kitchen knife used in the crime at a discount store a year before and said he had been planning the attack since then. He disappeared from his parents home three days before and slept in a park the day before the attack.

Saito was arrested for attempted murder. During the attack he entered a bus packed with about 50 students and stabbed, slashed and punched students on the a bus, got off and punched a passerby at an intersection and then boarded another bus and attacked two passengers, The attack came to an end when Saito was subdued by two male passengers. Afterwards Saito told police, “I wanted to end my life. Definitely, I attacked people at random with my knife. Some of those injured were hurt as they fled the bus.”

Rape and Crimes Against Women in Japan

According to one survey, 60 percent of 459 Tokyo women surveyed said they had experienced some form of sexual assault ranging from verbal abuse to rape. Only 6,124 rapes were reported nationwide in 1998. The true number is believed to much higher than that because most rapes go unreported. Women victimized by sexual crimes are regarded as dirty.

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Rape, according to Japanese law, is described as having sexual intercourse with a woman through force or against the woman’s will, but there is no clear legal definition for rape. According to Article 177 of the Criminal Code, “if a girl of 13 years or more is forced to have sexual intercourse by means of a violent act or threats... or if sexual intercourse is performed with a girl not yet 13 years of age, regardless of the method or whether there was mutual consent,” the offender will be punished. However, the victim or her parent or legal guardian must file a complaint in order for the rape to be recognized as a criminal act. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 ++]

“In 1994, when victims of rape were required to go through this vague and complicated procedure, 1,616 cases of rape were reported. The number of cases actually dropped between 1980 (1,800 cases) and 1990 (1,500 cases), but recent years have seen a slight increasing trend. In Japan, many feel that, because rape is an offense subject to prosecution only upon complaint, few cases come to light. The actual number of cases is sometimes said to be five to ten times the number reported. This is really the problem we should be concentrating on in our discussions, while striving to settle on a clear legal definition of rape. Although sexual crimes, such as indecent assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, were not until recently taken up as social problems, we can at least say that surveys and case studies on these topics are being performed, and that the formation of a nationwide study network is anticipated for the future.” ++

In January 2008, a man was sentenced to 18 years in prison for committing rapes on JR trains and train stations. In one case he approached a woman in her 20s on a train and threatened to kill her if she screamed, before raping her in a train station bathroom. He raped another woman in a train station and another on a local train

In Japan, many rapes are unreported and when they are reported the police don’t do much. In the early 2000s, the was a string of incidents in which teenage boys picked up drunk girls, raped them and left them in city parks.

Perpetrators of sexual assaults often go unpunished. One American who was molested a Japanese man went to police. The man was arrested but police encouraged her not to press charges because he was a first time offender and he supported his parents.

An expert on sexual abuse told the New York Times, “In Japan, there is a rape myth, which says that the victim of rape is always to blame. Moreover, women are told that if you suffer molestation or groping, you have to be ashamed. If you talk about it to anyone else to anyone else, you are going to be tainted for the rest fo your life.”

After a gang rape occurred at Tokyo university, one member of parliament remarked, “Boys who commit group rape are in good shape. I think they are rather normal. Whoops, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Murder in Japan

The murder rate in Japan is significantly lower than in the United States and even lower than Norway. The murder rate in Japan is below 1 per 100,000, compared to 7.5 per 100,000 in the United States and 4.3 per 100,000 in Germany. There were 1,396 murders in 2002, 1,338 murders in 1998, 1,281 in 1995 and 1,676 in Japan in 1986). By contrast there were 1,182 murders in New York and 23,000 in the entire United States in 1998.

The NPA said there were 45 shooting incidents in Japan in 2011, up 10 from the previous year, of which 32 involved associates of organized crime groups, an increase of 15. Police seized 426 guns last year, taking 121 of them from gangsters, the agency said. [Source: Kyodo, March 1, 2012]

The number of murders and attempted murders fell 2.5 percent to 1,067 in 2010 according to the NPA. The number of murders in 2009 reached a postwar low of 1,097, around 200 fewer than in 2008. Since the 1990s, there has been an average of about 1,300 murders a year. The most murders on record was in 1954 when 3,081 murders were committed. The number of murders rose 8.4 percent to 1,300 in 2008. A total of 95.2 percent of the cases were solved.

A comparison of murder motives between 1985 and 2009 based on government statistics on the relations between murderers and victims found the number of “grudge” murders and those involving friends, work acquaintances and other acquaintances decreased significantly during the period while those involving children murdering their parents tripled. Many of the latter were attributed to people looking after aged parents.

Many of the murders are committed by gangsters and yakuza members killing other gangsters and yakuza members. See Yakuza

See Famous Murders

Many people that are wanted for murder are initially arrested for abandoning a body because of difficulty in proving they actually killed the victim. Those accused of murders with a gun or knife are arrested on suspicion of violating the Firearms and Swords Control Law.

Image Sources: Jun from Goods from Japan, ; Amazon; Ray Kinanne

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2014

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