Thursday, April 5, 2012

Is there Crime in Hokkaido?

I always feel very safe here in Hokkaido. The most dangerous thing I can think of is carrying home eggs from the Haruki when the roads are icy. I wondered if my feelings of being safe here were real or misplaced, so I googled crime rate in Japan and read the things that popped up. As I thought, violent crime in Japan is much lower than in the US.   According to Japan is the third most peaceful country: “The 2011 peace index shows that the world became less peaceful in the last year. Among the most peaceful nations, Iceland, New Zealand, and Japan emerged as the top three, respectively. European Union countries also fared well, garnering six of the Top 10 slots, with Canada ranking as 8th most peaceful.”  The US ranked 82nd.

From what I’ve read, the three main reasons for the low incidence of violent crime in Japan is 1) no guns, 2) Japanese culture discourages misbehavior, and 3) community police.

In addition to central police stations, there are small community police stations called kouban. The officers in these buildings can keep watch, respond to emergencies, give directions, and otherwise interact with citizens on a more intimate basis than they could from a more distant station.

Around where I live there are big board maps every couple of blocks, (although some have been covered with snow most of the winter and not able to be read). 

Most of the map is in Japanese, but there are also pictures to help you find what you need.

This is the symbol for the police kouban.

I haven’t had the need to go inside of one of these kouban, but here is a picture of one here in Hokkaido. We do sometimes see the police car driving slowly with the lights flashing. 

There is a mafia type organization in Japan called the yakuza. I don’t know anything about this, except that the onsens prohibit people with tattoos because tattoos are associated with the yakuza.

One crime that seems to get a lot of attention here is lingerie theft.  These criminals are called shitagi-fechi (underwear fetishists). Clothing is hung outside to dry, but women are warned not to leave their underwear out. has an article about a woman who didn’t follow the laundry rules and had her undergarments stolen.  She was surprised that the police came out to investigate and took the incident very seriously.  Would the police in the US even think about coming out to a laundry mat or someone’s backyard if a woman called and said her underpants had been stolen?  There are countless articles in the news about men who are arrested with thousands of pieces of lingerie. These men must only be stealing the underwear of petite Japanese women. Even four thousand little underpants would take up a lot of room.  Where do these criminals store their loot? Japanese homes are small.

This would be the perfect place for a photo of underwear hanging to dry, but I’m not posting a picture of mine!

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