Japan Focus on public perceptions of crime in Japan


Hello Blog. Trapped in Miyazaki at the moment with a newsletter to mail out but no emailability.  Meanwhile, let me cite a marvellous article dealing with crime and crime perception in Japan.  From Japan Focus (an academic site run out of Cornell University in the US, thanks to Mark for the notification), some selective quotes:


Crime and Punishment in Japan: From Re-integrative Shaming to Popular Punitivism    

By Thomas Ellis & Koichi HAMAI



SUMMARY: In the late 1990s, press coverage of police scandals in Japan provoked policy reactions so that more ‘trivial’ offences were reported, and overall crime figures rocketed. The resulting ‘myth of the collapse of secure society’ appears, in turn, to have contributed to increasingly punitive public views about offenders and sentencing in Japan.

The NPA policy shift since 2000, toward encouraging greater reporting of minor offences has produced a large increase in overall recorded violent crimes that are virtually unsolvable and this has devastated the police clear up rate. In reality, International Crime Victims Surveys show that the risk of becoming a victim (including of violent crime) between 2000 and 2004 was generally reduced, but the proportion reported to and recorded by the police increased. These surveys also show that Japan has the lowest victimization rates for robbery, sexual assault and assault with force. Further, the homicide rate, which is one of the most reliable crime statistics, shows a downward trend since the 1980s, and the clear up rate has remained consistently above 90%. However, like the public elsewhere, the Japanese public rely more on media sources for opinions on crime than they do on objective sources. As Figure 4. shows, there is no clear relationship between the trends in homicide rates and the number of press articles relating to them, again supporting a notion of moral panic.

As with most comparable nations, the Japanese public’s fear of crime is not in proportion to the likelihood of being victimized. What is different is the scale of this mismatch. While Japan has one of the lowest victimization rates, the International Crime Victim Surveys (ICVS) indicate that it has among the highest levels of fear of crime. The Japanese moral panic about crime has been extremely durable in the new millennium. Some now claim that the panic perspective has become institutionalized in Japan and that there has been collapse of the pre-existing psychological boundary dividing experience of the ordinary personal world where crime is rare, and another hyper-real world where crime is common….

However, rather than the rise in relatively trivial crimes, the press focused on homicide and violent crime, which are the types of stories with high “news value” in Japan and elsewhere.


Rest at http://www.japanfocus.org/products/details/2340

The full version of this article was published in International Journal of the Sociology of Law (2006, Vol. 34 (3) pp.157-178.) Posted on Japan Focus on January 29, 2007.


COMMENT:  So as this article demonstrates, the perception gap between real and imagined crime in Japan is one of the highest in the world, and the media has been helping it along.  Meanwhile, the National Police Agency zeroes in on foreign crime, since it is a softer target.  The public perception there (cf. GAIJIN HANZAI mag re Fukuoka Chinese murder) is that it is more diabolical (i.e. something Japanese would never do as heinously), more organized and terroristic (cf. Embassy of Japan in Washington DC’s website on this at http://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/english/html/033005b.htm  –also includes mention of infectious diseases, of course exclusive to foreigners…).

And just plain unnecessary from a sociological standpoint.  For if Japanese commit crime and the rates go up, the NPA will come under fire for not doing their job.  But if foreigners commit it (in their unpredictable ways, so lay off our poor boys in blue), they shouldn’t be coming to Japan in the first place now, should they?  Zeroing in on foreign crime is a great way to open the budgetary purse strings while deflecting criticism. 

Pity the Japanese media has to play along with it too for the sake of “impact”. (cf https://www.debito.org/?p=218)  As you can see, it reassures nobody and far divorces the debate from reality.

Arudou Debito in Miyazaki









MEDIA GAIJIN HANDLING (i.e. significantly different headlines and reportage depending on which side of the linguistic fence you report to) DURING KOIZUMI’S 2003 FOREIGN CRIME PUTSCH


JAPAN TIMES MAY 24, 2005 ON THE “ANTI-TERRORIST” CRIME BILL (which did get passed)



2 comments on “Japan Focus on public perceptions of crime in Japan

  • I wonder what would happen to the public perspective on safety if every single news media source in the world stopped reporting on crime, particularly heinous crimes like murder…

  • According to the local government in our little provincial capital, there were 300 or so fires in 2006, of which about 50 percent were arson or suspected arsons—the work of foreigners or members of the homogenous society?

    Speaking of homogenous societies, the people in Japan get along together because they are scared sh*tless of the consequences of making a complaint or standing up for their rights.

    In our ‘up-market’ part of the city, our next-door neighbor but one has to clean a large pile of dog poop from her door-step nearly every morning; she may have once complained to a neighbor about something.


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