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Crime in Japan – The Country is Not As Safe As You Might Have Thought

Often you hear that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. I had an experience right after I moved to Japan that made me wonder whether that is true.

I moved to Japan after graduating from university and my first job was an internship at a Japanese company in a rural area. The company had provided apartments for the interns and only a few days after I had moved into my company apartment, something shocking happened.

The Night of the Incident

This is typical manual lock you can find in a lot of apartments in Japan

As I was still slightly jet-lagged and overwhelmed by my new surroundings and on one night, I forgot to lock my apartment door behind me after I came home. So far, I had only lived in auto-lock apartments in Japan that automatically lock the door when you close it and I still needed to get used to manually locking my door.

Photo by すしぱく on Pakutaso.

On that night I woke up at around 2 or 3 AM because I felt something close to my pillow. When I opened my eyes, I saw a man wearing a black mask standing next to my bed. I was shocked and started screaming. The man ran away immediately. 

After I was able to calm down a bit I checked for missing things and luckily only some cash from my purse was missing. However, when I returned to my bed, I found my own kitchen knife sitting next to my pillow. I had no idea what the burglar was planning to do with it but thinking about it still freaks me out.

Dealing with the Police

Photo by すしぱく on Pakutaso

I was unsure what to do next, so I tried to call my intern supervisor that luckily answered their phone in the middle of the night. I told them what had happened, and they contacted the police and a colleague that was living nearby to come over and help me deal with the police. 

I was relieved because at that time I was not confident enough in my Japanese abilities to deal with the police alone. The colleague handled most of the talking with the police for me. I was only asked a few questions and I had to pose for a picture pointing out where my purse had been. 

A Positive Aspect of Japanese Company Culture

After the police left, I was still in shock and unsure of what to do. The company that I interned for figured that I did not want to stay in that apartment anymore and for the first few days a colleague that currently was not at home offered me to stay at their place. After that, the company had organized a hotel for me where I could stay until they found a new apartment for me.

I was relieved again because I really could not imagine sleeping in that bed anymore. After about two weeks the company had found new apartments not only for me but for all interns that were living in that apartment complex and helped us move our stuff. 

They even had provided an alarm system for the new apartments that automatically informs a security company when someone unauthorized enters the apartments.

I was surprised how much the company did for me even though I was just an intern with a 6-month contract. I think that this is also a part of the Japanese working culture. In Japan, the company you work for and your colleagues are very important, and many Japanese spend a lot of free time with their colleagues. While that might be annoying at times, you do get help in times of need. 

False Sense of Safety

Photo by すしぱく on Pakutaso.

I never heard back from the police afterwards, so I assume they did not find the burglar. A few days after the incident the police started handing out flyers asking people to lock their doors because apparently there had been several such incidents in the past in that area. I heard that in rural areas in Japan people do not lock their doors because they think it is safe. That is what attracts burglars so even though you might feel safe in Japan never let your guard down too much.

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