Safe and Secure – Is Japan the Safest Country on Earth?
For as long as I can remember, Japan has, rightfully I believe, laid claim to being one of the safest and most secure countries in the world. Is this still the case, and in an increasingly interconnected world, how long can this continue?
Japan's Terrorism Prevention Measures
In recent memory there have been only a handful of terrorist attacks in Japan, and whilst all life is precious, compared to the likes of 9-11 or the recent Paris atrocities, the number of casualties was minimal.
What is also important to note is that all of the attacks carried out in Japan were undertaken entirely by Japanese nationals. It kind of makes a mockery of the reasoning behind fingerprinting at airports in Japan these days. I recall seeing a rather flustered American resident of Japan, having waited in a very long line at immigration at Narita airport asking the staff why he had to be finger-printed but his Japanese wife did not.
“It’s to prevent terrorism.” The staff firmly responded.
The American continued: “All the terrorists who attacked Japan in the last 50 years had the same nationality, do you know what they were? They were all Japanese!”
As much as I may sympathize with the man’s sentiments, there’s a time and a place to register such protests, and when you are standing face-to-face with an official who has the authority to not let you into the country, that is not such a time!
Safety in Japan Today
Violent crime in Japan has shown a slow, but steady increase in the past decade. Of course it still pales in comparison to the similar surges in Europe and the US.
It should also be noted that given the lack of religious indoctrination at schools in Japan, sectarian crimes are almost non-existent. Hate crimes against ethnic Koreans, Chinese, and other Asian minorities are of course a concern, but again don’t even come close to matching the levels of racially motivated crime elsewhere.
But of course statistics only tell half the story and in such circumstances only provide us with but the thinnest veneer of self-assurance.
How Safe Are You as a Tourist
Let me be clear, I do not want people to be discouraged from visiting Japan. As a tourist, you are not likely to encounter any terrorism or crime no matter what city you visit.
Being scammed is extremely rare. The tours you book online through various websites are almost always actual tours and not scams from con artists. In addition, when you request a taxi, it will certainly be a taxi.
Even petty theft crimes such as pickpocketing or shop lifting are rarely encountered by either civilians or tourists.
Cases That Emerged in My Personal Life
I have lived in both rural and urban parts of Japan. Most of the time in both areas, I have walked by without any criminalities or violations. However, there were a few cases in my urban Tokyo neighborhood that forced me to move out.
After all, it is human nature that we go with our "gut feeling", one’s natural instinct, an evolutionary throwback to a time when our reptilian brain was dominant and our mammalian processes dormant. My gut feeling tells me that yes, Japan still remains one of the safest countries in the world.
As I walk towards my school every morning, I am greeted by gentle smiles, bows and greetings from the elderly residents of the suburb where I live. My students all amble their way down the street, showing no fear as they walk from their homes to their nearby schools. I love living here in Japan, and I can honestly say, I have never in my life felt safer and more secure than I do today.