Have you noticed that throughout all the turmoil in Japan, where after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant debacles, the media stories bombard us with news of black outs, curtailed train schedules and empty grocery store shelves but fail to mention riots, looting or increases in crime? Have the confined incidences stopped or has it not started? The Japanese I observed stoically waited for late trains and stood politely in lines at virtually empty grocery stores. Where is the tremendous crime wave to accompany the reduced store hours and electricity black outs? Where are the bad guys?
On a normal day crime is virtually non-existent. As an example, through out Japan vending machines sell everything from books to drinks, operate 24 hours a day, are well-lit, always clean, electronic, and consistently in working order. Never does one find oneself beating the machine senseless for the drink now balanced precariously- but not dropping- at the top of the shelf. In fact, so pristine are they that both cold and hot drinks are available from the same machine. Never tampered with or covered in graffiti, they are located on every street corner. Truly, given their illumination and sheer number, each marking regular intervals down the sidewalk, street lights aren’t needed at night.
Another example: children as young as 6 routinely ride the subway unaccompanied. Nary a clutchy parent in site. Every time I see one I get nervous- apparently for no reason for as I snuck this picture, everyone on the train started to watch me suspiciously for fear I might be the bad guy on it.
Just one more- I’ve had my eye on two metal chairs that someone thoughtfully placed at the bus stop for the comfort of the waiting neighbors. I’ve watched these chairs with greed in my heart for 8 months, as they sit, unmolested, unchained, for all passers-by to grab and yet still they remain. Obviously this isn’t my old neighborhood where any unclaimed item within 10 feet of the curb was fair game for anyone with a means to transport it.
My Japanese friends explain the lack of crime, and maybe the reason behind the lack of a massive crime wave post earthquake, has to do with the Japanese concept of the Insider vs. the Outsider and putting the group well-being above that of the individual. In the old days, Japanese lived in villages where all were taken care of regardless of ability. Everyone contributed to the management of the village in some way and in return, the poorer members were fed and housed. The village was the Inside. As long as one was a member of the village, an Insider, all needs would be met. If a person did something criminal, that person was cast out of the village- and would become an Outsider. The Outsider no longer had the advantages associated with having all needs met and became completely self sustaining- probably to their detriment. For that reason, people did not want to become Outsiders as it became both a survival and a social issue.
Committing a crime, which negatively impacts the overall group, causes the criminal to become an Outsider. This desire to remain part of the Inside group, and/or not to appear different, is the crux which keeps the criminal activity to a minimum. Additionally, the laws when caught are harsh and swift. I like to remind the Offspring should they get any ideas about illicit substances, that if caught, they can be put in jail for 30 days. During that time, the police are not required to call the Embassy or the parents. At the end of the 30 days, both they and the family are deported. Activity such as fighting, drunken public behavior are also not tolerated therefore the repercussions of having a negative engagement with a policeman carry catastrophic consequences.
The stores and businesses are running on 5-8 hour days in order to save power which leaves one of the largest cities in the world in complete darkness. Hopefully, this strong cultural influence which focuses the people on taking care of those in need and douses the desires of would be offenders, will continue as Japan struggles with this horrible crisis.