Murder month?

It been a difficult few weeks in Japan, with some very tragic events unfolding. Murders occur all over the world, and to be honest, murders in different countries to tend to vary slightly given the host country, and unfortunately the last couple of weeks have seen a few very pointless and grizzly crimes. Japan is rightly not known for it’s violent crime – especially outside of it’s ‘criminal underworld’, and often, sadly, these stories just pass us by, but a few stories this week just seemed to pile up and made me wonder how deep the problem is. And just what the problem is.

The first was the cold killing of a schoolgirl allegedly over something written on a website – the girl simply slashed the other girl’s throat and let her bleed to death. [BBC, Reuters].

Next came the drawn out task of identifying a body found near rice fields in Ibaraki Prefecture. Again, this turned out to be a young woman, but the murderer has yet to be found. [Japan Today]. In this case a foreigner has been questioned, but it’s not thought he was involved. This is only relevant as the media here like to push the idea that most crimes are committed by foreigners, when the Police’s own statistics show that they’re not (with the exception of work permit violations). In this case, the Police seem to have little to go on.

The final case was an attempted murder, and was probably the most bizarre – a Railway employee was shot in the stomach by a mystery gunman, who then grabbed the bag he was carrying and made his getaway. What’s odd about this is that it happened at 8.45am, in the Den-en Toshi Line ticket machine area of Shibuya station. For those who don’t know, this is probably one of the busiest underground stations in Tokyo – even at 8.45, it would have been packed. I know this because I pass through that station every day, and was there about an hour before it happened. ‘Fortunately’ reports say the victim will recover, and the gunman actually stole the man’s toiletry bag. The theory is that he was actually hoping to steal ticket machine takings, which would allegedly run into hundreds of millions of yen. [Mainichi]

The reason I’m writing this post is that I thought this recent rate was fairly unusual. Really. Anyone who has lived in Japan for any length of time will tell you that it’s the safest place they’ve ever lived. I’ve lived in some pretty bad places in Tokyo, and yet never felt safer. However, I do know violent crime happens a lot here – and Japan does have some of the world’s most gruesome and yet seemingly unmotivated murders (though virtually no serial murderers).

“Is Japan changing?”

No, not really, or at least, not in this sphere. I think these reports are just finding their way into the media a little more. I know many people are concerned that the Police are virtually ineffective unless they find a smoking gun, but that too doesn’t reflect the fairly pacifist society here. Many of the normal police from the Koban (policeboxes) are just not equipped to deal with anything more serious than a stolen bicycle or a drunken argument. Ask them.

It’s just that when people snap here, they tend to…snap, as in there is reportedly very little ‘meltdown’ time, just a rapid deterioration. In looking for references for this post via my usual Google News I was saddened by the level of violent attacks in Japan recently, including a double murder in Saitama [Mainichi]. It’s sad because I know this is still a lot less than other countries. Given the number of humans who live in very close proximity to each other here, it’s in some way surprising that the rate of reported violent crime is as low as it is.

I’m not quite sure what the bottom line for this post is other than to wish the victims families whatever consolation there is, and hope that some form of justice is administered. If anyone has any theories, let me know.