crime

5 crimes peculiar to Japan

58 Comments
By Amy Chavez, RocketNews24

Japan is often perceived as a safe country. The nation of 127 million people boasts some of the lowest rates in the world for serious crimes such as murder, robbery, and rape. In addition, Japan continually ranks high on the Global Peace Index. And while it may sometimes seem like stalking and crime against children is rampant in Japan (the stalking rate hit a record high of 22,823 this year, up from 21,000 in 2013), this perception comes largely from widespread media exposure. In the U.S., for example, it is estimated that 6.6 million people are stalked per year.

While serious crime may not rank as high as in other developed countries, there are plenty of the other offenses that Japan excels at, and the country has its share of unscrupulous nationals. These are the things you probably haven’t heard so much about. Today we look at five crimes, some of them strangely Japan-specific.

Here is our list, in no particular order.

1. Sagi

"Sagi" means fraud or scam, and is very visible in Japan in the form of door-to-door sales to "ore-ore" phone calls where the perpetrator poses as the victim’s relative ("ore-ore" means “It’s me, it’s me!”) and asks the victim to send money urgently in order to help them out of a scrape. ATMs in Japan often have signs positioned beside them, questioning people’s motives for taking out cash, asking “You didn’t receive an 'ore ore' phone call asking for money, did you?” or “Are you sure it’s not a scam?”

Longer ago, deceptive scams were carried out by door-to-door salesmen who would sell 300,000-yen futons to mostly elderly people. On the small island of 550 people where I live, there are few households that have been immune to high-pressure salesmen at some point, including scam roof repairs, massage chair purchases and, yes, futons.

It seems odd that so many people would fall for such scams, but when the national television broadcaster endorses products featured in their daytime TV shows and solicits telephone sales after the program, and when at 7 p.m. other Japanese TV stations start airing advertisements for miracle pills and exercise equipment with toll-free numbers, it’s no wonder that many people can’t tell the difference between genuine and speculative advertising.

2. Enjokosai

"Enjokosai," or compensated dating, is a concept that originated in Japan but has since spread to other Asian countries such as Taiwan and South Korea. In short, "enjokosai" usually involves high school girls dating much older men in exchange for cash, gifts, or simply being spoiled rotten during their time together. The tricky part here is that, in a uniquely Japanese twist on something as mundane as prostitution, "enjokosai" doesn’t always involve sexual intercourse.

Consider that you could go to Tokyo’s Kabuki-cho and see men holding signs advertising the opportunity to touch women’s breasts for 30 minutes for just a few thousand yen, and that in the ’80s there were “no panties cafes” ("no-pan kissa") where the waitresses walked on mirrored floors wearing skirts but no underpants. While many school girls do go all the way (illegal), just as many don’t and simply enjoy being taken to fancy establishments on dates with men who are over 40 years old (legal). While some receive cash, others prefer being showered with luxury goods (status symbols in Japanese society) instead.

3. Recycle trucks

Anyone who has lived in Japan will recognize the sound of the recycle trucks with speakers mounted on them, cruising the neighborhood bellowing out a canned recording saying they’ll take your unwanted computers, CD cassette players, refrigerators, air conditioners, TVs, washing machines off your hands – for a price. Readers in the West may wonder why anyone would pay to throw their old junk away, but, particularly for those living in the city, disposing of larger items like these can actually be quite the hassle in Japan, and not as simple as driving them to the dump.

According to the Home Appliance Recycling Law that went into effect in 2001, consumers must pay a recycling fee when they take appliances to a retail outlet for disposal. (I recently paid 6,900 yen to dispose of a refrigerator). These high recycling fees have prompted unscrupulous people to start recycle businesses – charging people less for pick-up than the retail outlets and then dumping the goods in the countryside, onto an abandoned private lot somewhere, or even into the sea.

Others may ship the goods overseas to a developing country where someone can resell the used but still functioning products. Others still will send the appliances to China where they’ll salvage the metals out of it. These ships are often illegal and create their own hazards (safety, chemical spills, fires, etc) as a result. This is part of a wider, illegal dumping problem in Japan which includes the illegal disposal of industrial waste.

4. Crimes committed by the elderly

According the criminal statistics of the National Police Agency and a government White Paper on Crime, petty infractions such as shoplifting are increasingly carried out by Japan’s rapidly aging population (65 and older). Out of 48,559 crimes committed by the elderly in 2012, 59% involved shoplifting with a significantly higher proportion of elderly women initiating the thefts.

Debunking the widely accepted theory that crimes decrease with an individual’s age, Japan indicates that its own societal changes are a contributing factor to the proliferating crime by senior citizens. While seniors are living well beyond retirement age, they are also increasingly isolated from their social networks such as family and friends and face decreased prospects of living with their children.

5. Fetish Crimes

Japan seems to be the land of fetishes. Groping, especially on trains, has become such a problem that women-only carriages are now offered during peak commuting hours. Panties are a big fetish too, as well as stealing them which is perhaps one of the reasons in Japan you always hang up your underwear to dry inside away from prying eyes. Sometimes the panties don’t even make it to the clothes line. Once on a sailing trip, I went to a coin-operated laundry near the port in Miyazaki, Kyushu. I went to get a bite to eat while my clothes were washing and by the time I came back to retrieve them, my panties were already gone, snatched from the machine.

Some people blame Japan’s anime and manga industries for highlighting and spreading a plethora of the more wretched fetishes, from urinating while still in your clothes to the more futuristic menstruating boys. Of course, fetishes in themselves are not necessarily criminal, but unfortunately, some people just don’t know where to draw the line.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Don’t like drinking with the boss? No Promotion For You! -- Don’t feel constrained by the passage of time – enjoy it instead with the Awaglass! -- Fashion advice – Almost half of Japanese women say they don’t like guys wearing tank tops

© Japan Today

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58 Comments
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and asks the victim to send money urgently in order to help them out of a scrape.

I don't get it.

If the money is sent to another bank account, can't the police trace the owner of the destination bank account?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

“Sagi” means fraud or scam,

Never heard of bernie madoff? Sagi is definitely NOT peculiar to Japan.....

Recycle trucks Others may ship the goods overseas to a developing country where someone can resell the used but still functioning products. Others still will send the appliances to China where they’ll salvage the metals out of it. These ships are often illegal and create their own hazards (safety, chemical spills, fires, etc) as a result. This is part of a wider, illegal dumping problem in Japan which includes the illegal disposal of industrial waste.

Reaching here, and over generalizing about a few bad apples vs people who actually make a living doing this type of work. The author is also making assumptions with no facts to back it up. Just like a tabloid writer, makes some assumptions, throw in some conjecture, sprinkle in a few grains of truth and presto an article is make.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

Burning, after the money hits the account, they withdraw it and close it. They keep getting new accounts, and of course they're not opened with a real name or address.

This is hitting the US as well, it's called the 'grandparent scam'.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Debunking the widely accepted theory that crimes decrease with an individual’s age, Japan indicates that its own societal changes are a contributing factor to the proliferating crime by senior citizens. While seniors are living well beyond retirement age, they are also increasingly isolated from their social networks such as family and friends and face decreased prospects of living with their children.

First it is people with mental disabilities and then foreigners and now another weak segment of society, the elderly, is being stigmatized and criminalized, when poverty (not mentioned by the author) created by structured inequality is likely what would drive some senior citizens to turn to the risky act of theft.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I would also add intrafamily homicides.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

I would also add intrafamily homicides.

Hardly peculiar to Japan is it.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

@Burning Bush: Those ore-ore scams are actually quite common where I'm from as well. The way I've heard it happens is that the impostor, rather than being paid via money transfer, tells his "grandma"/"aunt"/etc. to pass the money(or other valuables at times) in person to his friend to later be delivered to them(as in they are unable to get it themselves). That's why they are so hard to trace later on.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I love this idea of "Enjokosai" where dating is for compensation. Of course, not for anyone under the legal age, but there is definitely a good idea here that doesn't have to be illegal. For instance, if a young lady over 18 has a desire to have some extra cash or some nice things and doesn't have the money or doesn't want to milk her boyfriend, why not a web site to hook-up her with a date with a guy who has money but just doesn't want a regular relationship. And of course, any intimacy would have to be AFTER the date between two people who wanted it without compensation. Oh, and sure, this could apply to a younger guy and an older woman or gays, etc.

-10 ( +6 / -15 )

Stalking figure is lower because much of it goes unrecorded by the police. Same with groping, rape and Domestic Violence etc.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Some people need to castrated for their crimes, especially those guy stealing panties. Who the hell steals them out of a washer? I never understood this fetish and I never will.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

While some receive cash, others prefer being showered with luxury goods (status symbols in Japanese society) instead.

I never understood why it is so important for young girls to have Fendi, L Vutton, Chanel products to "be cool" . .

8 ( +9 / -1 )

So more crimes are committed by old people than foreigners? Seems like those "foreign crime wave" reports the JP police pump out need to change.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Anyone remember those crime tales of Old Japan that appeared in the Mainichi back in the 90s?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The only thing unique to Japan is the silly excuse people give.

"I was feeling stressed."

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Recycle trucks-

if I'm not mistaken up until the 1990s, the governments simply came and collected your appliances for free. Then they realize that they could make money off of it. That's when they started to charge people. The scam actually comes from the government. If they really are concerned about the legal disposal, why not go back to picking up the appliances for free? End of problem.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Pachinko is probably the biggest crime unique to Japan. Everyone knows it's illegal but the police turn a blind eye... is it really that hard to find some shred of evidence that the pachinko parlour and the little place outside where you exchange prizes for cash are somehow connected?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Just to name a few:

Abusing other people in all ways and forms, both physically and psychologically.

Molesting little girls.

General acceptance of child porn on comics.

Prostitution hubs everywhere.

General acceptance of Mafia quarters everywhere.
5 ( +8 / -3 )

None of these are uniquely Japanese crimes, except maybe the elderly crime.

And people who collect garbage should never have been criminalized. Homeless people were always able to make money by collecting cans for recycling. It was a win/win situation until the government stepped in. They can't allow citizens to solve their own problems without getting a cut. They essentially took money out of the pockets of the homeless, money out of the pockets of homeowners (who must buy designated garbage bags) and spent it on god knows what. Construction companies probably.

For larger appliances that can't be recycled easily, the common sense approach would be to make these the responsibility of the company that makes them. It would be built into the sales price, so if you want to get rid of a Toshiba fridge, for example, you simply call Toshiba to pick it up. Price competition should prevent companies from overcharging for this. (The system is called reverse logistics.)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not to worry - "Lincoln" Abe will "free things up" so all of Japan will become like Nevada...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japan seems to be the land of fetishes. Groping, especially on trains, has become such a problem that women-only carriages are now offered during peak commuting hours.

Perhaps rather than call this a fetish, we should call it what it really is- assault.

I had no idea the recycle trucks were involved in something outright illegal, I thought they were just annoying opportunists. Makes me wonder why the police don't do anything about them.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I had no idea the recycle trucks were involved in something outright illegal

But not all recycling trucks are doing something illegal. Here in Yokohama, it's your responsibility to check whether the garbage disposal company you are dealing with is officially licenced. I think there are around 50 or so in the city.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Burning, after the money hits the account, they withdraw it and close it.

How do they withdraw it without being captured by a camera?

And when the account was set up didn't they have to provide official ID with an address and all that.

Haven't the banks figured out a way to stop these fake accounts. How hard is it to verify identity these days?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Burning Bush, they hire "dashiko" to withdraw the money. They get a small cut and usually don't even know who they are working for. As for setting up bank accounts, they get people desperate for money to set up real accounts. The scammers then buy those bank accounts for a fee. The person who set it up claims he lost his bank book.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What about infanticide and other inter-family homicide. Autopsies are not conducted when someone dies at home so ..

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

What about infanticide and other inter-family homicide

They don't fit the article title or premise.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

None of these seem all that peculiar to Japan.

Fraud, especially targeting the elderly, is common in other countries.

Sugar daddies exist the world over.

Illegal dumping happens everywhere.

Crimes by the elderly have been rising dramatically in the U.S. in the past decade or so. Like Japan, the U.S. and European countries are "graying." More elderly means more elderly committing crimes.

Theft of women's undergarments is also quite common in other countries. Do a simple web search and see for yourself.

This article should be titled, "Stereotypical crimes that are supposedly more common in Japan."

3 ( +3 / -0 )

About those loudspeaker recycle trucks: beware! Sometimes they quote you one price, but then insist on another, much higher one when you've gone to the trouble of hauling all your unwanted items onto the pavement. Most victims pay up, rather than make a scene. This tactic is hardly unique to Japan, though.

I've been on the wrong end of so many weird, fetish, "only-in-Japan" crimes, I could write a book. The weirdest one was this:

One night, on a crowded express train, a balding, bespectacled middle-aged salaryman sat down next to me. He pulled out was obviously a used sanitary pad, and commenced to sniff it while masturbating under his trench coat. I burst into tears and pleaded with him to leave me alone. He got off the train at the next stop, and stayed on the platform until the train pulled away, bowing repeatedly and apologising for upsetting me (that was the "only in Japan" part).

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

StrangerlandJUL. 12, 2015 - 01:12PM JST What about infanticide and other inter-family homicide They don't fit the article title or premise.

Well, the high rate of infanticide is peculiar to Japan.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Well, the high rate of infanticide is peculiar to Japan.

No it's not.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

According to the Home Appliance Recycling Law that went into effect in 2001, consumers must pay a recycling fee when they take appliances to a retail outlet for disposal. (I recently paid 6,900 yen to dispose of a refrigerator). These high recycling fees have prompted unscrupulous people to start recycle businesses – charging people less for pick-up than the retail outlets and then dumping the goods in the countryside, onto an abandoned private lot somewhere, or even into the sea.

This is interesting. Live in the shitamachi heartland of Tokyo and you see these trucks daily. Sometimes, multiple trucks on the same day. I once drove to Choshi to see the seaside and, upon arrival, trash EVERYWHERE. Fridges, sofas - you name it. All strewn accross the beaches. Heartbreaking stuff.

For a county that prides itself on its connection with nature, quite contradictory at times

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@igloobuyer

"Autopsies are not conducted when someone dies at home"

Sure they are. I found a housemate dead (under water, cold and grey) in the bathtub one cold December morning. The body was closely examined in a local hospital by the doctor who certified the death, and also by the police (who came to the hospital, then to the house, and incidentally took all the bankbooks with them to check, too, in case it was a murder for money). Fortunately for me there were no withdrawals that day and there was no water in my dead friend's lungs; therefore the verdict was heart failure rather than drowning. i.e., a natural death rather than a murder. Whew! Any death other than one that occurs in a hospital triggers extremely close scrutiny by the certifying physician AND the police (both city and prefectural, in this case).

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Chikuyokei

There are "city police"? I thought they were all prefectural.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Enjo kousai is not unique to Japan. It is worldwide.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@supercub: your post is the only one that does make sense. This article is nonsense, you can find the same troubles in any other place. Young girls who sell their body for a luxury good to old men are rather common also in Italy for example, even though they are not poor. Materialistic societes bring to this kind of terrible things.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Any death other than one that occurs in a hospital triggers extremely close scrutiny by the certifying physician AND the police (both city and prefectural, in this case).

Maybe some, not all. An acquaintance of mine died a few years back, and as it didn't appear suspicious, no autopsy was done.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I agree with Supercub. These types of crimes aren't unique to Japan, and are committed in many countries across the globe including my home country, Britain.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My only concern is the high decibal noise of therecycle trucks. They are so obnoxious.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sagi - it is pretty common in my country as well, the government tries to implement laws to prevent it, but those people always find new ways how to steal money from elderly legally.
1 ( +1 / -0 )

Touching women's breasts for a few thousand yen. Ha ha ha kinda ironic as big breasts and Japanese chicks is somehow oximoronic. Well I guess there are a few, like 10 percent, of well endowed women in this country. Anyhows, 2 of the above shouldn't even be considered crimes. Fraud is in no way exclusively Japanese. We have repressed Japanese male sexuality to blame for number 5.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Good article, and although forms of these crimes can definitely be found in other countries, it is the way that they manifest here, including the scale of each, that makes them uniquely Japanese, IMHO.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I actually found a bra in the dryer in my college dorm one night and kept it. I am sorry.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Reckless. Hope you've gotten over your obsession with female lingerie. Maybe you ought to put said bra up for auction? That's if you still have it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@lucabrasi

Yes, city police, too. To pick up the bankbooks after the police had checked them, I had to drive to the CITY police office.

@Strangerland

I guess the police thought the death was suspicious because my housemate was underwater in the bathtub. Maybe if I'd found him on the floor or in his bed, they wouldn't have been so fussy. Or maybe if it had been a Japanese relative of his, instead of me, the foreigner, who found him and made the 119 call, they would have been rather more casual. Anyway, lucky fellow, he apparently went instantly and painlessly - his heart just stopped. Way to go! Rather a shock for all of us friends and relations, though.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

More nonsense about unique Japan is. I wouldn't mind if these things were unique but they most certainly are not.

Phone scams - very, very common in the UK, My mum gets these calls all the time and stories of those conned are all over the media.

Compensated dating - just a different class of prostitution, escorting as it's known.

Paying someone to take away your stuff, yes you do that in the UK too and guess what! They sell it on for a profit.

Elderly crime, yup that too, on the rise due to the poor economy and savage welfare and social care cuts by Cameron and his mates.

Fetish crimes, yes Japan doesn't have exclusivity on perverts and sex offenders, only when they are caught here they are put on a sex offenders register.

Japan does itself no favours by continuing to blindly push the myth that Japan is unique and the Japanese different from the rest of humanity. Just stop it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@ Elizabeth Heath "Japan does itself no favours by continuing to blindly push the myth that Japan is unique and the Japanese different from the rest of humanity. Just stop it."

Unless she has changed her nationality recently, the author of this article full of nonsense is an American. She's been living in Japan long enough that she ought to know better than to put her name on such an inaccurate waste of space.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Thank you so much for the info. In Europe, sagi is also known very well, mostly in est europe as Romania or Bulgaria. And also the people are easily to trick.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is often perceived as a safe country.

I always thought Japan was a safe country. However, I changed my mine in recent years, but in fact Japan is not the most unsafe country in the world. Actually, the whole world is dangerous. The golden rule is never go to any place you don't know well. Ask first.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Take photo of underwear on escalator. Stealing female underwear. Seems Japan has more men who love female underwears.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Never knew that recycling is illegal, oh wait you have to pay the ridiculous fees then it is ok

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Chikuyokei

Are you sure that was the "Citypolice office", rather than the "City policeoffice"?

If you see what I mean.... ; )

0 ( +0 / -0 )

People stealing from unmanned vegetable stands.

They showed one on the tv where the grower said it cost him 2,000,000 yen a year. The programme showed him installing security cameras and running after people, usually well-dressed women in their forties and fifties. Some of them were extra sneaky and would take 1,000 yen's worth and leave only 100 yen. He had a camera inside the coin box itself so he could see how much people were putting in.

I mention this because roadside unmanned vegetable stands are held up by pro-Japan people as an indicator of how honest a society Japan is. Reality does not always suit such simple conclusions.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I actually found a bra in the dryer in my college dorm one night and kept it. I am sorry.

You should be glad it fit.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@lucabrasi

"Citypolice office", rather than the "City policeoffice"?

Huh? No, I don't get it. But it actually was our city police station, the one I've been going to for years for eye tests when renewing my driver's licence.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How about police chikans?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Chikuyokei

What I mean is that while every city has a police station, the officers who staff it are working for the prefecture, not for the city. So while there's a large police station in, say, Omuta in Fukuoka-ken, all the cops stationed there have badges that say "Fukuoka ken police", they don't say "Omuta city police".

Look at patrol cars. They all have ".... ken police" on the side. Never ".... city police".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@lucabrasi

Oh, I see what you mean. During the question session in the hospital, there were two cops - one who said he was from the local office and who who said he was from the prefectural police. I didn't see their cars. And I wasn't focusing too much on badges at that point!

"Look at patrol cars. They all have ".... ken police" on the side. Never ".... city police"."

OK, will do. Thanks for the info.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“ore-ore” phone calls where the perpetrator poses as the victim’s relative

Scammer: okasan?!! "Ore-Ore. . " Stupid mother: Ehh, Taro?? Scammer: Hai, so desu. No time to explain. Please help me, could u wire ¥300,000 to xxxx-xxxx-1234. I'm in a little bind with a client . . . Repay it soon. . . Please Mom-Na?? Taihen-da!

Easy score. No wonder why,"Sagi" came in @ #1 on tha' list-

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pachinko does not give out with money so it is not gambling machines Adelspn has been trying to get casino business in Japan for years. There is tint city of Laughlin in NV. Also our state Nevada has Las Vegas Is there same name place in NE Neebraska? There are legal gambling business in Japan. Not only pachinko but horse race, cycle race, boat race, tomikuji takara kuji. Each Casino have to peovide a card to let people understand probabiliyu of each game such as popilar craps Japanese Govt officials were mad at a couple years ago when Adelson wanted abolish Ja[anese gamblin law. They yelled we can not repeal none existing lawa and we have our culture/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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