Flipping through recent crime reports, Spa! (Sept 14) noticed a strange thing. A disproportionate number of perpetrators seemed to be in their 30s. So it proved, on closer examination. In the past three months, among 296 crimes serious enough to draw media coverage, 72 suspects, by Spa!’s count, were in their 30s.
Conventional wisdom generally tags the 20s as the most crime-prone decade. But lately, if Spa!’s intuition is correct, the mounting frustrations of maturity have surpassed the energy and recklessness of youth as the forces driving criminal behavior. Coming second behind the 30s are the 40s, with 66 perpetrators. The 20s, with 51, are a distant third.
The 30s are normally a time for settling down, starting a family, rising in one’s career. A moribund economy has blocked those paths for many, however, and rage seethes beneath the surface – often not very far beneath it. Spa! offers some case studies. The names are pseudonyms.
Michio Hirata is a 36-year-old temp worker who hates crowds. Tokyo rush hour is no place for a man like him, but he can scarcely avoid it. “I was standing in a packed train,” he says, “when the guy behind me kept knocking the back of my head with the book he was reading.”
Hirata glared at the offender – to no effect. Patience has its limits. He snapped. “What happened after I punched him the first time, I don’t remember.” Somehow, the pair of them ended up at a police station two stops down the track.
Hirata’s case was helped by the fact that his supposed victim showed himself unmanageably obnoxious. In the end, no charges were filed, but, says Hirata, “I hated being fingerprinted.” How long before he blows again?
Shigeru Ishida, also a temp worker, is 34. It was “unhappiness,” he says, that caused him to turn to crime. “Whether at work or at home, I was completely alone. There was this car, it was parked illegally – for some reason, it irritated me. I wrote graffiti on it with a magic marker.”
That’s exhilarating, when you’re in a certain frame of mind. Having gotten away with it once, he did it again, and again – “almost every day, just stupid, meaningless scribbles.”
It went on for two months, until finally the owner of the car caught him red-handed. “I knew I was doing wrong,” he says, “but I never thought I’d be arrested.” But arrested he was, though charges were dropped when Ishida undertook to pay 600,000 yen to have the car restored.
“Thinking about it now,” he muses, “unhappy or not, I wish I hadn’t done it. With that 600,000 yen, I could have gone traveling, or treated myself to some better distraction.”
If Japan’s economy and social life stagnate any further – and there’s no sign of an upsurge – human behavior, Spa!’s anecdotes suggest, could be in for a nasty evolution.© Japan Today