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Children need to be taught to be wary of the night

39 Comments

Atsushi Mizoguchi, age 73, is one of Japan's best known non-fiction writers, and extremely knowledgeable about crime in general and the yakuza in particular. Every Monday, he writes a column for Nikkan Gendai.

In his latest, appearing in the issue of Aug 25, Mizoguchi takes up the topic of the recent murders of a 13-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy in Neyagawa City, Osaka. Koji Yamada, a 45-year-old man who had previously worked with a cleanup crew at the damaged nuclear reactor in Fukushima, has been arrested on suspicion of the two slayings.

"When people are confronted by this news," he writes, "their thoughts are likely to vary, but an acquaintance of mine from Osaka mentioned to me that he wondered what was going on in the minds of parents who allow their children to leave the house after 9 p.m."

Mizoguchi concedes that in this particular case he doesn't know about the parents' circumstances, nor about the children's attitude toward their parents; but from a general standpoint, these are most likely to figure in the background of the incident.

From the biological standpoint, however, let's look at dogs or wild animals. When an oncoming car shines its headlamps into their eyes, a layer of tissue in animals' eyes called the tapetum lucidum reflects visible light back through the retina, making their eyes appear to glow in the dark (also referred to as "eyeshine"). This layer contributes to their superior night vision, a particularly valuable asset to nocturnal creatures when they hunt for prey. And this, in Mizoguchi's view, suggests why humans, who lack such a layer, are not nocturnal by nature.

From long ago, humans led an existence in which the dark was feared, and it was only adult humans, after developing superior physical strength and wisdom, came to feel safe after dark.

For children to be afraid of the dark, then, is part of their instinctive makeup that helps them to prolong their lives. It's also why adults are obliged to teach children to fear the night.

Conversely, the onset of night unleashes strange behavior in certain people, who for reasons not fully understood might suddenly feel an urge to commit murder. Hence remarks heard by some deranged killers to the effect that "I just wanted to kill someone, and anyone would do."

Yamada, the suspect in the two killings, was allegedly quoted as confiding to an acquaintance that he "had done something he shouldn't have." This would suggest his crimes were not premeditated.

Shortly after the killings, Yamada posted on his Facebook page that he was "preparing to leave Osaka," probably to hide in the workers' dormitory at Fukushima, suggesting a plan to hide in a "fallout shelter," where he would feel "safe."

Mizoguchi notes that while no yakuza turf wars occurred in 2014, there were some 140 murders. In 2013, a total of 938 cases of homicide occurred nationwide, with members of criminal syndicates accounting for 10% of the total.

But he says that what people should fear is not yakuza or "han-gure" (quasi-gangsters made up of biker gang members, etc) but murders by ordinary people. True, the "han-gure" should be feared, especially for their involvement is special cases like criminal fraud. What makes them scary is that on the telephone they talk just like anybody else, evoking the pessimistic worldview as voiced by English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes of "a war of all against all" that makes for human life that is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

The telling of scary stories, such as those by the Brothers Grimm, serves a much-needed function of imbuing children with fear of the night. And it's night, concludes Mizoguchi, that's frequently the catalyst for circumstances in which human beings find themselves entangled in crime.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

39 Comments
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Children need to be taught to be wary of the night

Children to to be taught to be AWARE during the night, and day, and any other time! Dont walk around with their heads in their sma-phones, and get some street smarts.

Oh common sense by parents might help too!

20 ( +25 / -5 )

The truth is most abductors are regular-looking people, and many go out of their way to look friendly, safe, and appealing to children. So if a stranger ever approaches and offers a ride or treats like candy or asks for help with a task, a child should step away, firmly yell "No!" and leave the area immediately. In the end instead of judging a person by appearance, kids should be taught to judge people by their actions and also trust their instincts if they feel uncomfortable or if they feel something's just not right even if they can't explain why and they need to walk away immediately.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I come from a country where we all have a very healthy fear of the night. I still revert to that hyper-alert state when I walk at night in Japan.

Fear without alertness is just anxiety. As Yubaru stated: we need to teach children to simply be aware. It's difficult in a country that is as safe as Japan since the general everyday dangers that I grew up with are just non-existent or tend to be limited to certain areas.

Japan's intentional homicide rate is under 1 per every 100 000 people. This is a dream compared to actually dangerous places in the 30's, 50's, even 90's.

Admittedly it would be really nice if we didn't have to be hyper-vigilant. It's one of the reasons I enjoy being in Japan and simultaneously a great annoyance that I see such slack vigilance on a daily basis.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

For children to be afraid of the dark, then, is part of their instinctive makeup that helps them to prolong their lives.

Fear helps people become victims. Yubaru is right. Awareness is helpful, not fear.

9 ( +9 / -1 )

It's difficult in a country that is as safe as Japan since the general everyday dangers that I grew up with are just non-existent or tend to be limited to certain areas.

Sadly this is a false image being kept alive by the media in general. There is plenty of crime that occurs that people never hear about. The police and the press keep a lid on a lot of crime and people only get to hear about the overall statistics vs what actually happened.

Also the TV shows that drive around 24 hours with cops, showing how they catch their suspects just projects the image of overall safety vs the reality. They rarely if ever talk about their failures or investigations that have hit dead ends.

Parents BELIEVE that their children are safe and crime never happens to them, it's always somewhere else.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Japanese people are very unobservant of what is going on around them. I'm not sure why. I can sit in Starbucks and predict that person A is about to walk into person B; then it happens, and both parties are stood there bowing and carrying on like they can't believe what just happened.

4 ( +8 / -5 )

Japanese people are very unobservant of what is going on around them.

I agree. Now with cell phones there's a completely new thing to distract them, but even before they had access to portable electronic gadgets I was noticing this. It's like they are able to do mentally what turtles do with their heads.

I think there has been one murder and one armed robbery at a Family Mart (with a handgun, that was discharged) in my Tokyo neighborhood over the past 3 decades. Both happened in the wee hours of the night.

3 ( +4 / -2 )

I agree. Teach children street smarts, awareness, and martial arts too.

I totally agree with the above comments about lack of awareness in this country. And i also do attribute it to a false sense of security

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I think there has been one murder and one armed robbery at a Family Mart (with a handgun, that was discharged) in my Tokyo neighborhood over the past 3 decades. Both happened in the wee hours of the night.

This is all that you know about, I will bet any amount of money that there were break-in's, thefts, vandalism, and a bunch of other crime, probably some violent , as well as non-violent, and juvenile crime that you never knew happened.

It happens, my father-in-law was a JP, I have friends who are detectives, and I worked in one place where we dealt with juvenile offenders on a daily basis, and the overwhelming majority of the crimes committed were never reported by any press of any kind.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

"But he says that what people should fear is not yakuza..." How likely is one to fall victim to a crime like this? Or one's children? I don't know, but I'm guessing not very likely. As for Yakuza, they cause general harm or harm in ways that don't serve the prurient interest reflected in the media. All of this may come down to the pitfalls of empathy which makes people irrational and probably amoral in what concerns or riled them. One child down a well causes empathy. A hundred, less so. I imagine Yakuza cause society much more harm than random sociopaths.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yubaru already said what I wanted to say. This article is a load of superstition and psuedo-science dressed up as advice. Night time doesn't make people dangerous, it is simply a time when many people have the opportunity to be dangerous. There are also opportunities to be dangerous in the day time. Rather than disempower children with the notion that they must hide in their homes during certain hours when the "bad people" are out, I'd much rather empower them to be aware of their surroundings at any hour and know how to go to a responsible adult for help any time they need it.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Sounds like Mizoguchi subscribes to the Yakuza's self-image of societal necessity.

what people should fear is not yakuza

DO fear these parasites. They mightn't murder you, but they will steal your life.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

what a wonderful mind he has

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

They need to be taught to walk on the footpath/sidewalk and not on the road. 3 times I have pulled a child off the road just before a moped/car came past. Also obey the red man and look right before you cross as some drivers run red lights or dont even see them.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Night has nothing to do with preying on children. If we want to teach kids something, teach them the differences between normal adults and dangerous adults. For example if a normal adult is lost, they will ask another adult (not a kid) for directions. Normal adults will never ask/tell you to get in their car. Or like “if Mom gets hurt and suddenly goes to the hospital, we will send a designated person to get you. We would never send a person you don’t know to pick you up.” Don't go along with classmates' parents if it wasn't arranged by mom/dad before, or before asking Mom/Dad if it's alright. Etc etc.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

No, children need to be protected until they understand what "the night" really is.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

No, children need to be protected until they understand what "the night" really is.

only problem here is that it takes some of these "children" until they are in their 30's or never to understand it!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Oh please. Japan is a very safe place. For kids. For adults. For everyone.

Give it a rest.

-4 ( +2 / -7 )

Oh please. Japan is a very safe place. For kids. For adults. For everyone. compared to many other countries this is true, but not as safe as many parents seem to think. many of the child murders in Japan have been from parents that have let the kids out at night, either thinking its perfectly safe or not really caring. either way the rising murder rates in Japan suggest it isnt as safe as it use to be

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@wtf

The murder rate in 2013, the latest available figure, was the lowest since the war, and among the very lowest in the world. Compared to the 1950s, murders here are down by two-thirds....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

either way the rising murder rates in Japan suggest it isnt as safe as it use to be

What is your evidence it is rising?

http://www.businessinsider.com/why-japans-murder-rate-is-so-low-2014-4

Granted, this chart only goes to 2011, but I've seen no evidence that the last 4 years have had a statistically significant increase in murder.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

No, children need to be protected until they understand what "the night" really is.

Exactly.

only problem here is that it takes some of these "children" until they are in their 30's or never to understand it!

Because they happen to have parents that don't teach them. Most parents wouldn't allow their kids to be out that late to begin with.

Lets also not forget the police that didn't arrest the guy when they found him with a stun-gun and handcuffs - and a history of locking up little kids (did they even do a background check?). They share some responsibility as well.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

They share some responsibility as well.

No. The police can only act within the bounds of the law. Their hands were tied.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yubaru said it best. That's all there is to it, really. Be aware, be alert, be mindful. Nobody seems to do that here. If people in old Japan were the same way, imagine how easy it would've been to be a ninja.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Monsters come out from under my bed at night.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What time at night did those osaka murders happen?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Granted, this chart only goes to 2011, but I've seen no evidence that the last 4 years have had a statistically significant increase in murder.

Bingo!

But who needs evidence? Not me! I believe what I want.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

No. The police can only act within the bounds of the law. Their hands were tied.

Oh, come on. You have a guy who locked up kids in his car, and now has a stun-gun and handcuffs in his car. They could figure out a way to at least lock him up for a few days - if they cared.

What time at night did those osaka murders happen?

Not even in the night, really. It was early morning when they were taken. But they were out hanging around all night.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They could figure out a way to at least lock him up for a few days - if they cared.

Ridiculous. Are you proposing that the police should ignore the law and just do whatever they want? Maybe you should move to North Korea - it sounds like the police state you are looking for.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

murder rates rising or not, most Japanese people have a higher risk of killing themselves than other people. so if you want to add suicides into the equation, since suicide rates are a reflection of a countries mental health, and since a murderers mental health is almost always questionable. Safe from abduction/murders most probably, safe from self inflicted murder? probably not.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Ridiculous. Are you proposing that the police should ignore the law and just do whatever they want? Maybe you should move to North Korea - it sounds like the police state you are looking for.

No, I am talking about keeping him there by law. For example, the stun gun he had in his possession is legal only if you have a reason for having it. They could have charged him for possession of it, had they put 2 and 2 together. They held him for 3 hours and made a judgement that the stun gun wasn't a threat - as long as they taped it up before handing it back to him.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For example, the stun gun he had in his possession is legal only if you have a reason for having it.

Where did you come up with that? Supporting evidence please.

They could have charged him for possession of it, had they put 2 and 2 together.

Really now? I'm not a big fan of the Japanese police, but expecting them to be able to see two days into the future seems like unrealistic expectations to me.

They held him for 3 hours and made a judgement that the stun gun wasn't a threat

No, they made the judgement they had no legal reason to hold him.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Where did you come up with that? Supporting evidence please.

I didn't "come up with it". It says in the last paragraph of the below Yomiuri article among others that they took him in because his possession of the stun gun could've been illegal based on the Minor Offense Act. And it says they let him go because he said it was for "self defense", and there were no batteries in it (not sure why they state 2 different reasons). Which is a joke considering his past and the fact that he could easily have put batteries in it when he needed to.

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/20150826-OYT1T50056.html

And here it says one can be held up to 30 days based on this law:

http://www.s-web.or.tv/qa/keihanzaihou_bassoku.html

Now, application of this law is rare but it is certainly not a case of "Their hands were tied". They could have done something if they had the cajones.

Really now? I'm not a big fan of the Japanese police, but expecting them to be able to see two days into the future seems like unrealistic expectations to me.

I am talking about the past, not future. Previously arrested for twice holding kids captive in his car. Now carrying stun gun and handcuffs in his car. Easy math.

No, they made the judgement they had no legal reason to hold him.

Which would be because the stun gun wasn't a threat and he had it in his possession by necessity. Which as mentioned is ridiculous given his background.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Supporting evidence please.

I didn't "come up with it". It says in the last paragraph of the below

Thank you for the supporting evidence.

For example, the stun gun he had in his possession is legal only if you have a reason for having it. They could have charged him for possession of it, had they put 2 and 2 together.

He gave them a reason (self defense), and as he had a reason, the stun gun was legal.

And here it says one can be held up to 30 days based on this law:

I believe that is saying that you can face imprisonment of up to 30 days.

it is certainly not a case of "Their hands were tied". They could have done something if they had the cajones.

What could they have done? He legally had the stun gun, and didn't have any drugs in his system. Are you advocating for a police state where the police do what they want regardless of the law?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

YubaruAUG. 27, 2015 - 07:15AM JST Children to to be taught to be AWARE during the night

Which is pretty much what "wary" means... but I agree that it's not just the night that they need to be wary of.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What could they have done? He legally had the stun gun, and didn't have any drugs in his system.

The "legally had the stun gun" is the point I don't understand. It seems they are going just by his word, but wouldn't this be a judgement decision? From my understanding, if it is sitting in his house or office then it is OK to have, but if he is going around town with it, the police make the call on whether it is necessary for self-defense or not. So I think technically they could have done something, but there were no previous such cases to go by, and there would be more chance that the officers themselves got reprimanded instead.

Are you advocating for a police state where the police do what they want regardless of the law?

No. By the same token, though, I don't want a state where criminals can get a free pass based on whatever excuse they come up with. There is no point in a law if it isn't going to be applied.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think our difference of opinion here is in who deserves the blame. I think it's the law for not giving the police something to work with, you think it's the police for not correctly interpreting the law.

In the end we both agree there is a problem with the current status though.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think our difference of opinion here is in who deserves the blame. I think it's the law for not giving the police something to work with, you think it's the police for not correctly interpreting the law.

To be honest, I didn't know how difficult it was to charge someone in these cases until after I made the comment and you questioned it. So I am kind of in between now. But its a good thing to learn about this law, since I might want my daughter to have some kind of self-defense item in the future.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I also like the discussions here as I find out more specific details, rather than what's just passed around as accepted information, both when I question someone on something, and when I get questioned on it. I used to think the police could hold someone for three weeks without charges, I didn't realize there is a lot more to it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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