One corollary to Alexander Pope's observation that "The proper study of mankind is man" might go, "The proper study of Nipponjin is 'Wareware Nipponjin' (we Japanese)." This self-reflection often takes the form of "kenmin-sei" -- comparisons of attributes said particular to the inhabitants of the nation's 47 prefectures.
Shukan Post (June 10) invited Rissho University criminology professor Nobuo Komiya to present his views on characteristics of his compatriots as they relate to crime.
The first thing that stands out statistically is that that crime rates are unmistakably higher in cities than in rural areas.
According to National Police Agency statistics, for the ratio of violations of the criminal code per 100,000 population (year not mentioned), Japan's lowest prefecture was Akita -- at just 104.2. This was followed by Iwate with 129.7 and Yamagata 145.0.
At the opposite end, the three prefectures with the highest of numbers of violations of the code were Osaka, with 542.2 per 100,000, Aichi with 503.4 and Kyoto with 478.1.
What is Komiya's explanation as to why Kyoto, with 478.1, is higher than the considerably larger Tokyo, with 437.5 incidents per 100,000?
"It's a matter of the way the towns are laid out," remarks Komiya. "Criminals favor places that are easy to gain entry, and difficult to be spotted by someone. The gridwork of small streets and alleys in Osaka and Kyoto make it easier for criminals to approach a target, and easier to make a getaway.
"In Osaka, for instance, fewer roads have guard rails, so it is easier for a vehicle to pull up alongside a female pedestrian and snatch a handbag. In Kyoto's case, meanwhile, because of its placing importance on its historic image, streets tend to be dimmer at night. And Aichi, being the center of the auto industry, has the highest rates of auto thefts, many of which are shipped overseas."
Another factor that may affect the differences in crime rates is Japan's geography, which extends from north to south, creating wider climactic variations.
"During the winter, crimes in Tohoku tend to decline," says Komiya. "Due to the heavy snowfalls, people tend to stay indoors, giving criminals fewer opportunities to operate. Further south, the hours of daylight are longer in winter and temperatures higher, which enables more people over a wider age span to engage in activities until late at night."
That aside, Komiya rejects sweeping generalizations, particularly regarding violent felonies. "You can't just say one prefecture stands out with more homicides and another has lots of occurrences of arson," he asserts. "But I do think more importance will be attached to creation of neighborhoods that discourage crime, based on the 'theory of opportunistic crime.'"
The 15-page article goes on to cover the most notorious crimes and criminals in each of 47 prefectures. For Okayama, for example, the most infamous malefactor was Mutsuo Toi, an alienated 22-year-old TB sufferer who, unable to bear being ostracized by his neighbors went on a nocturnal rampage in Kamo, a hamlet since incorporated into Tsuyama City, on May 21, 1938. Using a shotgun and sword, he killed 30 people (including himself), establishing his reputation as Japan's biggest civilian mass murder.
Shukan Post credits an American serviceman on Okinawa with introducing the "streaking" fad to Japan, on March 11, 1974. The same day, seven American male and female students engaged in an undraped dash on the campus of Kubasaki high school in Zukeran. The streak struck the main islands only a day later, when a man bared his all on a shopping street in Hiroshima. Alas his name is unknown because he successfully eluded pursuing officers. On March 15, another incident occurred in Roppongi, and two days later a 17-year-old American female dashed down Ginza's Chuo Dori in the buff. Within one month, 25 streaking incidents were reported in 10 prefectures, with 17 arrests for public indecency.
Tohoku and Hokkaido, where March temperatures still hovered around zero degrees Celsius, appear to have been spared this particular crime wave.© Japan Today