Japan Today

10 factors that make Japan a safe country

By Amy Chavez, RocketNews24

We’ve all heard about how safe Japan is. But unless you live here, you may not understand why Japan is considered so safe. The uninitiated may presume that safety is enforced through a rigid society that doesn’t allow freedom of expression, that Japanese people are too worried about losing face to commit a crime, or that the government comes down unnecessarily hard on people who step out of line. In reality, none of these rings true.

But we can’t deny that there’s one thing that Japan does better than anyone else. Join us after the jump for some insights and our own observations.

The one thing Japan does better than anyone else is that it puts a strong focus on crime prevention. In addition, safety of its citizens is paramount. Here is a list of some factors that we believe help Japan be free from danger.

1. ATMs

While this drive-up ATM in the U.S. may be convenient, it’s also a crime magnet, especially after dark.

ATMs in Japan are located inside buildings or banks, which provide secure environments to withdraw cash. They may be slightly less convenient than ‘hole-in-the-wall’ style ATMs you’ll find outside banks in other countries, but Japan’s cash machines are much more secure and offer a greater degree of privacy.

2. Convenience Stores

In Japan, you’ll never find one person working alone at any convenience store, gasoline station or anywhere that could be easily robbed—even if there’s only one person at the counter, you can pretty much guarantee that there’s another member of staff in the adjoining office or somewhere in the store. On one hand, it costs more to employ that extra person, but on the other, it puts the safety of employees first and makes the store safer for customers too.

3. Parking Lot Attendants

You’ll see parking lot attendants in Japan where you wouldn’t expect to see, or especially need, one. Drivers don’t give them much notice either. But the mere presence of an attendant deters criminals from breaking into cars or mugging people in the parking lot.

4. Security Guards

Banks employ part-time, often retired, people to help out in the lobby of banks. This person may greet customers and help vet their needs as they come in or they may also help customers use the myriad functions of bank ATMs. They’re also alert to potential suspicious activity and provide one more barrier to the stash of cash behind the teller window.

5. Firearms are not readily available

In Japan, they don’t feel it is an individual’s right to carry a firearm, and everyone is okay with that.

6. Low Tolerance for Drugs

Paris Hilton, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney have all been famously been denied entry into Japan due to previous drug convictions (and no one here has a problem with this either). Japanese entertainers, expected to be role models, apologize to their fans on national television if they are caught using drugs. These ramifications reinforce that, while people are free to make their own lifestyle choices, the country does not support poor decision-making, and even drugs like marijuana—now decriminalized in a number of countries—are still considered taboo by most in Japan.

7. Zero tolerance for drinking and driving

In Japan, it’s not left to the individual to decide whether they can drive safely while under the influence of alcohol. Zero tolerance means no alcohol when driving, period. Want to go for a drink after work but came by car? Then call for a daikou, a specialized taxi service that brings an extra driver to drive your car home while you hop in their taxi.

8. Koban

Small police stations, often no more than a single room with a desk and a couple of chairs, called koban are strategically placed throughout cities and neighborhoods so you can always find a safe haven, report something suspicious or just ask for directions if you’re lost. Their ubiquitous presence also encourages people to turn in lost property, including cash.

9. Zoning

Because Japan’s zoning laws are more inclusive than exclusive, one zone can have multiple uses. Convenience stores may be allowed to exist next to single-family homes in a neighborhood, for example. While the presence of businesses in a neighborhood may produce a certain degree of noise, the presence of so many observers around discourages criminal activity around both the houses and businesses.

10. Limited Immigration Policy

While we can criticize Japan for not being more open to immigration, we can’t deny that it is one measure used to ensure the country maintains a common belief system and shared sense of values. Basically, by not being open to other cultures and value systems, they’re able to preserve their own.

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I'm not sure the reasons given above are actually the basis of a safe Japan. My (Japanese) wife tells me of how at a very young age they were taught in school in a series of "is this right or wrong" lessons on how to behave. At a very young age it was instilled in them that, for example, if you found something of value in the street you took it to the local Koban. The idea that the finder might keep it just did not come into their thinking. While I might casually curse over getting a speeding ticket my wife is horrified that I broke the law. The main reason that Japan is a very safe country begins with the lessons and expectations placed on them that the Japanese learn at a very young age.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

In Japan, you’ll never find one person working alone at any convenience store, gasoline station or anywhere that could be easily robbed—even if there’s only one person at the counter, you can pretty much guarantee that there’s another member of staff in the adjoining office or somewhere in the store.

Both the gas station I go to, early in the AM on the way to work, and the Family Mart I often frequent, only have one person on duty. While this may be typically true it is NOT 100% either.


Right, ALL foreigners are criminals, like Japanese dont commit crimes. Ok, stereotyping AGAIN!

And by the way, there is ONE major "reason" that the writer conveniently, or out of ignorance, didnt talk about;

It's the "perception" of safety that makes a HUGE difference, even while the reality is different. That is because of the media and press. Japanese are voracious readers of newspapers, (No. 1 in the world) and unfortunately for many, they TOTALLY trust everything they read in the paper, and if a crime is committed and it does not make the press, many people will instinctively refuse to accept that a crime was committed.

Also the so-called "Wide Shows" on daily TV rehash (ad naseum) particularly violent crimes, or misdeeds by celebrities to the point that people even know the size of the pencil that they carry. Those programs help to reinforce as well the perception of the "power" of the police.

Perception is what matters, and this article just mixes some suppositions and assumptions and tries to make them the "reason".

6 ( +16 / -10 )

Immigrants in Japan commit fewer crimes per person than Japanese. If there were no immigrants the crime rate per person would increase.

As a non-Japanese male I feel the risk of being a victim of violence in Japan is very low. In that sense the country is safe. In the cities there is a refreshing lack of delinquency among the youth compared to some places I have lived. I think it's mainly due to there being a low level of youth unemployment: after a day slaving away in a factory there is little attraction to hanging around on street corners causing trouble.

There is plenty of crime in Japan but the police and the authorities often fail to enforce the law, making the crime figures lower than they should be. Every day I see cars going through red lights, even right in front of the Koban. The police do nothing. Gangsters have offices and operate in plain sight, yet the police leave them alone. Scandals occur regularly involving politicians and companies, but it's rare to see an arrest and even rarer for someone to end up in jail.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

SimonB is right. Right from an early age, children in elementary schools are taught ethics and morals so most kids grow up with some moral values inculcated in them. Ask any elementary or jhs school kid or teacher, they have a lesson called doutoku (道徳 meaning ethics and morals)where the kids are taught the moral values of society.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I grew up in Japan and have lived in different countries but to be honest there is no perfectly safe country nor are dangerous countries always absolutely dangerous with notable exceptions for countries at war etc. Not all countries are created equal, and some countries are safer than others. What constitutes a safe country is a personal choice and opinion. Safety and danger comes in different shapes and can range from outright physical danger like weather, crime, wildlife or war to social changes etc. Even in the safest places there are some no-go areas like inner city neighborhoods, deserted roads, and countryside parks after dark etc. In the end, safety is subjective and a judgement only you can make yourself.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Personally I think that Japan's "oneness" as a society has a lot to do with it. I was born here then spent my youth in over 20 countries growing up then returned. In the first paragraph of the article the writer talks about Japan's rigid rules and how others frown on your behavior, but he may just dismiss that as a factor a little fast. Children here have these morals drilled into them unlike anywhere else I've seen, and I'm talking on a nation wide level (obviously most people and parents try to teach their children well.) I think there's a downside to being so rigid and that creative thinking and those who don't fit in can really suffer, but as far as the masses go they don't have wanna be gangster children, rampant crime, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and general fascination to be badass or for badass behavior. I agree that prevention is also taken seriously here even though things can seem quite lax.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

No guns and no drugs. These are the only two reasons. The rest are just "suppositions and assumptions" as others very correctly mentioned put together by an Abe supporter. If there was easy access to guns as in the States we'd read of school massacres by bullied students every other week and turf wars by bosozoku gangs. Singapore is a multi-culture, multi-ethnic, multi-religion country as safe as Japan.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

A very succinct list wit some great comments. Drugs is definitely a big one - the West is currently tackling a drug scourge like never before, namely the "ice" epidemic. It's cheap to make, easily accessible & more addictive than other hard drugs. The moral conditioning from a young age is something Japan definitely gets right.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I think it's the relative equality of the society that is the strongest variable. When you have gross inequality you have an array of crime and social dysfunction issues.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

"We’ve all heard about how safe Japan is..."

The dictionary definition of "propaganda" is: "information... only giving one ​part of an ​argument... ​broadcast... with the ​intention of ​influencing people's ​opinions"


3 ( +3 / -0 )

The premiss, that Japan is safe, is assumed and then some rather dubious reasons - and some rather bogus ones - are given based, as is often the case, largely on a comparison with the US. Just what is meant by safe? The scale of bullying and domestic violence would surely count in any other context. And petty rule breaking (such as on the roads) and criminality, especially white collar crime, are all too common so a fear of breaking the law seems a poor explanation.

2 ( +12 / -10 )

In Japan, they don’t feel it is an individual’s right to carry a firearm, and everyone is okay with that.

To me this is the main reason I feel safe in Japan. There's no need to worry about a nutjob pulling a gun and shooting it, for whatever reason. I'll take my chances with mad people with knives, idiots driving cars, and the random stuff that happens everywhere.

You can't outsmart crazy, especially when the crazies have guns.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

You can't lump legal enforcement targets such as DUI, guns and drugs together with incidental commercial matters like convenience stores, ATMs and parking lots and expect a coherent explanation of why Japan is safe. For instance, the writer should have mentioned the ongoing trend toward becoming a 管理社会 (kanri shakai, a "controlled society") with ubiquitous security cameras and fingerprint checks of arriving foreign nationals at points of entry. Perhaps another article explaining the costs this entails, and how it affects citizens' freedom of movement (for example) might give readers a more balanced perspective.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

I feel, as many posters have already said, it's more to do with the brainwashing/social programming they receive in their K-12 education than anything else. Obedience trumps independent thinking.

Plus, safety often seems to be Japan's most important value, with things like spontaneity and personal freedom sacrificed as a result.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

ATMs in Japan are located inside buildings or banks

Huh? But ATMs in the US are also located inside buildings and banks, even when they're open 24/7.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Tina W It is also reported that the permanent residents commit crimes 5 to 10 times the native Japanese

Could you please provide a link to this report? It would serve as evidence for the purpose of this article, stated succinctly in #10, which is a good example of the definition given by @The Godfather.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Wow, Amy, I am not sure which Japan you live in but drinking laws are strict but not enforced as written, parking lot attendants not where I live in the countryside of Kanto, ore ore scams, chikan molesters, bullying so horrendous that far too many children take their own lives, sports club teachers that bully and assault their charges. I'm not saying this happens all the time everywhere but you make it sound a paradise. It's not.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This article will really stick in the craw of the Japan bashers. Japan is a relatively safe country, though maybe for different reasons than the ones listed above, but they are certainly valid points.

1 ( +13 / -12 )

agree with pidestroika - no guns and limited illegal drug supplies are perhaps 2 of the most critical factors

Of course other factors mentioned all contribute to a general "feeling" of safety, but by removing drugs from the equation a whole world of petty & not so petty crimes are drastically reduced. In my home country, Aust., the level of mugging / bullying for cash, daylight burglaries, break-ins, car theft, shop/business theft etc is much greater than here. Why? most of the stolen items can be exchanged for cash through black market systems or openly through 2nd hand goods sale, garage sales etc. Used TVs, stereos, jewellery, clothes, furniture etc have almost no marketable value in Japan so is not a source of petty money for petty criminals. And often it is the presence of these so called "petty " criminals that create the feeling of a safe or not safe environment. Having dubious bods loitering around to snaffle stuff makes people feel unsafe.

And the relatively non-existence of guns just adds to this feeling of percieved safety. In most advanced cultures, shootings / gun crimes freak people out big time. A few years back some local yakuzas fired a couple of shots from a pistol into the air, in front of a "rivals" building. Took a long while for a sense of calm to return in the local media and folks.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

In addition, you can walk alone home safely in day break.

When you drunk and sleep in one of those bench in the park, no one bothers to rob you. But instead an ambulance came and will wake you up.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Totally agree... those 10 factors do make Japan a safe country and I like all the laws and security measures except for one. I hate Japan's Zoning laws... or lack of them should I say. Almost everywhere you go in Japan you have eyesores staring you right in the face. They ruin perfectly good locations with a sand and gravel pit or oil tanks and on. Take a drive down a scenic highway along the coast and it won't be long before you get disappointed at the lack of continuity.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Eleven. Murders covered up as suicides so municipalities can keep their stats down or because miscategorized due to lack of forensic scientists.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Over the last couple of generations, anyway, there has been less obvious inequality in Japan than in some other developed nations, because their plutocracy had to go underground after it failed the country in World War II. That degree of equality may be changing, but it usually correlates with less crime. And, as someone has pointed out, there is also the yakuza. The kind of crime Japan happily lacks is the unorganized kind.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Huge generalizations and all, but Japanese people are mainly raised from an early age to follow the structures of the society. Because Japan is quite wealthy and the people are unambitious, there is little envy. Younger people are essentially happy with their lot and are satisfied with having the latest brand bag and a new phone whilst living in a 1K apartment or with mummy and daddy into their forties. There is a huge lack of motivation among the populace and a huge acceptance of their place in their semi-feudal society. The "shouganai" expression reigns supreme. People who are mainly united, mainly the same sort-of class, mainly the same ethnic background and with mainly the same lack of aspiration will commit few crimes. It really is a form of feudalism, but it works quite well and creates a homogenous and safe society.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

There's so much misinformation, naivety and ridiculousness in this article that I'm convinced whoever wrote it has never actually set foot in Japan or is just trolling for a reaction. I think this is the only comment this article deserves to get.

Moderator: You'll have to do better than that. Please state which points you disagree with and why.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Another stupid rightwing article by JT

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

One big reason for Japan being "safe", I mean relative lack of petty crime, as others have said, is the brainwashing that kids endure in school from day one. The 6 to 8 hours a day programming is difficult to break later in life. The second is that, according to some surveys a few years back, up to 85% of the Japanese believe that they are middle class people (of course it's just a sad illusion these days but the emperor being naked has never really bothered the Japanese). People who's got something to loose will commit less crimes, it is a fact. Thirdly, if one gets arrested in Japan his/her life is practically over as an accused can be kept in detention for up to 28 days with little or no outside contact. Which means loss of job for sure among a host of other problems. So people do think twice before committing crimes.

Finally, the only thing the article got right, is the koban or community policing system. In the bad old days the cops, especially in the country side, used to pay a visit to every household in their area to snoop around, to see what's doing. These days elementary school teachers do the same thing, although it's becoming less and less prevalent.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

The main reason that Japan is a very safe country begins with the lessons and expectations placed on them that the Japanese learn at a very young age.

That if you stick out, you'll get hammered down?

Yet Japan indulges behaviour that might invoke serious societal wrath elsewhere, from bosozoku through yakuza, to cartel behaviour and sometimes truly abysmal corporate governance, both public and private.

You mightn't get mugged in the classical sense, but there's plenty of scope to be relieved of your wallet - with little redress.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Aside from the lack of drugs -- they DO exist, but not to the same extent, although we clearly hear of Japanese smugglers getting caught in SE Asia quite a bit -- and guns (compared only to countries with gun problems, like the US, and only then even in situations with guns present), none of these have anything to do with whether or not a countries safe, and half of them are crap anyway (ESPECIALLY #7, the drinking and driving).

It's no more safer in Japan because there is less access to rob an ATM then Japan would be safer if they suddenly removed all seatbelt laws; those few the police ever bother to pull over would not be charged, and therefore incidents of crime would go down because there would be no law to cover the dangerous behaviour.

Japan is a safer country than most, if not many, because it is a fairly rich country, with a fairly high level of education and access to social systems like health care. This will change as the gap widens between the rich and poor and the middle class becomes poorer. Already we're seeing it change.

If they really want to stop imports, stop importing these generalized "Five reasons why", or "Five types of this person" or other top five or ten lists. They are wrong on so many levels.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I'll bet all the JH girls who get felt up regularly on the train don't feel like Japan is a safe country.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Japan is JUST a normal country, like any other... except it's more categorized, prejudiced against it's own will, awfully bureaucratized. Albeit, unlike in other countries, negative labels are mentioned much more than usual. They've even got their own terms for such phenomenons. Saddening.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

All good points in this article.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

While this drive-up ATM in the U.S. may be convenient, it’s also a crime magnet, especially after dark.

Japanese banks cunningly close their ATMs at night. Genius!

On one hand, it costs more to employ that extra (convenience store slave) person, but on the other, it puts the safety of employees first and makes the store safer for customers too.

And has nothing to do with deterring shoplifting.

While the presence of businesses in a neighborhood may produce a certain degree of noise, the presence of so many observers around discourages criminal activity around both the houses and businesses.

Sponsored by your neighbourhood cement factory. Sleep tight, little bunnies.

I laughed when I read the article title.

Me too. Getting less defensive in our old age, aren't we?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

10 factors that make Japan a safe[r] country [than many others]. Some of these are reasons I enjoy living here. And I certainly feel safer in Japan than I would if I were still living back in my hometown-- per capita murder capital of the US back in the late 80s! Safe is relative, though.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I lost a nice necklace near Enoshima. I went to all the nearby Kobans and even convenient stores and showed them pictures of it. Gold and Turquoise. It was never turned in, and it had my name engraved on the back.

I was quite sad at losing it, and surprised it was not turned in. I personally took a cellphone and a wallet I found to both the nearby kobans when I saw them on the ground.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

because japanese are peacefull.

-2 ( +7 / -9 )

Interesting article which makes sense on Japan being a safe country. I notice someone brought up Singapore and mentioned how it is multicultural and a safe country which brings to my next question:

I understand both Japan and Singapore are wonderful countries with something for everyone (I intend to visit both someday), I am curious which one is the safer of the two (especially for women).

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Japan is supposed to be a safety country but we read about more and more conbini robberies and attacks on kids and women and hit and runs and as for silly petty crime like knicker stealing and up skirt photos and traffic misdemeanours they are endemic.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Japan is supposed to be a safety country but we read about more and more conbini robberies and attacks on kids and women and hit and runs and as for silly petty crime like knicker stealing and up skirt photos and traffic misdemeanours they are endemic.

Read more? No you are just finding out about it. There always has been crime here, you actually hear more about it here on JT than the average Japanese person does.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

99% Japanese.

Basically one religion, one set of holidays and festivals, cultural norms, ideals, everyone looks like you, sounds like you, all raised by the exact same education at school and at home, and you're on an island.

Up until the end of WWII, Japan was ruled with an iron fist, a divine dictatorship. You had few rights and few choices and education was more militaristic and pure propaganda. This era wasn't that long ago.

Even after the war ended, the strict and rigid rules still existed. Ever see footage of the Beatles in Tokyo in the 1960s? There were armed guards at all exits making sure people didn't have too much fun and enjoy Western culture.

This is a country of a homogeneous society raised under the exact same fears and military rule and strict beliefs and believing in the same stereotypes for generation after generation.

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

I lived in Japan for fifteen years and now live in NZ and I can confidently say that the idea of Japan being 'safe' is largely one of perception rather than reality. There is definitely a 'feeling' of safety when walking in the streets of Japan simply because the culture is submissive and people do not make direct eye contact with strangers which can feel threatening especially if you are new to a country. Sure, Japan is certainly safe in some particular regards like petty theft is 'relatively' rare. But what about all the threats to safety that are common in Japan but rare in other countries - sexual molestation on public transport, stalking, sexual assault and verbal and physical abuse in the family and at work etc.

It is time to open Japan up and look more closely at what is really going on instead of perpetuating this age-old myth for the sake of future Japanese generations including my daughter.

-3 ( +10 / -13 )

I laughed when I read the article title. There are a lot of posters who are going to not like the premise of this article.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Some of these "reasons" are trivial nonsense, clearly there just to pad out the list to 10 (as if this were a magic number).

The real reasons are 5, 6, 9 and 10 - of which the last one is clearly by far the most important. This is replicated across the world. Just look at small towns in Europe or the US where there are very few immigrants and the population is homogeneous: crime is low there too.

A homogeneous society leads to a greater sense of community, with shared values and social bonds. It really isn't that difficult to understand (though it does require one to discard the politically correct blinkers ...).

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

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