Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The problem of being safe in Japan

It's not an empty generalisation to say that Japan is a safe country. By comparison to the US there were less than a dozen gun related crimes in 2013 against tens of thousands. It has its fair share of unhinged individuals of course, stalking is a problem and obsessives can demonstrate what can only be described as surreal behaviour. The police can sometimes struggle to recognise a deteriorating situation. But as a culture, it is safe.

Woman can walk the streets at night without concern of attack. The biggest problem is probably going to come from speeding scooters and drunk drivers into the early hours. In a country where many work late into the night, it's not unusual to see office women returning home late after midnight. Indeed, it's generally considered so safe that parents are often required by schools to allow their children to journey to school on their own from a young age as part of their personal development.

And there lies the problem. The natural alarm bells that we develop as we grow up, warning us that a situation, if not necessarily unsafe, at least requires increased awareness, often don't exist. And this, combined with a low level of foreign language skills, can lead to tragedy when travelling abroad. So the answer to the question "is Japan safe" can definitely be said to be "yes". Does it teach you to be safe? Well that's an altogether different question.

Yoshihiro Hattori, 11/22/75 - 10/17/92

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, growing up in a country that can realistically be called very safe is perhaps the worst thing that could happen to children from the perspective of teaching safe habits. I think it's really nice to see kids confidently walking home without adult supervision, but what most people (myself included) wouldn't consider is whether they'd understand that this is not an attitude that's realistic in most of the world. Why would they? They have no context for that.

    I do think it's important, or at least useful, to spend time outside of your native culture for the purpose of understanding that yours isn't the only one, and that differences abound. But when you do that you're always going to experience situations you don't understand, and even with a good sense for danger in your own culture, another may surprise you. Coming from a culture where there's basically no reason to be worried potentially sets you up for very nasty consequences.