Losing Confidence in its Safety: Is Japan Still the Safest Country in the Industrialized World?

Koichi Hamai, Ministry of Justice

Japan has enjoyed the reputation of the safest country in the world for a long time and crime was never an issue on the political agenda until very recently. However, since 1990, the persistent slump seems to have shaken the Japanese public's confidence in both economic security and public safety. There is increasing media concentrartion on stories about the risng tide of youth violence, presenting young offenders as almost a new breed of young criminals. Accordingly, the Japanese public's perception seems to be that violent crime is rising. As a consequence, they are increasingly asking the government to take the necessary measures to protect them, especially by getting tough with criminals. Recognizing the importance of establishing the real level of victimization and fear of crime, in 2000, the Ministry of Justice therefore conducted the first Japanese victimization survey, as part of the International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS). This paper compares the results of the Japanese survey with those of other participating industrialized countries. In addition, and using analyses of both ICVS and official Japanese recorded crime data, the paper also examines why, even though the Japanese victimization rate is the lowest, the associated fear of crime is relatively high.

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Updated 05/20/2006