Rising Crime in Japan? Risk, Reality, Media Representation and the Police

Koichi Hamai, Ryukoku University
Thomas Ellis, University of Portsmouth

In this paper, we outline a number of reasons why we think the recent increase in Japanese crime rates is more apparent than real and that, due to the type of media coverage of rising crime and falling clear up rates, there is currently a 'moral panic' about crime in contemporary Japan. We argue that this 'moral panic' is leading to increasingly punitive public views about how the criminal justice process should be changed in response to the apparent rise in crime. Two key areas are explored in detail. First, we examine the extent to which the Japanese media provides an accurate picture to the Japanese public on current crime trends by contrasting these trends with the results from the International Crime Victimization Survey 2000 (ICVS 2000). Second, we discuss the high levels of fear of crime in Japan and offer explanations for this that are related to the public's very low level of satisfaction with, and confidence in, their police. We conclude that there is an urgent need to reassess the traditional focus, in English language literature, on the differences beteen Japan and other developed nations in relation to crime and criminal justice. In order to reduce fear of crime, it appears that both academics and Japanese policy makers need to look in different places to those on which they have traditionally concentrated.

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Updated 05/20/2006