Crime in Japan

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The rate of crime in Japan is generally low in comparison to other countries, ranking from low to moderate in most cities and towns. However, issues still remain, and many crimes manifest in several forms; especially in regards to organized crimes and massacres. In 2015, Japan had one of the lowest murder rates in the world, but higher than Singapore.[1] According to the 2016 UNODC statistics, Japan's rate of intentional homicide per 100,000 population is the lowest in the world at 0.3 per 100,000 inhabitants.



The yakuza existed in Japan well before the 1800s and followed codes similar to the samurai. Their early operations were usually close-knit, and the leader and his subordinates had father-son relationships. Although this traditional arrangement continues to exist, yakuza activities are increasingly replaced by modern types of gangs that depend on force and money as organizing concepts. Nonetheless, yakuza often picture themselves as saviors of traditional Japanese virtues in a postwar society, sometimes forming ties with traditionalist groups espousing the same views and attracting citizens not satisfied with society.

Yakuza groups in 1990 were estimated to number more than 3,300 and together contained more than 88,000 members. Although concentrated in the largest urban prefectures, yakuza operate in most cities and often receive protection from highranking officials. After concerted police pressure in the 1960s, smaller gangs either disappeared or began to consolidate in syndicate-type organizations. In 1990, three large syndicates (Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai, Inagawa-kai) dominated organized crime in the nation and controlled more than 1,600 gangs and 42,000 gangsters. Their number have since swelled and shrunk, often coinciding with economic conditions.

The yakuza tradition also spread to the Okinawa Island in the 20th century. The Kyokuryu-kai and the Okinawa Kyokuryu-kai are the two largest known yakuza groups in Okinawa Prefecture and both have been registered as designated bōryokudan groups under the Organized Crime Countermeasures Law since 1992.[2]


Beginning in 2013, the National Police Agency re-classified the Chinese Dragons, Kanto Rengo, and bōsōzoku biker gangs as "pseudo-yakuza" organizations.[3]


While Japan has a very low homicide rate overall, massacres have become a growing problem in Japan in recent years, with at least 80+ deaths within the last decade. Notably, the 2019 Kyoto Animation arson attack claimed at least 36 lives and injured an additional 33. It is one of the deadliest massacres in Japan since the end of World War II and the deadliest building fire in Japan since the 2001 Myojo 56 building fire. It was considered "suicidal terrorism" by one criminology professor at Rissho University, as the attack was reportedly intended to be a suicide mission by the suspect.


In 1989 Japan experienced 1.3 robberies and 1.1 murders per 100,000 population.[4] In the same year, Japanese authorities solved 75.9% of robberies and 95.9% of homicides.[4]

In 1990 the police identified over 2.2 million Penal Code violations. Two types of violations — larceny (65.1 percent of total violation) and negligent homicide or injury as a result of accidents (26.2%) — accounted for over 90 percent of criminal offenses.[5]

In 2002, the number of crimes recorded was 2,853,739. This number decreased to less than one-third by 2017 with 915,042 crimes being recorded.[6] In 2013, the overall crime rate in Japan fell for the 11th straight year and the number of murders and attempted murders also fell to a postwar low.[7][8]


Of particular concern to the police are crimes associated with modernization. Increased wealth and technological sophistication has brought new white collar crimes, such as computer and credit card fraud, larceny involving coin dispensers, and insurance fraud. Incidence of drug abuse is minuscule, compared with other industrialized nations and limited mainly to stimulants. Japanese law enforcement authorities endeavor to control this problem by extensive coordination with international investigative organizations and stringent punishment of Japanese and foreign offenders. Traffic accidents and fatalities consume substantial law enforcement resources. There is also evidence of foreign criminals travelling from overseas to take advantage of Japan's lax security. In his autobiography Undesirables, English criminal Colin Blaney stated that English and Nigerian thieves have targeted the nation due to the low crime rate and because Japanese people are unprepared for crime.[9] Russian car theft gangs have also been known to target the nation.[10]

Sex trafficking[edit]

Japanese and foreign[11][12] women and girls have been victims of sex trafficking in Japan. They are raped in brothels and other locations and experience physical and psychological trauma.[13][14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Global Study on Homicide 2013 (PDF full report). Published in April 2014, by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). See home page for Global Study on Homicide. It will link to latest version. See 10 April 2014 press release. See full report, and its methodological annex (pages 109ff) and statistical annex (pages 121ff) at the end of it. The statistical annex has detailed charts for homicide counts and rates by country with data from 2000–2012. Use the "rotate view" command in your PDF reader. Map 7.2 on page 112 is a world map showing the latest year available for homicide count for each country or territory. Page 21 states estimated total homicides of 437,000 worldwide. Figures 1.1 and 1.2 (pages 21 and 22) have exact rates and counts by regions. Figure 1.3 on page 23 is a bar chart of homicide rates for the subregions. Figure 1.16 on page 34 shows timeline graphs by subregion.
  2. ^ "Outline of Boryokudan in Okinawa Prefecture" Archived 2012-02-14 at the Wayback Machine, October 2007, Okinawa Prefectural Police (in Japanese)
  3. ^ "Tokyo cops accuse Chinese Dragon executive in gashing of man with broken bottle". Tokyo Reporter. June 29, 2017. Law enforcement had long viewed Chinese Dragon, along with Kento Rengo, as bosozoku biker gangs. However, starting in 2013 the National Police Agency began classifying bosozoku gangs as “pseudo-yakuza” groups to better reflect the true state of their activities.
  4. ^ a b The Japanese Industrial System (De Gruyter Studies in Organization, 3rd Edition), Page 46
  5. ^ "Comparative Criminology | Asia - Japan | San-Diego University". Archived from the original on 2012-03-11. Retrieved 2012-01-03.
  6. ^
  7. ^ 刑法犯、10年で半減…昨年の認知は138万件. Yomiuri Shimbun (in Japanese). 2013-01-10. Retrieved 2013-01-10.
  8. ^ "Crime rate in Japan falls for the 11th straight year". The Japan Times. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  9. ^ Blaney, Colin (2014). Undesirables. John Blake. pp. 76–78. ISBN 978-1782198970.
  10. ^ "Car Theft Rings Are Hot Stuff in Japan", Los Angeles Times, 22 October 2008
  11. ^ "Seven Cambodians Rescued in Sex Trafficking Bust in Japan". VOA. January 24, 2017.
  12. ^ "Why are foreign women continuing to be forced into prostitution in Japan?". The Mainichi. June 10, 2017.
  13. ^ "The Sexual Exploitation of Young Girls in Japan Is 'On the Increase,' an Expert Says". Time. October 29, 201.
  14. ^ "For vulnerable high school girls in Japan, a culture of 'dates' with older men". The Washington Post. May 16, 2017.
  15. ^ "Schoolgirls for sale: why Tokyo struggles to stop the 'JK business'". The Guardian. June 15, 2019.

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