Why is Japan so Safe?


The deal between the Yakuza and the cops is as follows:

(1) The Yakuza will police - but also get to "tax" - the illicit economy. Typically, when an illegal business starts up, the cops visit exactly once, and say, "You know, you can't be doing this. It's illegal. You should stop." Then they'll never visit again. The next people that business will be dealing with will inform the proprietors of how much they must pay the Yakuza per week, or month, to continue in that business that the cops will not touch.

(2) The Yakuza must, however, keep violent crime off the streets and out of the faces of ordinary citizens. If Yakuza get violent with each other, they need to keep it under wraps. Bullets should not fly. When they do, the cops go and shut down local gang headquarters that otherwise operate quite openly. The cops hate it when they have to sully their hands with anything to do with violence. It reflects poorly on the cops if the violence gets any publicity. If there's no real culprit caught, it reflects poorly on the Yakuza's ability to keep tabs on anyone who might perpetrate public, violent crime. If the Yakuza can't turn in the real perpetrator, they must pick one of their own, perhaps someone who has recently transgressed their internal rules anyway, and have him turn himself in for the crime.

(3) If the Yakuza do their jobs right, they get to keep these "taxes," and an average of two pistols per member. So much for "no guns in Japan". Having proved that they can use guns responsibly (sort of), Yakuza get a pass.

I have a few stories. One of my favorites:

I saw a man who was running hard toward a police box (koban) in my neighborhood, yelling "Tasukute! Tasukete!" ("Help! Help!"). The cops just stood in their little box office, as two other guys caught up with him, took him down, dragged him into a car, and drove away (obeying the speed limit.) These cops had obviously gotten a call from the local gang leaders: "You know Mr. X, of course. And the trouble we've been having with him. Well, he got away. Sorry for the disturbance. We're taking care of it. We promise."

It's just a different arrangement, although perhaps not too different from what you'll find in some parts of major U.S. cities. (And perhaps the entire state of Rhode Island.) The thing is, in Japan, it's uniform, ubiquitous, homogeneous, and inconspicuous, in the big cities. It's not geographically limited. It's not something that only happens "in those neighborhoods."

The system has its points -- I'm an American living in Japan for 20 years now, and the level of public safety I enjoy certainly helps keep me here. What's bad (and you will not get these stories out of me): if you're over in the "other economy", or if the cops even suspect you are, you have no real police protection, and no real rights. You're not a citizen in a democracy. You're a subject, in the (invisible) United States of Yakuza. As an American, I believe in equality under the rule of law. Yes, even for real criminals. Here, there are too many situations where you might be innocent in de jure terms, but deemed guilty until proven otherwise in de facto terms, at the front line of the justice system: the national police agency.

Source: Quora