You might have heard: Japan is pretty safe. Low reported crime rates, strict gun controls, cultural behaviors and other factors play into this perception. I’ll be using statistical data as well as insights from my trip and from local opinions to form my conclusion on how safe Japan really is. But before I dive into the details, there are some general disclaimers. First, statistical analysis only offers a part of the picture. Based on the laws and practices of the area, crimes might be defined differently and reporting of such crimes might not be consistent across the board. Second, my personal experience is just that – it’s my experience. Obviously, you should abide by the laws and customs wherever you might be. If you’re looking for trouble, you’ll find it – even in the safest country in the world. Lastly, use common sense when traveling. Heed the warnings and act appropriately.

I’ll be doing a comparative analysis with countries around Japan and including the U.S.A. in this study. Note that blank spaces in the data below indicate that nothing was recorded for that year. Also, not all datasets include the same countries because data might not have been recorded, missing, or the definition for that crime is different for that particular country and, thus, was not included. Also note, data provided here can be found on unodc.org (I’ve done the work to narrow the focus and provide the data in a more condensed and format).

Assault

Japan's assault stats

Japan’s assault stats

Japan has over 120 millions people and has many major metropolitan areas, yet its crime rate is especially low. In terms of assault per 100,000 residents, its 46.7 rate is very low relative to USA’s rate, which boasts an alarming 226.3. The assault rate seems to be stable. The trend line doesn’t indicate that the assault rate is going up or down too dramatically. I’m a little puzzled that Maldives’ rate is so high at 373.6 per 100,000 residents. Since only 350,000 people are living there, I’m willing to bet that these crimes are committed in pockets outside the resorts.

Groopdealz

Robbery

Japan's robbery stats

Japan’s robbery stats

I am not at all surprised by Japan’s super low robbery rate at 2.6 per 100,000 residents. Japan’s economy is the 3rd largest in the world by nominal GDP. Its citizens enjoy one of the highest standards of living anywhere. The average life expectancy there is a whopping 83 years compared to the US’s 78 years. There is some correlation here between the high standards of living versus robbery. If people are getting by okay, there is probably not a need to rob people. On the other hand, Japan’s poverty rate is rising, and you would expect a rise in robbery and petty theft to rise as well, but the rate is actually decreasing. This might have something to do with Japan’s strict gun laws. It’s harder to rob someone when you don’t have a gun to threaten him/her with. I’ll talk more about this later.

At any rate, as a traveler you’re probably not going to get robbed in a corner somewhere.

Vehicle Theft

Japan's vehicle theft stats

Japan’s vehicle theft stats

I’m not sure why you would even think about renting a car in Japan. The public transportation system there is so amazing (I wish we had the Shinkansen super express trains here in the States) that it’d more of a nuisance to get around on a car than anything. Plus, you will run into some insane traffic in the cities. Even if you rent a car though, the probably that it would get stolen is pretty low. This is one of Japan’s less impressive stats, but as you can see it is still really marginal when compared to the US and Canada’s car theft rates, which are roughly 4 times as high.

Rape

Japan's rape stats

Japan’s rape stats

If you’re a female traveler, you will find this comforting, at least at face value. Japan has one of the lowest sexual assault rates in the world. There are some measures provided to protect women in Japan: specially marked train cars in the subway for women only, police boxes scattered everywhere, and etc. However, it can be debated that because of Japan’s cultural attitudes towards rape, women are “shamed” and less inclined to report such crimes. As such, the numbers might be a lot worse than reported and shown here. Recent cases involving foreigners might shed some light on the matter. The debate on this matter continues and you may find it an interesting read by heading over to Quora.

As a general rule, don’t wander around at night by yourself. If you can’t help it, try to stay in the busier areas. RAINN has some great tips for staying safe while traveling.

While in Japan, I spent some time with a friend who lives in Yokohama and got some great insights. The Japanese works really long hours. However, they are particularly social creatures after work, most often going to local restaurants to eat, drink and chat. After 10 PM or so, the subways might start to fill up with intoxicated businessmen. So if you’re traveling alone, consider how late you might be out and plan accordingly.

Homicide

Japan's homicide stats

Japan’s homicide stats

Japan's homicides attributed to guns

Japan’s homicides attributed to guns

Yes, the infamous Yakuza exists, but unlike the movies you might have seen with gun blazers shooting up the place, the homicide rate in Japan is spectacularly low. And when you look at the percentage of these homicides attributed to gun violence, it is outstandingly low. In America, 60% of homicides are attributed to gun violence. I wonder if ninjas and samurais account for the other 99% in Japan.

It is restrictively difficult to own a gun in Japan. While people do own guns there, the vast majority (and when I say vast I mean VAST) do not. People may own hunting rifles and shotguns, but they are difficult to get a license for. Before you can own a gun, you have to pass extensive background checks, you have to provide a reason for needing a gun, you have to take training classes, and well, you might just give up after a while. Do you want to learn more about Japan’s gun laws? Knock yourself out with these great reads: Library of Congress and the Japanese Law index translated to English. David Kopel also wrote an outstanding law review on Japan’s Gun Control. You might find it fascinating.

On a more interesting note, have you been to Oahu’s famous Waikiki Beach? If you have, you’ll notice that the majority of tourists in Oahu are Japanese. You’ll also notice people advertising shooting ranges like no other. They’re trying to draw Japanese tourists to try something they’ll probably never get a chance to do in Japan.

An Anecdote

We had dinner with a friend who regaled us with delicious chicken dishes and stories of his life living in Japan. I’m going to recount such a story, which might shed some light on Japan’s low crime statistics. So this friend of mine was riding his bike to work. In America, bicyclists win. If you hit a bicyclist in America, you should find a good lawyer. Anyway, he might have exchanged some heated words with a trucker who subsequently ran him down (more or less). He ended up with a broken wrist that he is still rehabilitating. The police showed up and (I won’t bore you with too much details here) tried to convince him that it was an accident and that both parties were equally at fault. The police didn’t want to investigate the incident any more than that. Later, my friend consulted with a lawyer who explained to him the police wants to close cases quickly with as little findings as possible. In America, the trucker would have been charged with reckless driving and be fined handsomely.

Take from this story whatever you like. There are arguments that have poked holes in Japan’s incredibly low crime rates – one of which is the obsessive pursuit of keeping crime numbers low. A recent article by the Economist does a great job of providing a different perspective. It’s a great read if you’re interested.

Conclusions

I’ve provided some statistical data to support Japan’s perceived low crime rates. I’ve also provided a story and other data that might undermine those numbers somewhat. Personally, while I was traveling in Japan I did not experience anything that would indicate an unsafe country. Quite the contrary actually, my travels in Japan were pleasant and not once did I feel threatened or scared. People were courteous to a fault, and people were more interested in their own lives than they were mine. I felt safe moving about the country. But, that was my experience. If you are thinking of going to Japan or are in Japan, you should exercise the same rigor to protect yourself as you would any other strange land.

Travel on, my friends!


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Oh the joy of traveling! And what a joy it is to meet new friends and learn everything you can about the people, culture, and history of the destination you’re visiting. Recently, I had the fortune of meeting Sacha, a student in the Neatherlands. She was gracious enough to allow me to interview her about her travel adventures. See for yourself how you can be a local “Dutch” as told by a Dutch. Then head over to Instagram and follow her incredible journeys @dutchgirltravels or www.instagram.com/dutchgirltravels/.

Up Up and a Bear: Please tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, your aspirations in life, or anything else you’d like to share.

@dutchgirltravels: Hi, my name is Sacha, I’ve just turned 22 and I am an economics student. I was born and raised in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Besides studying and working, I have three huge passions. Those are fashion, fitness and traveling.

Up Up and a Bear: Very nice to meet you Sacha. The Netherlands is definitely on my travel bucket list. Wherever I go, I like to do a mix of touristy things and some “local” things. What would be the top 5 things I should do to feel like a local?

@dutchgirltravels: First of all, I can recommend anyone to travel to the Netherlands! There is something for everyone to see and do. For my personal top 5:

  1. If you visit Utrecht and you want to have a beautiful view of Utrecht and see the Domtower at the same time, go to the department store V&D. Take the escalator or elevator to the top floor, grab a cup of coffee or a delicious lunch and find a free seat near one of the windows. You’ll be amazed. 🙂
  2. If you love a good party, Utrecht is the place to be. Since there are a lot of students, bars and clubs are never far away. Are you a techno/house/trance lover? Try Poema-Raw or Basis.
  3. This one goes for pretty much every city in the Netherlands. Rent a bike. You can see a lot in a short time and you can blend in like a local.
  4. You can’t leave without trying some of the local food. You could be adventurous and try Haring, but a safer bet would be to try a kroket. What is that? When you are in Amsterdam, head to the Eetsalon van Dobben, which is located at the Rembrandtplein, and find out. 😀
  5. When the weather allows, go to one of the parks. We “locals” like to have a picnic or bring some beer/wine and just socialize in the park. Avoid the Vondelpark, as it can be crowded and touristic, go instead to the Rembrandtpark or Beatrixpark (all in Amsterdam).

Up Up and a Bear: I heard there’s a 1 to 1 ratio between people and bicycle in the Netherlands. Is that true? Do you have a bike?

@dutchgirltravels: Haha good one. Actually, I think this might be true. It is super easy to explore the Netherlands by bike, because the infrastructure is built around people that bike and distances are relatively short. I’m quite embarrassed to admit that I do not own a bike myself. I love to drive my scooter (maybe I live in the wrong country?).

Up Up and a Bear: Hah! Even I have a bike, which I never use, but I do have one. Seattle weather isn’t normally good for biking, except for the beautiful summer. Let’s talk about your travel adventures. How many countries/destinations have you been to so far?

@dutchgirltravels: Many people don’t know this, but I only started traveling pretty recently. When I was younger, I always went on holiday with my parents, mainly to France and Italy. Of course, I traveled a few times with friends, but it was only 2 years ago that I decided I wanted to do much more traveling and that I began thinking more seriously about solo traveling. So far I’ve visited 16 countries.

Up Up and a Bear: Which one has been your favorite and why?

@dutchgirltravels: My absolute favorite trip has been New York! I was there about a month ago and I just fell in love with the city. I love nature and beaches, but ever since I was little I have been kind of obsessed with “life in the big cities.” It was a dream come true for sure. The reason I loved New York so much is that it offered me everything that I’m interested in: architecture, good food, interesting cultures, and most of all, the people were super friendly.

Up Up and a Bear: What’s your most memorable travel moment so far?

@dutchgirltravels: My most memorable travel moment doesn’t have that much to do with travel itself, but on the other hand maybe it does. When I was in New York, I saw my aunt again for the first time in over 15 years. I live in the Netherlands, many years ago my aunt moved to Canada. She bought a vineyard and makes her own wine. We talk to each other online every now and then when I found out she was also going to NYC. Travel brings people together, in my case quite literally. 🙂

Up Up and a Bear: Traveling brings people together and strengthen relationships! I truly believe that. What’s on your travel bucket list for the next 2 years?

@dutchgirltravels: I don’t have too many travel plans that are fixed yet. I will be celebrating New Years in Prague. On top of my travel bucket list are Brazil, Argentina and South Africa. If I graduate next year, I will make this happen for sure! Other bucket list destinations include Thailand, Dubai and a road trip through Central-America.

Up Up and a Bear: We should talk later about Thailand. I love traveling because I love to learn new things that I could apply to my own life. For example, I took a meditation class with a Zen Buddhist master in Japan that totally changed my thinking about happiness and relaxation. As a result, I’m making it a practice to meditate at least 20 minutes a day. What, if anything, have you taken away from your travels?

@dutchgirltravels: Travel has meant a lot to me. I used to be a very shy, introvert person with few friends. Traveling, and in particular solo traveling, has made me a much more open person. I have met so many awesome people along the way. I wouldn’t have want to miss that!

Up Up and a Bear: Just like how traveling brought us together. If you had to convince someone to start traveling, what would you say?

@dutchgirltravels: Just go! I know it can be scary, but you’ll regret it much more if you didn’t explore all the beauty that this world has. There’s a travel destination for everyone, no matter what you like to see/do/experience.

On my Instagram page, I hope to inspire people to travel, especially young, female travelers, because I’ve heard from so many girls who want to travel but don’t receive much support and/or are scared to take that step. I love traveling solo, but because I’m a student, I don’t have a big budget. I want to show that you shouldn’t let that be an obstacle if you really want to see the world!

Up Up and a Bear: Sacha, it has been my pleasure and honor to talk to you. I am just so blessed to meet so many wonderful people like yourself while doing what I love: travel.

Below are a few excellent shots from Sacha’s travels. She is absolutely inspiring and wonderfully friendly. Come check her out on Instagram at www.instagram.com/dutchgirltravels/ or @dutchgirltravels within the app itself. If you’re not confident traveling alone, Sacha can offer some great tips to get you going!


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And by “assaulted” I mean my senses were overloaded, stupefied, and confused by the bright laser-pew-pew lights, heart-pounding drums, music, and singing, and ridiculously clever routines that define the Robot Restaurant and its fiercely entertaining show. Quite a mouthful, right? Let me explain.

It was a rainy night. We had spent a good part of the evening strolling around the neighborhoods of Tokyo: Shibuya, Kabukicho (Tokyo’s red light district), and many other commercial areas. The rain didn’t deter the Japanese whose clear umbrellas with white handles filled the streets. So after seeing those sights, we thought we had seen the craziness that is Tokyo. Wrong.

We made it back to Shinjuku and Robot Restaurant, which no one could possibly miss. It seemed as though you could hear the synchronized Japanese girl voices screaming cute angry words from a mile away via its billboards’ loudspeakers. Meanwhile, the strobe lighting attracted people like bugs.

electric guitar guy getting down

After getting our tickets, we were led to a side alley where we entered Robot Restaurant. Remember how Alice went through that rabbit hole and entered a whole new whole? That was basically what happened to us. I believe the owner got the funding to build this restaurant like this:

Investor: So, what’s the idea?

Owner: Hai! We will surround them with the brightest, most colorful, insanely strange things to boggle their minds and make them go into an uncontrollable seizure-trance. Then we will provide them with cheap booze and inadequate amounts of food so they’d be in such a state of weakness that when we show them the madness that is the show, they will shake violently, relinquishing all the money in their pockets for us to collect.

Investor: Here’s 120 millions yen. Build this place. NOW!

Yeah. Be prepared to be bedazzled in this bright and colorful world, with mirrors aplenty and things all glittered. The first area we entered was this wonderful retro lounge (still insanely colorful and glittery) where you can get beer and whatever else you’d like. Here, a band dressed like Daft Punk will entertain you with classics from the seventies and eighties. Towards the end of the lounge session, a singer dressed in sequin belted out Japanese songs to get you into the mood. Then we were led to the dungeon and to our seats.

No one knew what to expect. Or maybe they did. I didn’t. The audience sat on opposite sides with the middle of the room free for performers to prance around and do their stuff. The lights went out. Giant moving platforms moved across the stage via remote controllers (yes, like those R/C helicopter controllers). We were warned beforehand to turn our phones to airplane mode to not interfere with the signal. Stage lights came on, focusing on drummers high on platforms opposite each other. Silence.

Then… madness ensued.

I don’t really know how to describe what went on from that point. The first set was this rhythmic drums/yelling combination thing that made me so happy I wanted to cry. All this happened as platforms carrying performers moved in circles around the audience – needless to say, no seat was a bad seat.

boom boom

The lights went out after the first set and we were too stunned to know what to do. So I guess we clapped. Then electric guitars filled the room. Again, drums pounded our ears. This time, dancers enthralled us as you can see in the video below. Note, this video was taken with my phone and does a gross injustice to the real experience. But you can infer from the video what kind of a show it was. I have to give mad props to the set and costume designers, although I don’t think the job would have been very difficult to carry out. I could have done it using this simple method: Is it crazy enough? Yes? Multiple it by 10. Bam.

The third act blew my mind and I was too feeble to record any videos. All I can say is that at some point Kung Fu Panda was involved, maniacal laser shooting alien demons were destroying magical mermaids, a gorilla equipping a dinosaur with a cannonball was electrocuted, and other wildly unfathomable events occurred. After this performance, we had intermission in a room filled with smoke and dazed human beings looking for answers.

When the show resumed, shiny robots came out and circled us for what seemed like half an hour blaring music and doing crazy things.

We left the show satisfied, horrified, and electrified. In conclusion, go see this show if you’re going to Japan. Just do it! Though… after the show we discussed what the experience would have been like if we had taken some form of psychedelics. Please don’t. I think you’d literally implode.

I took a few shots. It was dark so some of these pictures didn’t come out well. But… enjoy anyway.

 

PIN THIS!

I was assaulted in Japan. It was awesome.


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