Crime in Japan

Crime in Japan has been recorded since at least the 1800s, and has varied over time.[1]

A Japanese Police car.


Before the Meiji Era, crime was handled often severely at a daimyo level.


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 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 high-ranking 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 has 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]


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]

According to the 2013 UNODC statistics, Japan's rate of intentional homicide per 100,000 population was one of the lowest in the world at 0.3 per 100,000 inhabitants.[9]


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 traveling from overseas to take advantage of Japan's lax security[citation needed]. In his autobiography Undesirables, English criminal Colin Blaney stated that English thieves have targeted the nation due to the low crime rate and because Japanese people are unprepared for crime.[10] Pakistani, Russian, Sri Lankan, and Burmese car theft gangs have also been known to target the nation.[11]

Crime by regionEdit

Osaka has the highest crime rates in Japan.[12]

The Okinawan prefecture is home to 74% of all US bases in the country and around 26 thousand military personnel.[13] The prefecture saw from, 1972 to 2011, 5,747 criminal cases involving US military personnel, however during the same period the rest of Okinawa’s populace had a crime rate more than twice as high — 69.7 crimes per 10,000 people, compared with 27.4 by U.S. military affiliated members.[14]

Local government and treaties, such as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), have been viewed by some to turn a blind eye to crimes perpetrated by US forces, especially of this type and against women.[15] Policies surrounding the punishment of these crimes and the protection of Okinawan women are few and far between, trials are most often handled by military court-martials.[15] State-led initiatives did not offer much to help face and punish these aggressions, civilians took matters into their own hands, in 1995 a group of women-led protests of over 85,000 people in the capital of the prefecture and started their own organization to protect themselves from these crimes: the Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence.[15] International actions were taken that same year, following the subsequent political ruckus the organization created, the Special Action Committee of Okinawa with representatives from Washington, Okinawa, and Tokyo, decided on a referendum, whereby 21% of military occupied areas should be returned to Okinawa, in the hope of improving diplomatic relations.[16]

As Okinawa's importance continues to increase, as political tensions in the region rise, further compromisation by the US military to improve diplomatic relations with the prefecture and Tokyo, through policies to protect Okinawan women, and punish military criminals, can be expected.[13]

Sex traffickingEdit

Japanese and foreign[17][18] 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.[19][20][21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Yakuza. "Organized crime group, Yakuza". The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  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 a 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. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-07-20. Retrieved 2019-07-20.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  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. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Blaney, Colin (2014). Undesirables. John Blake. pp. 76–78. ISBN 978-1782198970.
  11. ^ "Car Theft Rings Are Hot Stuff in Japan", Los Angeles Times, 22 October 2008
  12. ^ The Crime rate in Japan
  13. ^ a b Yamada, Mio (2016-01-20). "The Battle for Okinawa". ISSN 0015-7120. Retrieved 2022-01-19.
  14. ^ "Despite low crime rate, US military faces no-win situation on Okinawa". 24 May 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2023.
  15. ^ a b c "Report from Okinawa". Retrieved 2022-01-19.
  16. ^ Eldridge, Robert D. (1997). "The 1996 Okinawa Referendum on U.S. Base Reductions: One Question, Several Answers". Asian Survey. 37 (10): 879–904. doi:10.2307/2645611. ISSN 0004-4687. JSTOR 2645611.
  17. ^ "Seven Cambodians Rescued in Sex Trafficking Bust in Japan". VOA. January 24, 2017.
  18. ^ "Why are foreign women continuing to be forced into prostitution in Japan?". Mainichi Daily News. June 10, 2017.
  19. ^ "The Sexual Exploitation of Young Girls in Japan Is 'On the Increase,' an Expert Says". Time. October 29, 201.
  20. ^ "For vulnerable high school girls in Japan, a culture of 'dates' with older men". The Washington Post. May 16, 2017.
  21. ^ "Schoolgirls for sale: why Tokyo struggles to stop the 'JK business'". The Guardian. June 15, 2019.

External linksEdit