Alive and well, and living in Tokyo ...

Reports from Essien Leroy, Our Man in Tokyo ...
July / August 2000

Day One in Tokyo

Alive and well
and living in Tokyo


Climbing Mount Fuji
or How to kill a weekend

Of crime and Punishment

Tales of Two Cities

Japanese Inventions

Keeping up with the Jones

Essien's Reaction to the Web Site

Out of Body Experience

It all depends

The Girls of Summer

An old Chinese saying

Of crime and Punishment
I notice something at my train station. No one locks up their bicycles and people leave large packages unattended after shopping with no apparent cause for worry. Young women when walking late at night down small street do not look back to wonder who is walking behind them or can often be seen in a drunken stupor walking home alone down dark alleys. Having lived in a major city all my life, I questioned why. In NY I we not leave our garbage unattended for fear of what might happen. It is not uncommon to see such things as locks on garbage bins, a practice I've always questioned but none-the-less understand. So, I was amazed as this total lack of security. It would seem that the Japanese, as a rule, are not given to petty crime, or major crimes in that case. Guns here are nearly impossible to come by and even knives are strictly regulated. Even so, the Japanese have an almost uncanny knack for obeying laws and social conventions. The crime rate in Tokyo is so low that it is hardly worth statistical measurement. Tokyo being the greatest urban area of Japan has no crime rate to speak of. Women getting felt-up on crowded trains is the major complaint of Tokyoites. At the train station bicycles are left often unattended and unlocked while the owner shops. At night walking home, one could pass several unlocked bikes resting against a guard rail of the side of the main road. A site impossible to see in any major or minor city in the US. To my surprise an acquaintance complained that bikes have been known to get stolen at the station. I found that unbelievable, but he assured me that one of his had gotten stolen at the station. As the story goes, he was running for a train and did not have time to place a chain on his $900 mountain bike. He returned two days later to find it gone. He was outraged, and reported the theft to the police, and they somehow found it and returned it several days later. I asked him how often had he left his $900 dollar bike unattended and unlocked. He says he keeps it in the alley outside his apartment and has never had anyone as much as knock it over. I informed him that in NY the thief would not have waited for him to get off the bike. In the cases when bikes are locked the locks are not chains but cables not unlike the ones used to secure laptops in a crowded NY office to the desk. An occasional untrusting soul would throw a chain lock on his bike, but the chains are usually half the size found around the necks of rappers holding their stolen Benz emblems. With any effort, a pair of pliers, and 30 seconds, lock and bike could soon be parted and headed in separate direction. I am told that children will sometime steal a bike take it for a joy ride and return it several hours later.

In Japan teens are more likely to commit suicide then be murdered, and there is not much talk of drug overdoses. A drive-by is when a moped driver goes by and revs his engine scaring you. That kind of activity is what kids here do to be disruptive. An acquaintance told me that at night a local bike gangs can be heard riding around the commercial district and causing havoc by making a lot of noise with their bike. Shocked at the news I asked him to tell me more. He further stated that sometimes they carry sticks and bang it against the ground making even more noise. Then what, I asked, thinking that I am finally getting the dirt on the Japanese. Then, he concluded, the police have to come by and ask them to kindly be quite and go home. Do they fight with the police, I added. No, they usually comply, he said, or may stop for an hour and do it again before going home. No doubt career criminal and anarchist, I added. He shook his head in shame.

On my arrival my realtor explained to me how use the apartment door lock. She said, if I would like I could close the door, acting as if using the lock was an option that I could feel free to ignore, like the electrically heated toilet seat cover. Leaving door open leads to the only alarming statistic generated by Japan. Japan is second in the rate of childhood accidents, second only to Norway. Like Norway, the crime rate is so low that no one bothers to lock or close their door or watch their children, who will wonder off into the street getting themselves hurt. Children wondering out of open doors and getting a Booboo is epidemic. This wave is under attack by the Japanese authorities. All efforts are being made on TV and Radio to reduce the Booboo statistic. Parents are told to keep an eye on their children and to be aware that door should be closed and locked if children are inside. I wonder if an invisible fence and an electric collar would do the trick, better not suggest it though.