not so safe in japan
japan has the reputation of being an extremely safe country. i’m not here to tell you that this is a wrong assumption but that even in safe countries, you should be careful.
this past week, i lost my wallet. there’s two different situations that could have happened: 1) i dropped it and someone else picked it up 2) i was pickpocketed as i entered the train. i first thought that it was situation #1 but i make it a habit to look at the ground where i’ve been standing or seats where i’ve been sitting to see if i dropped anything. call me paranoid, but apparently it didn’t work.
there was a 7 minute window that i lost it: i arrived at toyoshiki train station at 8:12 for an 8:14 train. my train leaves toyoshiki at 8:14 and arrives at kashiwa station at 8:17. i realized my wallet wasn’t in my pocket as i was exiting the train, so i stay on the train for 8 minutes until it returns to toyoshiki. no wallet. this short time span, paired with my paranoia, makes me think i was pickpocketed.
i didn’t lose much money but losing my foreigners registration card, bank card, health insurance card, credit card, etc. is very inconvenient. in the long run, though, i’m lucky because i was able to cancel everything before my identity was stolen. also, my personal safety was not compromised.
however, sometimes people’s personal safety in japan IS compromised, and many times that is due to yakuza. yakuza are japanese mafia members that are often glorified. they’re portrayed as folk heroes, as modern day samurai, in movies and tv shows. their tattoos are elaborate and, often, seen as works of art.
however, i just read a book, “tokyo vice,” that describes what kinds of violence and thuggery the yakuza are involved in. jake adelstein was an american reporter in japan that worked on the police beat, so he witnessed these things first hand. long story short, you NEVER want to get involved with yakuza in any capacity. adelstein also has a website that gives updates on his work beyond the book.
the point of this post is to remind everyone that no matter how “safe” you are, you can never be too careful. Ki wo tsukete (take care)!