Back to Contents of Issue: July 2003

Mirror, mirror on the wall

EVER STOP TO WONDER about all those mirrors at train stations? Vanity can overcome every one of us at one time or another -- even a blowfish sometimes wants to look his best for the sleek-finned ladies. But the Japanese appear to have made narcissism

something of a national sport. Much to the dismay of Mr. Lion's Mane himself, Junichiro Koizumi, the Prime Minister's Office has just received the results of a rather loaded poll asking the general public what gave them the greatest pride in Japan or in being Japanese.

By far the most popular answer, with 37 percent, was "natural beauty," which is somewhat odd when you consider the country's spectacularly thriving cosmetic industry and the massive number of people sporting dyed hair. The self-congratulation did not stop there. "The diligence and intelligence of its people" garnered 25 percent of the vote while "the humanistic and righteous principles of its people" came in with a navel-gazing 17 percent.

From staring into mirrors to staring into screens, people up and down the country seem to be spending an increasing portion of their time at home. A new survey has exposed those parts of Japan where TV watchers just can't be torn away from the box. In a strange twist, it seems the more beautiful the countryside, the more time the inhabitants of that prefecture spend goggling. Thus in glorious Shizuoka, residents spend an average 3.18 hours a day glued to their favorite soap, and those in Hiroshima, Hokkaido, Oita and Aomori spend, respectively, 3.15, 3.13, 3.12 and 3.11 hours in front of the TV.

All this was in striking contrast to research from Weekly Diamond magazine showing a pitiful decline in visits to the cinema. Even in swinging Tokyo, the wonders of the silver screen only draw two trips a year from the average resident. Elsewhere, the scene was even more bleak -- in the historic city of Kyoto residents only manage to haul themselves to the cinema once a year.

It's perfectly possible that the creeping reluctance to go out in the evenings has something to do with the current surge in the number of house and office break-ins. The most worrying figures concern the staggering hundredfold rise in lock-pickings over the past four years. The villains' newfound aptitude in the dark arts of burglary has, according to a survey by Macromill, forced 50 percent of respondents to "think about" fitting new devices to make their homes a bit more resilient.

Unfortunately, it seems that most people are "thinking about" additional security in the same way that the government is "thinking about" stopping deflation. A massive 67.7 percent of respondents sheepishly admitted they had taken no additional precautionary measures at all.

Crime has evidently been high on the agenda for those wonderful men and women in Kasumigaseki. In the first release of its kind, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police has shocked the grey-suited brigade at the Ministry of Justice with an accurate run-down of what naughtiness is going on where in the big bad city. The most crime-infested neighborhood was Edogawa ward, with 17,114 violations of the Criminal Code.

Even more interesting reading is the exact nature of the criminality in each place. Edogawa was a hotspot for intimidation, while Shinjuku's problem is assault with bodily injury. Shinagawa holds the unfortunate title of the highest child prostitution and kiddy porn, while sexual molestation is the villainy of choice in Setagaya. Shinjuku came out tops in voyeurism, drugs and fraud, but gives way to Adachi when it comes to arson. But where would Japan be without all the white-collar crime that everyone turns a blind eye to? Apparently blameless Minato (with all those ministries and offices in it) had the highest instances of "interference in the discharging of official duties." @

Note: The function "email this page" is currently not supported for this page.