Back to Contents of Issue: November 2003

Been caught stealing

by Leo Lewis

RESTRICTED AS I AM to the confines of my rather dull fishbowl, I rarely think about houses and how much they mean to you humans. But according to a new survey by Recruit, what most people look for in a new home is plenty of sunshine. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed were outright sun worshippers -- outnumbering even those who said they wanted lots of space or no noisy neighbors. Being on the corner of the building was a popular choice, and in a not-so-startling sign of the times, 16 percent said they wanted good strong locks on the doors. The survey also revealed that there are a lot of animal lovers in Japan these days. Inspired, no doubt, by all those cutesy adverts for Aifuru loans, the craze for little yappy dogs has put 15 percent of house-seekers on the lookout for a place that allows pets.

BUT WHAT ABOUT ALL those crazy people who give up the leafy idyll of life in the countryside to join the 30 million of you squashed into the stinking sprawl of Tokyo? When the Norinchukin Bank asked 330 adults what they like about life in the city, the top and slightly baffling reply was "lots of information," given by 69.1 percent. A slightly smaller figure came up with the classic employment argument, and all the rest went for the good old staple "better entertainment." They weren't all smiles, though. On what was bad about city life, those old chestnuts of congestion and traffic were top of the list. Others moaned about the pollution, and the water, but ultimately the complaints were fairly low-key.

FOR SOME REASON, ALL the other big surveys this month centered on the issue of crime. The best example of this followed the gruesome murder of a 4-year-old toddler in Nagasaki by a 12-year-old schoolboy. Yoshitada Konoike, minister for disaster prevention and deputy head of a government panel on youth problems, stirred up a major controversy by remarking, "The boy's parents should be paraded through the streets and then beheaded." This comment refers to the old Edo period practice of publicly displaying the most notorious criminals on horseback en route to their executions. Draconian stuff.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN IMMEDIATELY asked its "be monitor" to conduct a survey to find out if the public agreed with Mr. Konoike's assessment; 5,221 individuals were questioned. While only 8 percent of those polled were strongly in favor of punishing the parents, another 33 percent said they gave qualified support to the beheading in the streets policy. The main reasons cited included, "Parental responsibility should be addressed" (1,595 responses); "Too much effort is being given to the rights of the perpetrators" (1,329); "The parents of the victim have no outlet for their anger" (1,195); "Parents should make a public appearance and apologize to the victim's family" (1,015); and "The media dwells on the victims instead of the perpetrator" (929). Fifty-nine percent disagreed with Konoike's remarks. The reasons included, "Punishing parents is too shortsighted" (1,591 responses); "Involving the parent won't resolve the case" (1,575); and, thank heavens somebody noticed, "Parents have human rights" (1,003).

IF THIS BEHEADING BUSINESS does become the norm, perhaps the best advice is to take a cue from the 625 criminals who fled Japan last year. The National Police Agency found that precisely 625 criminals fled Japan to avoid arrest and prosecution. The figure was up by 72 from the year before, and represents a nearly twofold increase over the past decade. The largest number of suspects were Chinese, with 254, followed by Brazilians. Most left Japan within 10 days of committing the crime for which they were wanted, a modus operandi imaginatively referred to by Japanese law enforcement agencies as "hit and away."

WHEN YOU STEAL A CAR, it makes sense to blend into your surroundings. This goes a long way to explaining why cars built by Toyota, with a market share of over 40 percent, are especially popular with thieves. Citing insurance industry and police data, a recent issue of Shukan Taishu listed the models targeted most often by thieves. Leading the pack into the turn was a Toyota Crown. The 102 units stolen accounted for 7.8 percent of the claims filed to insurers. Hot on its heels was the Toyota Land Cruiser, with 101 units (also 7.8 percent of the total). Other favorites included the Toyota Celsior (5.7 percent); Nissan Cedric and Nissan Gloria (4.8 percent); Toyota Aristo (3.9 percent); Nissan Skyline (3.4 percent); Nissan Cima (3.4 percent); Toyota Mark II (3.1 percent) and Toyota Hi Ace (2.8 percent).

BRILLIANTLY, THE SHUKAN TAISHU article concluded with some crime-fighting advice that leaves Inspector Morse looking like a rank amateur. "Never leave your keys in the ignition when you're not in the car" and "make sure when you lock the car you close the door completely" were two of the gems. @

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