How Safe is my city?

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It’s been about 3 months since I moved to Tokyo. There are a lot of things that are very different about this city than say Delhi or Seattle for example. There are a few I don’t like but then there are quite a few that are absolutely wonderful. One of the great things about Tokyo is just how safe I feel in general. It’s a feeling that cannot be described because usually it is about lack of certain elements and environments and so our mind struggles to define the lack of something.

There are quite a few anecdote’s I had heard about Tokyo and all of them ring true somehow. You can leave your cellphone on a table at a coffee shop and that is sufficient to reserve the table (and obviously no one will take it). You can forget your cellphone or camera on a train and you will get it back within the hour. You can actually leave your cellphones on a train seat I heard to hold your seat.

Then there are the subtle things that happen: You can walk on deserted roads late at night and not worry too much. You can carry 1000’s of dollars (in Japanese yen of course) and not feel worried. You can be wearing the weirdest of dress (and most revealing of them) and you won’t get angry or lingering stares. People might look but even that is in a polite way. You won’t hear angry brawls or shouting in the street. You don’t get stalking homeless people following you around.

And then there are a couple of small things that are actual tangible events that reflect the safety of Tokyo: When I take a train, even the most crowded ones with me crushed among the masses of people, my first thought is not to put a hand over my cellphone or purse in the fear it might be stolen. I worried about it the first few times (due to my Delhi Metro experiences) but over time I have forgotten that you need to be cautious. In fact you might get a few odd stares if you are standing with hands inside both your jeans pocket and not holding on to something.

The second thing that will tell you how safe it is: I see little kids, probably 5-8 year old wandering around the streets with their school bags and umbrellas. They travel alone on the train, walk back home from practice etc by themselves and might be wallowing doing random stupid kid things on the street. I think I have even seen quite a few just walking home by themselves after it’s dark. That is a level of safety unmatched to any place I have ever been. Just for one moment imagine having your little kid traveling on the sparsely crowded streets of your city at 8pm after it’s dark. Hell, I would feel anxious myself in such a situation in any other city in the world.

It’s pretty interesting how Japan in general is built around a culture where safety becomes an implicit part of it. I don’t think people here are scared of the law which is why it is super safe. I think it is because in Japanese culture it would be impolite / improper for people to harass, steal or be violent. They find it impolite to be loud or speak rudely to others so crime would be a magnitude higher. So perhaps they it is their moral values that encourage the safety of the city.

All this being said, it is not like Tokyo does not have any crime. A city of 25-30 million people will and does have its fair share of crime. But from what I do understand a lot of crime in this city is organized and managed by Yakuza’s. So if you keep out of harm’s way, it will not follow you. If you don’t put an extra effort in getting yourself into danger, you probably would be safe.

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