With its aging population, Japan is experiencing a crime wave ... but the seniors aren't the victims, they're the perps!

Feb 13th

I hate to admit this, but if I find myself in Japan and see an elderly man approach me on a darkened street, I may now cross to the other side.

Japan is renowned throughout the world for its low crime rate and yet high cost of living. This combined with small pensions and a breakdown in Japan's tradition of the young caring for their elderly relatives has resulted in many turning to crime.

As 69-year-old Toshio Takata explained it,

"I reached pension age and then I ran out of money. So it occurred to me - perhaps I could live for free if I lived in jail," he says.

"So I took a bicycle and rode it to the police station and told the guy there: 'Look, I took this.'"

One of the reasons Japan has a low crime rate is that unlike Seattle, they don't tolerate petty crime, and that bicycle theft landed Takata-san in the slammer for a year.

What did he do after he was released? He committed another crime.

"I went to a park and just threatened them. I wasn't intending to do any harm. I just showed the knife to them hoping one of them would call the police. One did."

The growth in crime in this age bracket is no joke, and far exceeds even their growth as a percentage of the population.

In a paper published in 2016 he calculates that the costs of rent, food and healthcare alone will leave recipients in debt if they have no other income - and that's before they've paid for heating or clothes. In the past it was traditional for children to look after their parents, but in the provinces a lack of economic opportunities has led many younger people to move away, leaving their parents to fend for themselves.

But it goes beyond the economic.

Toshio's story about being driven to crime as a result of poverty is just an "excuse", Kanichi Yamada suggests. The core of the problem is his loneliness. And one factor that may have prompted him to reoffend, he speculates, was the promise of company in jail.

The other solution is more extreme.

Newman points out that suicide is also becoming more common among the elderly - another way for them to fulfill what they may regard as "their duty to bow out".

Sad.

America has embraced much of Japanese culture over the years, from sushi to anime to judo, but ... how about we skip this one.


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