Saturday, October 6, 2007

This Would Never Have Happened in America...

Shoplifters killed a 7-11 clerk to death in Osaka. The clerk saw them stealing, then chased them out of the store and one of them stabbed him to death with a knife. This would never have happened in the States, because there the thieves would've been armed with automatic pistols and just shot the clerk to death before looting the store at will.

It's interesting that an incident like this makes the national news here in Japan because it was a murder. In America, where it's open season on convenience store clerks year-round, the only reason this might've been noteworthy is novelty factor in that it was a stabbing and not a shooting. What kind of self-respecting convenience store criminal uses a mere knife? Must be some kind of throwback day or something!

The news story also notes one of the suspects, a 19-year-old man, turned himself into police. What? Didn't he realize he was supposed to go back and brag about what he'd done to all his friends and on videotape in order to build his reputation as a local bad-ass? And then go to jail?

Japan, so advanced in many ways, lags behind in crime technology and culture.

But according to many of my students, Japan is rapidly catching up. In my Bentenjima class this week, the lesson was about precautions you should take when traveling abroad. For example, keep an eye on your bag at all times, protect your passport, stay out of Detroit, don't involve yourself in international diamond heists, avoid certain areas of both Chechnya and Baghdad. Myanmar, while featuring plenty of tourist bargains currently, is probably not someplace you want to spend your upcoming 3-day weekend.

Not too long ago, these students didn't even bother to lock their doors at night! That was unthinkable back home even when I was a sheltered suburban kid back in the oh-so-innocent 1970s. But they knew practically everyone in town so there didn't seem to be a need.

There are probably some isolated areas out in the hinterlands here where that's still true. And while crime is certainly increasing here (and there have been some horrific ones this year), it's comforting to live in a country where something like a convenience store murder makes national news because it's so rare.

As opposed to being taken for granted as just one of the hazards of the job.

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