Crime in JapanThe majority of crimes recorded in Japan are theft offenses. Among violent crimes, the most reported offenses are assaults and bodily injuries followed by rapes and homicides. Approximately 21.1 cases of assault and 0.7 cases of murder were recorded per 100,000 Japanese inhabitants in 2021. The overall number of both felonies and violent offenses showed a noticeable downward trend in the last decades. Following the decreasing number of cases, Japanese society and media began to devote more attention to individual cases. Mass murders and indiscriminate murder cases often result in especially expansive media coverage and general discussions on the causes of felonies.
The Sagamihara killing in 2016, in which the murderer stabbed and slaughtered 19 people who lived in a care home for disabled people in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, for example, generated increased awareness of the discrimination and mistreatment toward people with disability in Japanese society. In the Akihabara massacre in 2008, the predator killed seven victims by driving into a crowd with a truck and subsequent stabbing in Akihabara, Tokyo. He was sentenced to death in 2011 and executed in 2022, which resulted in the returning attention to the case and discussion of the propriety of capital punishment in Japan.
Gun controlThe first gun legislation for civilians in Japan in the post-WWII era was introduced in 1946. The Act for Controlling the Possession of Firearms or Swords and Other Such Weapons was then enacted in 1958. This act prohibits ownership of firearms such as pistols, rifles, machine guns, cannons, hunting guns, and air guns, excluding licensed possession for duty, sports shooting, and hunting. Weapons like crossbows and swords with a length of 15 cm or longer are also outlawed under the act.
Citizens who want to practice hunting can obtain licenses for rifles, shotguns, other hunting guns, and air guns after undergoing background and psychological checks, classroom lectures, technical training, and exams. All licenses expire after three years, and comparable procedures are repeated for the renewal. In 2021, approximately 187.9 thousand guns were owned with permits by general citizens in Japan.
The impact of strict gun regulation is also reflected in the commonly used weapons in criminal cases reported in the nation. While cutlery such as kitchen knives and scissors were used in over 90 percent of cleared homicide cases, gun usage did not exceed one percent in 2020. The assassination of Abe Shinzo in July 2022 highlighted Japan’s particularly small number of gun shootings and gun deaths. The fact that the suspect assassinated the ex-prime minister with a handmade gun ironically underlined the successful gun control in the nation and the extreme rarity of gun violence in general.