JAPAN is the BEST country in the world.
Japan’s cluttered streets are not always pretty but they are remarkably safe. Crime rates have been falling for 13 years. The murder rate of 0.3 per 100,000 people is among the lowest in the world; in America it is almost 4 (see chart). A single gun slaying was recorded for the whole of 2015. Even yakuza gangsters, once a potent criminal force, have been weakened by tougher laws and old age.
Yet, far from being pensioned off, the police are growing in numbers: beat cops, known colloquially as omawari-san (Mr Walk-around), are a fixture in most neighbourhoods. Japan has over 259,000 uniformed officers—15,000 more than a decade ago, when crime rates were far higher. The ratio of officers to population is very high, especially in Tokyo, home to the world’s biggest metropolitan police force—a quarter bigger than the one protecting New York.
This means plenty of attention for crimes that would be considered too petty to investigate elsewhere, such as the theft of a bicycle or the possession of a tiny amount of drugs. One woman describes how five officers crowded into her cramped apartment after she reported her knickers being swiped from a clothesline. A small army of detectives was assigned last year to apprehend a group of 22 people who had been growing marijuana for their personal use only and smoking it in deserted rural spots.
In fact, as the police run out of things to do, they are becoming more inventive about what constitutes a crime, says Kanako Takayama of Kyoto University. In one recent case, she says, they arrested a group of people who had shared the cost of renting a car, deeming the arrangement an illegal taxi. Some prefectures have begun prosecuting people who ride their bicycles through red lights.