American and Japanese Violent Crime
While it may not be obvious at first, Japan and America hold many things in common. These countries are both known for priding their unique national histories. Both countries kept themselves isolated up until the 20th century. Today, the two are highly populated and urbanized countries. In fact, Japan has become increasingly westernized since World War II, allowing the people of both nations to share interest in the same cultural icons. Yet, these two seemingly similar countries have vastly differing experiences with violent crime. Differing historical experiences, cultures, and criminal justice systems are responsible for the great difference between recent Japanese and American violent crime rates. To begin, it is important to understand just how strongly the Japanese and American experiences with crime differ. While American crime rates have been steadily rising for the past 20 years (“Crime in the United States 2010”, Table 1), Japan has seen a progressive decrease in crime (Blair). Interestingly, the rate of recidivism is equal between the two countries; both America and Japan find close to 40 percent of ex-convicts return to prison within 3 years of their sentence (Bluestein; “Preventing Recidivism”). However, though the United States has only twice the population of Japan, it has about 13 times as many homicides and 51 times as many incidences of rape (Hays). In 2010, 14,748 murders were committed in the United States (“Crime in the United States 2010”, Table 1). Japan, on the other hand, experienced 1,097 murders in the same year (Blair). These statistics are reflected in each country’s perception of their own safety. Many Americans avoid stepping outside during the later hours of the night as it is generally thought to be unsafe and is considered a time of higher criminal activity. Compare this to Japan, where there is no such fear (Hays). Similarly, the Japanese hold little fear of child abductions. American parents would be shocked to learn that Japanese parents often let their young children walk to school or take trains to other cities on their own, without any supervision (Hays). Through statistics and the personal experiences of groups of each nation, one finds that America has been and continues to be more affected by violent crime than Japan. As each country faced a time in history marked by a lack of governmental efficiency, Japan and America found different paths to bring order to the resulting criminal chaos. The country of the United States of America is still relatively young. Just 200 years ago, the nation was in its infancy and was still attempting to find a way to effectively and fairly rule the people. With the Mexican-American War fought and won by the United States, America owned more land than it could govern (Gurr). Thus, the western frontier was the home of rampant violent crime that was only held in check by weak vigilante justice (Gurr). Any courts set up are believed to have been unjust, and many times homicide was the people’s solution to crime (Gurr). The majority of people in the American West carried guns and used them to resolve bar fights and power struggles, and it is believed that heavy alcohol consumption contributed to these bloody duels (Gurr). There was a strong sense of individualism during this time, where each man was out for himself (Turner). Indeed, the people who moved out to the West were often hoping to make a large profit by mining gold, or to secure the then-plentiful free land for themselves. It was not until the territories were officially made into states that order was brought to the frontier through government intervention (Turner). 11th century Japan dealt with its lack of leadership somewhat differently. With the waning power of the Imperial Court resulting in higher and more severe crime, the Japanese communities turned to local warriors to protect them (Leonard 56). Eventually, communities formed alliances and a hierarchy...
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