A drugs scandal at Japan’s biggest university draws attention to a troubling statistic: Cannabis use among young people is on the rise. Yukana Inoue and Tomoko Otake join us to discuss Japanese attitudes toward marijuana.
On this episode:
- Shaun McKenna: Articles | Twitter | Instagram
- Yukana Inoue: Articles
- Tomoko Otake: Articles | Twitter
- Alex K.T. Martin: Articles | Twitter
- Illegal stimulants found in Nihon University football player dorm (Yukana Inoue, The Japan Times)
- Nihon University scandal puts focus on ‘collective responsibility’ (Yukana Inoue, The Japan Times)
- Navigating Japan’s maze of cannabis-related laws (Tomoko Otake, The Japan Times)
- Jail in Japan for cannabis in Canada? Possible but unlikely (Colin P.A. Jones, The Japan Times)
- Cannabis: The fabric of Japan (Jon Mitchell, The Japan Times)
- CBD — Japan's path to medical marijuana? (Deep Dive from The Japan Times)
- “Legalize It” by Masataka and Saya Takagi (YouTube)
Get in touch: Send us feedback at [email protected]. Support the show by rating, reviewing and sharing the episode with a friend if you’ve enjoyed it. For a transcript of the show, visit japantimes.co.jp, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter!
Transcript note: Deep Dive is made to be listened to, and we recommend this transcript be used as an accompaniment to the episode. This transcript has been generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcription, and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the episode.
Shaun McKenna 00:08
I'm Shaun McKenna and you're listening to Deep Dive from The Japan Times. OK, it's a bit humid out but summer is supposed to be ending, so let me ask you a question: What was your song of the summer? Overseas people have been telling me that it was Kylie Minogue’s “Padam Padam” and SZA’s “Kill Bill,” in Japan I think it's pretty much unanimous that Yoasobi had the summer song on lock with “Idol,” but another track that's been in the background of many TikToks and on streaming lists, has been “Legalize It” by Masataka and Saya Takagi. Now according to the tracks website, main rapper Masataka, also known as the “medical marijuana doctor,” got in touch with Saya Takagi for the collaboration. Takagi is a former actress who after the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 pivoted to activism and eventually ran for an upper house seat on a pledge to legalize medical marijuana. She was unsuccessful in that endeavor and was later arrested on possession of the drug, which she denies belonged to her. She was given a suspended sentence and now lives on Ishigaki Island and runs an inn called Niji no Mame, which loosely translates as “bean of rainbow.” Anyway, back to “Legalize It,” Takaki apparently turned 60 this year and wanted to use music to talk about her life. And she's finding an audience on internet platforms that young Japanese are keen on. At the same time, a report was released this summer that found an increase in cannabis use from those aged 10 to 29 in Japan, a figure that's been rising since 2014. Also this summer, a minor scandal unfolded at Nihon University over alleged cannabis use among the members of the school's football team. On today's show, we’ll talk to Japan Times reporter Yukana Inoue and our health and sciences reporter Tomoko Otake about the football scandal and Japanese attitudes toward cannabis.
I'm joined in the studio with Japan Times reporter Yukana Inoue and health and sciences writer Tomoko Otake to talk a little more about this recent cannabis scandal at Nihon University. Tomoko, welcome back to Deep Dive.
Tomoko Otake 02:24
Thank you for having me.
Shaun McKenna 02:25
And Yukana, your first visit, Welcome to Deep Dive.
Yukana Inoue 02:28
Thank you. I'm so excited, I love Deep Dive.
Shaun McKenna 02:30
Well, thank you very much. Let's start with you, then. First of all, why don't you tell us a little bit about Nihon University.
Yukana Inoue 02:37
Right, so Nihon University is an old school. It was founded in 1889 as Nihon Law School, but law is just one of the many colleges there now. It has more than 70,000 students, which makes it the largest in Japan. Some of the famous graduates there include writers, Banana Yoshimoto, and C.W. Nicol.
Shaun McKenna 02:56
So what went down at the university this summer?
Yukana Inoue 03:00
So back in August, we reported that few of the students on the American football team were caught with what seems to be a small amount of marijuana. That caused the Tokyo Metropolitan Police to launch an investigation on them.
Shaun McKenna 03:11
I've mentioned this on the podcast before, I'm Canadian and the use of marijuana there has been legal for those over the age of 18 since 2018. You can also sell cannabis there and last time I went back to Canada, I immediately noticed the pretty large amount of cannabis shops in Toronto and even in small towns. Elsewhere, after Minnesota moved to legalize marijuana for recreational use for those over 21 in June, which is effective in 2025, that brings the U.S. total to 23 states in addition to DC, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, which all kind of you know, regulate marijuana use in some way. And also last year, Thailand made cannabis legal for possession, sale and home cultivation for those over 20. Anyone listening, always do your own research before you go to these places, though, don't just depend on what I'm saying here right now.
Yukana Inoue 04:05
Right, right. But Japan is not the same. In Japan — take note everyone — the use and possession of cannabis is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine. Cultivation, sale and transport are punishable by between seven to 10 years in prison and a fine.
Shaun McKenna 04:20
OK, so just say “iie,” gotcha. Where did that leave the football players at Nihon University?
Yukana Inoue 04:27
Well, upon further investigation, police also found traces of stimulants along with cannabis, and they traced it back to one individual player, a 21 year old. In the meantime, three male students, all of them 20, at Asahi University in Gifu Prefecture, around the same time were also arrested on suspicion of selling marijuana for profit. They all belonged to the school's rugby team. And there was another case of possession at Tokyo University of Agriculture, that person belonged to a boxing club.
Shaun McKenna 04:55
What's going on with college sports in Japan?
Yukana Inoue 04:58
OK, so it's not just sports. There have been non-athletes charged with possession too, like four college students between the ages of 18 and 19, who were allegedly caught with liquid cannabis extract and Fukuoka.
Shaun McKenna 05:09
Tomoko, you wrote a piece on this topic titled, “Navigating Japan's maze of cannabis-related laws,” and one of the surprising things I learned from that piece is that the Cannabis Control Law does not contain a specific reference to “use” of marijuana. Why is that, isn't it sending mixed signals on a zero-tolerance policy?
Tomoko Otake 05:29
Yeah. So first of all, the Nihon University student was also charged with possession of stimulants.
Shaun McKenna 05:35
So those would be things like amphetamines and methamphetamine.
Tomoko Otake 05:39
That's right. They're clearly banned under the Stimulants Control Law.
Shaun McKenna 05:43
OK, the Stimulants Control Law right.
Tomoko Otake 05:45
What a lot of people may not know is that Japan has a long tradition of cannabis farming. So for centuries, hemp has been grown for fiber and it was also used in clothing, ropes at Shinto shrines and fishing nets. Also, shichimi tōgarashi, which is a popular spice, also contains hemp seed. So there are cannabis farmers, although their number has been declining, and a loophole was created in the 1948 cannabis law to allow them to continue their work, because they may accidentally inhale the cannabis they grow.
Shaun McKenna 06:18
Tomoko Otake 06:19
Yes, accidentally when they harvest it.
Shaun McKenna 06:20
Tomoko Otake 06:21
What I found interesting is that the Cannabis Control Law even extends to Japanese nationals living in or visiting countries where the possession or use of cannabis is legal.
Shaun McKenna 06:32
So if a Japanese citizen say travels to Canada and partakes in a joint maybe at a Drake show, they could be prosecuted? Is there any real way to prosecute something like that? Do you know of any cases?
Tomoko Otake 06:44
No, I haven't heard of any case where a Japanese national is arrested for their pot use in countries where it's legal. I haven't heard of Japanese authorities going after or randomly testing Japanese people about their cannabis use abroad, either.
Shaun McKenna 06:59
When Canada legalized marijuana back in 2018, freelance writer and law expert Colin P.A. Jones wrote a piece for The Japan Times about that very topic titled, “Jail in Japan for cannabis in Canada? Possible but unlikely.” He looked more broadly at Japanese citizens committing other crimes abroad, specifically focusing on the case of suspected wife-murder Kazuyoshi Miura. So in that case, Muira had reported that “thugs” had killed his wife in Los Angeles. And when he was back in Japan, police received new evidence that he may have been involved in procuring those thugs. I don't want to take the podcast off track with this, but he ends up behind bars and is then acquitted and starts suing the media for presenting him as quote unquote, “guilty,” specifically mentioning that he was shown in handcuffs on TV. So apparently, because of him, handcuffs on Japanese television are now blurred.
Yukana Inoue 07:54
So congratulations, was he freed?
Shaun McKenna 07:58
Well in Japan, but he went to Saipan where he was then arrested by American authorities on the same conspiracy charge and extradited to LA where he committed suicide while in jail. So I guess the moral of that story, besides murder is bad, is that Miura’s prosecution in Japan was possible because of the extraterritorial application of some of this country's criminal laws. So if you want to get into the weeds on this, no pun intended, I suggest reading Colin Jones' story, he's really good at explaining Japanese law. And he does go into how this would apply to the idea of, you know, kind of consuming marijuana abroad in a place where it is legal. It's important to note that the Muira story that I just told, I mean, murder is also illegal in other countries. So it's kind of like a more black-and-white issue. It could be different with doing something that is legal in another country.
Tomoko Otake 08:53
That's right. So even though the Japanese government bans the possession of marijuana and say that it's going to apply to people using pot overseas. Yeah, it's probably unlikely that the police is going to go after people using the marijuana in Canada, for example, because the use or possession of marijuana there isn't illegal. So, I read this blog written by a lawyer, where they talk about the legality of cannabis use in foreign countries where it's legal. And, even though the Japanese law says that the law is applicable in a foreign land, in theory it can be prosecuted but in practice is probably quite tough to implement. So the government is actually looking at revising the cannabis law to make the use not just possession of marijuana punishable as well.
Shaun McKenna 09:50
Do we have any idea of when that kind of would be revised?
Tomoko Otake 09:54
So I think the government is preparing a bill to submit to the next parliamentary session, which could convene in mid October.
Shaun McKenna 10:10
Yukana, getting back to the Nihon University saga, what happens next?
Yukana Inoue 10:14
Right? So drug use is a big deal in Japan. Not only are there actual laws against it, but socially there seems to be a whole different attitude towards drug use here than in other cultures, maybe I should say Western cultures. So the chairperson of the board of trustees, Mariko Hayashi, she has to apologize on behalf of the students. She's joined at the press conference that was held in August by President Takeo Sakai and Deputy President Yasuhiro Sawada, who was previously a prosecutor. So they tried to handle the investigation on their own before involving the police. And they had to explain themselves at the press conference as to why it took them so long to come to the police and that they weren't trying to cover anything up. It was also learned that the parents of the students had raised concerns about possible cannabis use among the team, like late last year. But when the officials told the police, according to the deputy president, they couldn't really find any evidence at the point of last year. So they just had police come to hold lectures about the dangers of drugs use and things like that, in order to educate the students about marijuana usage.
Shaun McKenna 11:26
So the initial response to this news was that the entire team was suspended from participating in any football-related activities, including practices, and this was as they were approaching the upcoming season? Was that a bit harsh, considering it was just one person who was eventually charged?
Yukana Inoue 11:42
Right, so this suspension was lifted five days after it went into effect. But upon further investigation, the police were looking at four other members, questioning them on a voluntary basis. Then at the start of this month, the school again suspended the entire team for any activities, because they concluded that there might be a drug culture that's beyond the individual that was arrested in August.
Shaun McKenna 12:08
I mean, how big is the team? Is it fair to suspend everyone?
Yukana Inoue 12:11
So I actually wrote a piece on this about Japan's culture of collective responsibility, which is when you have an entire team take the blame for the actions of a few people. So collective responsibility is a concept that has been around in Japan for a while. It goes back to the Edo Period, according to Mizuharu Omine, a Meio University professor who specializes in the topic, he said that back then groups of households were held accountable for each other's actions, and had to take responsibility if any of them say, like, failed to pay their taxes. So while it may seem like it's an unfair way of punishing a group of students, those people who are for collective responsibility point out cases where there's a conspicuous culture of drug use, or maybe bullying situations in which others could turn a blind eye. So the idea behind collective responsibility is to push everyone involved to change the culture.
Tomoko Otake 13:06
Does everyone feel this way?
Yukana Inoue 13:09
No sports journalist Nobuya Kobayashi disagrees, and he gave me an example of how collective responsibility was used with regards to Koshien, the national high school baseball championship, where if any member of the team committed an offense, regardless of their commitment or involvement in the team would be punished because maybe they were caught underage drinking or smoking, then the entire team would have to be disqualified from the tournament. And that could affect those students who are trying to get a professional career in baseball.
Tomoko Otake 13:39
Yeah, I don't know if it's fair for high school kids to be acting as the cops on their teams.
Shaun McKenna 13:44
It works in theory, right? But it's doubtful that a high schooler would want to be, you know, kind of seen as a rat, even if it affects them personally.
Yukana Inoue 13:53
Yeah. And it seems like the sports world is held to a much stricter standard when it comes to this kind of stuff. Professor Omine pointed out that many people seem to be aware of the sex abuse allegations surrounding Johnny Kitagawa
Shaun McKenna 14:05
That was Johnny Kitagawa, who founded one of the biggest talent agencies in Japan. We talked about him on last week's podcast.
Yukana Inoue 14:12
Right. And Omine points out that one player has a small amount of pot and the entire team gets punished. While the entertainment industry hasn't taken responsibility for its role in turning a blind eye toward the sex abuse rumors that have been circulating the industry for decades. He also points out that while going to prison or paying a fine are things that can eventually be paid off. The student who committed the crime has to bear the burden for the rest of their life that they may have ruined their teammates’ sports career and he says that has absolutely no educational value.
Shaun McKenna 14:59
You know, when listening to Yukana speak about the people caught with marijuana, one thing that they all seem to have in common is their age. So it's pretty standard, between 18 and 21 — the college years. Tomoko, what is happening with the youth of today?
Tomoko Otake 15:14
I wish I knew, I’m a mom!
Shaun McKenna 15:17
Well, to back up this idea, a recent report found that many young people have been involved in cannabis-related offenses and reasons for this include the fact that cannabis is cheaper than stimulants, and a number of other countries have legalized it.
Tomoko Otake 15:32
Right. So this study is according to the National Police Agency, and it reported that of the 5,342 people involved with cannabis or cannabis-related acts, 70% of them were between the ages of 10 and 29. They're saying that this number has been increasing since 2014, and it hit a peak in 2021. But it still seems to be rising. And in 2013, it seemed that the stimulants were more of the problem, but that has decreased and now cannabis is the issue.
Shaun McKenna 16:05
So stimulants were, used to be really popular with with kids, I guess.
Tomoko Otake 16:09
That's right. But I hear that now, it's like a middle-aged man's drug. So in a survey of offenders, around one third of those under 30 said that they got cannabis via the internet, many of them saying social media was how they got it. Others in the same age group said that they discovered it through friends and acquaintances, and many of them said that they tried it out of curiosity and without any sense of guilt.
Shaun McKenna 16:37
What is Japan's stance on medical products made with cannabis?
Tomoko Otake 16:42
So currently, medical products made from cannabis are illegal in Japan, making it the only G7 country to ban them. But the government is perhaps looking to legalize those kinds of medical products in limited settings. One example would be Epidiolex, which is marketed by Ireland’s jazz pharmaceuticals and approved in the U.S. and Europe. It helps with rare seizure disorders. It's currently going through a clinical trial in Japan.
Yukana Inoue 17:11
How about CBD? I see those being sold in products here.
Tomoko Otake 17:13
Right so CBD and THC are cannabinoids, and it's THC that gives marijuana users the high. That is banned in Japan. So the cannabis law in Japan is actually not aligned with where the research is on cannabis in general. THC is regulated under a different law. And a health ministry panel in 2021, called on the government to ban THC under the cannabis law as well. And while scientists are still learning about CBD, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has said that it's not impairing, but it can make you sleepy, a lot of people take it for that reason, and there's data that suggests it has an effect on the liver if taken in large quantities. So it could lead to liver damage. And both children and those who are pregnant should also avoid it.
Shaun McKenna 18:07
We had a podcast a few years back about the rise in CBD being sold in Japan. I'll put a link to that in the show notes if our listeners are interested in learning more about it. Tomoko and Yukana, thanks very much for joining us on Deep Dive.
Yukana Inoue 18:20
Thanks for having us, Shaun.
Tomoko Otake 18:22
Shaun McKenna 18:29
An increase in cannabis use isn't the only rising statistic that might have police across the country concerned. Japan has consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world, and any kind of headline that threatens to puncture that narrative is often treated in a pretty sensational way. When it was reported that crime was on the rise in Japan back in May, we spoke to Alex K.T. Martin about why there is still nothing to worry about when it comes to safety here in general.
Alex, is crime getting worse in Japan?
Alex Martin 19:01
Well, yes and no. Yes in that crime rates are on the rise, but no in the sense that they haven't come close to the peak they hit in 2002 when we saw around 2.73 million cases. But then it kept on decreasing until 2021, when we saw around 568,000 cases. And then last year, we saw the rise, it took us back up to 601,000 cases or so.
Shaun McKenna 19:23
OK, there's a lot I want to ask about in that statement. First of all, take us back to 2002. What was going on in Japan at that time?
Alex Martin 19:32
Well, during the late 1990s and the early 2000s, we witnessed plenty of gruesome, ghastly crimes, including the famous 1997 Kobe child murders. There was the Wakayama curry poisoning of 1998, then another famous family murder that happened in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, this was in 2000. So there was a lot of sort of horrendous things going on that were making the headlines back then. However, the same period also saw a surge in street crime as well as cases of burglary and property damage and these actually account for the majority of the crimes that were recorded back then.
Shaun McKenna 20:14
Right, so we hit low in 2021, and then crime rates start moving up again. Do we know what caused this?
Alex Martin 20:11
So yeah, there was a dip that maybe came from the pandemic, obviously, from people staying at home. But the rates had been going down for about 20 years or so, so the pandemic doesn't have as direct an influence. What could be more telling, perhaps, is that the rise came as we came out of the pandemic, or at least a stronger elements of pandemic-era life like staying at home, no late-night drinking spots being open and stuff like that.
Shaun McKenna 20:32
Do you know how the police managed to get those rates down?
Alex Martin 20:35
Right, so, in response, more surveillance cameras were deployed and local crime prevention lectures and neighborhood patrol groups were organized. And in 2003, what's called the Emergency Public Safety Program was launched. This is basically a wide-ranging policy that beefed up police personnel. It also established countermeasures for organized crime, terrorism and cybercrimes. Meanwhile, Japan's population peaked in 2008, and began shrinking while the proportion of those 65 and over, that continues to rise as the number of newborns slides. So the fall in crime, then it basically can be explained to a certain extent with the heightening of police presence, and Japan's graying demographics.
Shaun McKenna 21:15
Right, so less people, less criminals kind of.
Alex Martin 21:18
Shaun McKenna 21:19
Let's get into this part now, your piece, “Are rising crime rates in Japan cause for alarm?,” it made the assertion that crime is up, but it's not so much the same kind of stuff that we maybe saw in 2002.
Alex Martin 21:30
That's correct. So a third of the cases reported last year were street crimes. As pedestrian traffic started to increase coming out of the pandemic era. You also saw a rise in the number of, for example, bike thefts and cases of assault, which went up by 20.9% and 9.5% year on year, respectively. Cases of assault will include things like bar fights, for example. But then you have what the National Police Agency refers to as “serious crimes,” which jumped up by 8.1%, I think. This wasn't boosted by a rise in the number of homicides but rather sexual and indecent assault. In fact, homicides were down slightly in 2022, and I think it was 853 cases.
Shaun McKenna 22:15
Well, first of all, glad homicides were down, but this rise in sexual and indecent assault, that's concerning. Over the course of the pandemic, we heard the term “shadow pandemic” being used. That refers to the notion that the stress of the pandemic would cause domestic abusers to act out more and, due to the lockdown, victims weren't able to escape their abusers. Did this shadow pandemic affect Japan?
Alex Martin 22:39
Yes, the same thing happened in Japan, actually. The number of domestic violence consultations rose by 1,454 cases to a total of 84,496 cases in 2022. And that's a record high for the 19th consecutive year. The number of children referred to child consultation centers is, in suspected cases of abuse, that also hit a record high of 115,762, which is up 7.1% from the previous year's number. So that's quite a high bump, I think. I also spoke to professor Fumiharu Yamagata, who is an expert on child welfare, and he pointed out that a lot of cases of child abuse comes from the child having to witness domestic violence and basically the psychological abuse that entails. He also mentioned that in many cases, the parents or perpetrators hide the abuse by presenting themselves on especially social media in particular as living perfect lives. Also, of the cases referred to these centers, only 10% of domestic incidents and 1.8% of the child abuse incidents result in arrest.
Shaun McKenna 23:47
So speaking of social media, your article mentions that another type of crime that is on the rise is cybercrime. So that would be things like ransomware attacks and phishing scams.
Alex Martin 23:57
That's right, those rose by 160 to a total of 12,369 cases last year, which is a new record. I spoke to one guy for my story who said he fell for a cryptocurrency investment scam in early March, after being approached by a woman on social media.
Shaun McKenna 24:14
Did he say what social media network?
Alex Martin 24:18
Yeah, he did, but he asked me not to sort of reveal which one it was. But anyway, this guy is a doctor and he transferred nearly ¥1.5 million into a virtual currency exchange platform, but he couldn't withdraw those funds. He also says he still gets contacted by people trying to get him to invest more so this is a continuing thing, it seems like.
Shaun McKenna 24:37
So, less high-tech than the special fraud on social media are the cases of special fraud involving good old-fashioned telephone. Alex, can you explain to us what the “ore ore sagi” is?
Alex Martin 24:49
Right, so ore ore sagi, which translates to “it's me, it's me fraud,” it's been around for quite a while, at least over the past decade. I think you'd see signs all over the place saying be careful of ore ore sagi.
Shaun McKenna 25:01
Yeah, I think I've seen those signs, actually, in convenience stores.
Alex Martin 25:05
Yeah, or if you go to a bank’s ATM, they would definitely have a little poster saying like, you know, “Ore ore sagi ni chūi,” you know, “Beware of ore ore sagi,” which essentially targets mostly older people. They receive a phone call by a family member, perhaps a son or a daughter, they would say, “Ore da yo, ore da yo,” “It’s me, it’s me,” without actually naming their names, and whoever's on the other side of the phone call would assume that this person is their family member. What happens is they would say, “Hey, Dad, I'm in trouble. I got into a car accident, and I owe the other guy ¥5 million,” or something like that, “And I need you to deposit this amount to this bank account by 12 p.m. today,” or something like that. And, you know, whoever's on the other side of the call would be alarmed, especially if this was a person they haven't contacted in quite a while, if it's like an estranged son or daughter, perhaps they would feel like, “OK, I got to do something,” they would run to the ATM, deposit the money to this bank account, which would end up going to them, to the con man. So it's like a fraud scheme that's been going for quite a while, and strangely, it hasn't decreased. Actually, I think the number of these special fraud cases soared by 20.8% in 2022, and over half, 55.3%, were attributed to the ore ore sagi fraud scheme. So it's been a thing and it's still going strong.
Shaun McKenna 26:26
Right. Why do you think this is still so common in Japan? I mean, I guess it's tied into what you were talking about earlier with the amount of elderly people?
Alex Martin 26:36
Yeah, definitely. So demographics is a huge reason behind this one I think, this particular phenomenon. The number of people over 65, it's approaching almost a third of the entire population. And I think another factor is that a lot of these older people, they live on their own, alone, in small apartments, perhaps, in Tokyo or elsewhere. So they're not in contact with their immediate family members, or son or daughters or siblings on a day-to-day basis. So if they do receive a call from someone sort of pretending to be their family members, I guess it's easier for them to be duped into believing that they're actually talking to their family members.
Shaun McKenna 27:14
So if I'm hearing what you're saying, I guess, you know, kind of the aging demographic has helped Japan kind of lower crime rates over the past 20 years. However, you know, that's now led to the idea that they're kind of prime marks to be victims of crime in this kind of like new age.
Alex Martin 27:35
That's correct. Yes. And we can't forget that the, I think, the number of crimes perpetrated by the older generation, or specifically those 65 and over, these have been pretty high over the past years. So they're both victims and perpetrators, I guess. And it's a natural thing, you know, because if you have the third of the population, who are 65 and over, they're naturally going to be responsible for a larger pie of crime and victims. So yeah, I talked to Wataru Zaitsu, who is an expert on criminology, and he sort of gave me a summary of what's happening. He essentially said that, you know, so the fall in crime over the years can be explained to a certain extent with the heightening of police presence, that I mentioned before, and Japan's graying demographics. So things that you mentioned. So he also added that Japan’s police forces, they need to adapt to this new era of digital crime, like the cybercurrency frauds, as well as the type of crime that rose in the pandemic, like domestic and child abuse. And looking ahead, or actually this is already happening at this moment, but I think he said the trend that he really notices that stands out right now is how crime is now not so much out in the open but happens inside as in where people can't really see them, either online or inside homes where child abuse or domestic violence cases happen. So I think this is one trend that he's noticing over the past years.
Shaun McKenna 28:56
That's interesting, because it seems like there have been a few high-profile cases recently that have been very out in the open. And I'm thinking of those like alleged teenage robbers in Ginza last week, they were all over social media, or the two recent attacks on prime ministers, one of them being Shinzo Abe, who, you know, passed away in that attack, and the other one who's Fumio Kishida.
Alex Martin 29:18
It's sort of too early to tell whether this is going to be a trend or if it's a one-off phenomenon. I mean, the assassination attempt and the assassination, and the burglaries are two different things. So I think it's sort of hard to combine them into one single phenomenon to sort of describe. However, one of the experts I talked to in the story. He mentioned something interesting, he said that so we had the pandemic-era over the past two, three years where people were staying home and online activity soared naturally. And now people are coming back out and you see these petty crimes: break-ins, theft, things like that. But this expert I talked to, he said, It's very short-sighted these crimes, it's not really thought out, like, you know, you can't just go out into Ginza and smash-and-grab at a ... it was a watch shop, right? Yeah, I guess so, and expect to be not caught.
Shaun McKenna 30:09
In full view of dozens of recording cell phones.
Alex Martin 30:13
And the expert said that perhaps you know, the several years, the pandemic era and people just staying inside it sort of numb their sense of you know, what it takes to commit a crime and what entails in the aftermath of committing a crime. So a sense of reality, perhaps has eroded. And that was an interesting sort of perception or opinion, I heard among the experts I talked to. Not sure if it's correct or not, but perhaps it has something to do with these crises. And finally, I think we shouldn't forget that the number of crimes committed by the younger generation aren't really on the rise. Actually, they've been decreasing over the years, I think, yeah. However, that's not the impression your everyday Japanese person would have if they're watching the TV shows and watching the news, where they play up these crimes. So there's a big gap between public perception towards crime and what's actually happening. Last year, we did see a small bump in the number of crimes recognized, around 5%. Next year, is that going to continue? We don't know. My guess is considering the drop in crime during the early years of the pandemic, we might see the rebound continue for some time. However, I can't imagine the crime rate to go back up significantly over the next years, primarily due to the demographics and the police presence.
Shaun McKenna 31:26
Right. Well, Alex Martin, thanks again for coming back on Deep Dive.
Alex Martin 31:31
Thank you, Shaun.
Shaun McKenna 31:36
My thanks again to Alex, Tomoko and Yukana. We'll put links to their stories and other reporting on cannabis in Japan in the show notes. Elsewhere in the Japan Times, this weekend marks the return of the Tokyo Game Show, and we've written up a guide to video game related tourist spots in the capital, which are also good hangouts for locals too, of course. We've also written a few more game show related articles for our website, so be sure to check those out. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida used his address to the United Nations General Assembly to reiterate Japan's commitment to a rules-based international order and called for an overhaul of the nature of the U.N. Security Council. Japan currently holds a spot as a nonpermanent member of the council, and in Kishida’s speech, he stressed the importance of prioritizing human security in the face of rampant division and polarization. A new COVID-19 vaccination drive began Wednesday that targets a spin off of the XBB variant. The vaccine will be available for free and offered until March, though the health ministry is only actively recommending it to people with underlying health conditions or who are 65 and older. For more information on the vaccine and other news, head to japantimes.co.jp. Deep Dive from The Japan Times is produced by Dave Cortez. Our outgoing song is by Oscar Boyd and the theme music is by LLLL. I'm Shaun McKenna, podtsukaresama.