View Full Version : Peace motive: Are Japanese men more timid?

16th April 2003, 18:10
from http://www.asahi.com/english/national/K2003041500302.html

Generation gap:Japan's youth commit fewer murders than their counterparts elsewhere.

By YUKIO UCHIYAMA, The Asahi Shimbun

`Young Japanese probably murder the fewest people of any youth worldwide.'MARIKO HASEGAWA Professor of evolutionary biology at Waseda University

This is the first of a two-part series on declining murder rates among young Japanese.

No goals, no values, no motivation, no respect. For all the scolding they take from the rest of us, the youth of Japan are doing all right in at least one important category.

``Young Japanese probably murder the fewest people of any youth worldwide,'' said Mariko Hasegawa, a professor of evolutionary biology at Waseda University who has done extensive research on murder cases.

Hasegawa's statement may not jibe with most people's impression of rising violence among Japan's youth.

That conception has been reinforced by a number of gruesome murders in recent years, including the decapitation of an 11-year-old boy by a Kobe student referring to himself as Sakakibara, and the stabbing of an elementary school student by a 21-year-old in Kyoto.

In fact, looking at statistics over the last 40 years reveals the number of murders has fallen dramatically.

One scholar who has been watching the trend for some time is Jinsuke Kageyama, professor of crime psychiatry at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

``This is a characteristic unique to Japan,'' he said. ``No such trend exists in either the West or the rest of Asia.''

According to the most recent statistics from the World Health Organization, the murder victim rate in Japan was 0.6 per 100,000 people in 1999, the lowest mark among the world's major nations. That figure is lower than the rates in France, Britain and Germany, and about half that in the Netherlands and Sweden. The murder rate in the United States, meanwhile, is about 10 times as high.

The number of homicidal individuals within the populace is also lowest in Japan. In 2002, there were 1.1 murderers or attempted murderers per 100,000 people, also according to the WHO.

The low rate of murderousness in Japan is a recent development.

Excluding World War II itself, the rate of murderers in the population fluctuated around 3 or 4 people per 100,000 for a long time before and after the war, according to domestic statistics. That figure dropped sharply starting in the late 1950s, and since the 1990s has stabilized at around 1 person per 100,000.

The decline alone is astounding from an international perspective. What is even more remarkable-and unique to Japan-is that the generations that contributed most to the decrease were those born after World War II.

Regardless of place and time, statistics in general show that males in their early 20s are most likely to commit murder. That is believed to be the period when men's blood runs hottest for acts of violence.

In 1955, there were about 23 murderers for every 100,000 Japanese men in their early 20s. But since then the ratio has fallen year by year before hovering around 2 per 100,000 since the 1990s.

In short, the rate of murderers among early twentysomething men dropped to one-tenth in roughly 40 years. By contrast, the number of murderers among middle-aged men and older has not fallen at a similar rate. By the mid-1990s, as a result, the rate of murderers was greater among males between the ages of 30 and 60 than those in their 20s.

As a man in his 50s, I am part of the baby boom generation of males more inclined to murder than males now in their 20s.

Waseda's Hasegawa put the Japanese case in context.

``Even in nations where the overall rate of murderers is low, the rate of murderers in younger generations is comparatively high,'' she said.

``While nothing definitive can be said due to a lack of detailed data on other nations, I believe Japan is the only country whose graph for the rate of murderers does not peak at the younger generations.''

Takeshi Koyanagi, who works at the Research and Training Institute of the Justice Ministry, has an interesting theory about the low rate of murderousness among Japanese youth.

``Murder is a crime that requires a lot of energy,'' he said, implying that today's youth either don't have enough or are channeling it in different ways.

The 2002 white paper on crime by Koyanagi's Research and Training Institute shows that rates for violent crimes-such as murder, assault and rape-have fallen dramatically among Japan's youth.

These results could be said to show that young people's appetite for violent crimes has been ebbing.

Some experts, however, might respond that other problems are afflicting today's youth in place of such crimes, such as bullying, truancy and reclusive lifestyles.(IHT/Asahi: April 15,2003)



Peace motive: Are Japanese men more timid? Or is their low murder rate a product of postwar culture?

By YUKIO UCHIYAMA, The Asahi Shimbun

`There seems to be a decline in so-called manliness and men are more likely to avoid facing danger.'TOSHIKAZU HASEGAWA Psychology professor, University of Tokyo

This is the last of a two-part series on declining murder rates among young Japanese.

Some blame monster movies. Some point to a war connection. Whatever the reason, young Japanese males are the least prone to commit murder among their generation anywhere.

``One reason is they have come in possession of too many things that they don't want to lose,'' said Mariko Hasegawa, a professor of evolutionary biology at Waseda University.

``With the advent of lifetime employment, a highly educated population and an equitable society, the evaluation standards of risk for young people have changed,'' Hasegawa said. ``They are now in no position to do something dumb in their 20s and possibly ruin their entire lives.''

Jinsuke Kageyama, a professor of crime psychiatry at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, believes there are also conditions at work that are uniquely Japanese. ``There is no other advanced industrialized nation that has gone for close to 60 years without fighting a war and with no military draft system,'' he said.

Dane Archer, a sociology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who studied data from 110 nations covering a 70-year-period, says there is a clear relationship between war and murder rate.

Archer concluded that the rate of murderers in the population increases in nations that participate in wars.

For example, during the Vietnam War, the murder rate in the United States was 42 percent higher than in the period before the conflict.

The low rate of murderers in Japan is its success story, he said. Still, Archer says he cannot specifically explain why the Japanese have stopped killing each other.

Archer's model for the relationship between war and murder may not apply to Japan, which last fought in a war 60 years ago. His model compares five years before and after a war.

Archer said the reasons may lie in the long period of anti-war and pacifism movements in Japan. He added that various elements of Japanese culture, such as Godzilla movies and the ``Barefoot Gen'' comic strip, had anti-war themes.

Prior to the start of the U.S.-led military operation against Iraq, Archer was obviously pained by what might happen in the United States.

He said politicians are not making use of the results of his research even though American society is already facing many problems with its high rate of murderers. ``That rate will likely increase again in the United States,'' he said.

Although youths' reluctance to commit violent crimes is obviously welcome, that lack of energy may have a negative impact on scholarly or artistic achievement-as well as for changing society.

Toshikazu Hasegawa, a professor of psychology at the University of Tokyo and the husband and co-researcher of Mariko Hasegawa, has focused on the declining rate of male deaths by accident.

``There seems to be a decline in so-called manliness and men are more likely to avoid facing danger,'' he said. He found that college students now dislike field work and have tended to avoid visiting other Asian nations and Africa in recent years.

Young Japanese men may simply be more weak and undependable.

``For a long time, men became adults with a model of the soldier that said violence was good,'' said Tokyo Institute of Technology's Kageyama. ``After the end of World War II, that model was negated, but no new, constructive model has emerged to take its place.''(IHT/Asahi: April 16,2003)