Tokyo, The Safest City in the World… Sort of.

The Economist recently published a report where they identified the safest cities in the world. Tokyo was named the safest city in the world for the 3rd year in a row.

Being a resident of Japan, I’m instantly skeptical at that idea of Tokyo being named the safest city in the world. It’s not that I don’t agree with the report’s findings, it’s the fact that Tokyo is hosting the Olympics next year. You can’t go far in this country without seeing a billboard, or gift shop, reminding you of The Games coming to Tokyo next year. Being named the safest city in the world significantly helps their already booming tourist industry. Then I noticed the front page of the report indicates that the study was sponsored by a Japanese multinational corporation.

I’m an academic. When presented with compelling data and solid methodology, I’m willing to accept the facts as truth. The Economist is hardly liberal. I’ve cited the publication as credible a source throughout my academic career. However, the fact that the study is funded by a Japanese company presents an obvious conflict of interest. I’m not sure the study is peer-reviewed, from face value I see significant red flags. Fortunately, they were gracious enough to provide a strong caveat at the end of the report. Stating that the overall study was broad in nature. It’s overall more qualitative than quantitative.

With that being said… Let’s have some fun, because I mostly agree with this report.
The researched was partitioned into four groups; digital, health, infrastructure and personal security.

In their report, the authors talk about providing the basics for a nation’s people. Community policing, gun control, access to health care, safe roads, and disaster preparedness. Where I’m from, we have to worry about getting shot in the face on any given Sunday, and crippling medical bills that follow upon survival. Unfortunately, it’s a twisted reality we choose to accept as a nation.
When I think about safety and what it means to me, it’s about a peace of mind. There are folks in the streets of Hong Kong currently protesting because they feel their safety is being jeopardized by the Chinese government. They don’t feel their government is looking out for their well-being.

But don’t get it twisted, Tokyo isn’t the safest city for everybody. In the comment section of a Japan Times article report, some have posted their objection to the findings.

Fine, Tokyo is 4th for personal safety according to their criteria.
I just want women everywhere to know…
Tokyo is NOT a safe place for women.

blondein_tokyo (Japan Times)

The “women only” cars in Japan are used to prevent women from being groped and sexually assaulted. But of course, it’s hardly a solution. I’ve heard many women, both local and foreign, recite their anecdotes of being sexually harassed by men in Tokyo.

The illustrations might seem comedic, but it gets worse. Hell, even on the day of my photo shoot at the Youtube Space, one of the guys showed up and was upset that he witnessed a chikan in action on the train. Chikan is the Japanese term for groper.

There’s a cultural concept in Japan to simply turn the other cheek when faced with a chikan in action. So when video of Japanese school girls chasing a chikan goes viral, it’s a big deal.

Chikan on the run is tripped by a grey suited bystander while pursued by school girls.

As amazing as it is to see, this kind of action is a rare occurrence in Japan.
When compared to the cycle of violence that exists in American culture, it’s easy to understand how these kinds of incidents aren’t covered much by the media. It would require a dialogue regarding cultural fallacies in the country. Because in truth, Japan has a problem with how women are treated. The only other place I’ve seen women only train cars was in the Middle East.
That’s not a good look.

So when I read a headline declaring Tokyo as the safest city in the world, I can’t help but think about the disturbing anecdotes I’ve heard during my time in this country.

Illustrations provided by: @ikng_0

As I expressed before, I genuinely agree with the results of the study. More so, I agree Japan is an exceptionally safe country. But safety is relative. While I have my own perspective and challenges in this country, I don’t have to worry about perverts groping me in public.
I think Japan is great, but I’m not so enamored to the point where I can’t see its flaws.


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