You read that headline correctly.
In Japan, last night on the headlines of the world's biggest newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun; a newspaper that was established in 1874 - that has over 13.5 million newspapers delivered daily, ran a Headline News story read about a 44-year-old man who stole some Valentine's Day chocolate because, "He wanted some."
Saints preserve us! Is this the beginning of some kind of out-of-control criminal crime wave sweeping the nation?
Yes. They have Hershey Kisses in Japan!
(And on Valentine's Day in Japan,
the girls give the guys the chocolate - NOT the other way around!)
Now, this isn't just a story about why Japan blows away most of the rest of the world when it comes to a lack of crime, it also is a story about the general psyche of people in this country.
But first, here's a quick and simple translation of the story:
The Yomiuri Shimbun headlines read;
"Man claims, after stealing chocolate, 'I wanted some.'"
On the 16th of this month, police in Sendai in Miyagi prefecture arrested a 44-year-old unemployed man on suspicion of theft.
According to the police statement, at about 2:40 am on that day, the suspect was in Miyagino City in the vicinity of an apartment where a 31-year-old civil servant lived and saw some Valentine's Day chocolate and other items in a vinyl bag hanging from the handlebars of the bicycle owned by that civil servant. The chocolate had a value of ¥550 (about $5.93 USD). When the suspect took the chocolate, the 31-year-old civil servant gave chase and subdued the suspect.
Upon being asked why he stole the chocolate, the suspect was quoted as saying (testifying), "I wanted some chocolate!"
Feb. 17, 2013, Yomiuri Shimbun
The online edition of this story
Now, people are often asking why Japan I think is a much better place to live than, say, the United States and it's often difficult to point out specifics as to why. But when it comes to crime, Japan is miles away safer than just about any western country in the world. I never have to worry about my wife or daughters going out at night.
But this little anecdote about the chocolate also shows us a glimpse of something very important about the Japanese psyche that is difficult to put a finger on.
This story shows what the level of crime is in this country and what people think about crime in general. From my westerner perspective, that this sort of story could even hit the newspapers is amazing; and we're not talking about some local newspaper here! We are talking about a national newspaper in a country of 130 million people that has a circulation of 13.5 million copies daily!
This sort of crime would never make any major newspaper in the USA... I think even local newspapers wouldn't run this!
Also, one more thing about the Japanese... And this too is an intangible, but this article points to it. The Japanese are generally shy and humble people... Where I come from, Los Angeles, I hear it is a badge of honor for head bangers to get arrested and have a criminal record. Not in Japan. In Japan, a criminal record is a shameful thing. Shameful for that person and very shameful for the family.
I think when most Japanese hear this story they think, "Stealing is a crime and that's bad! He should never do that!" The Japanese pretty much have a zero-tolerance for this sort of thing... Of course that 31-year-old guy wouldn't let the old thief slide. Theft is theft in this country and a shameful act; it must be dealt with properly.
I think, "Poor guy." Heck, if that were my chocolate and he stole it (and I chased him - which I probably wouldn't do) and caught him and he meekly said, "I just wanted some chocolate..." I probably would have felt sorry for the guy and gave him the chocolate... Heck, I probably would have bought him some cigarettes and a beer too... After that? Who knows? If he were even luckier, maybe I would even have given him a Valentine's Day wink and a kiss too!
Poor guy indeed.