The recent murder of a Tsukuba University student has heightened awareness of the possibilities of being victimized by crime. Among the comments in the Japanese press releases (found in the Yomiuri, Asahi and Sankei newspapers) is that while Tsukuba is blessed with lots of parks and wooded areas, there is also a price to pay in the cover this provides criminals. Tsukuba University students commented on how unsafe they feel because there are few streetlights and lots of dark areas among the trees. Several muggings have been reported in recent months, and this adds to the feelings of anxiety.
One rumor that was described in the Japanese press is that there are gangs from the outside who particularly look for incoming freshmen around the universities during April. Since they have just arrived in unfamiliar surroundings and are looking for companionship, they often donít have their guard up and are easy prey for various ploys that are used. Whether this rumor has some truth to it or not, or even if it does, whether this has any relevance to the case at hand is unclear. It is, however, clear that newcomers with little experience and information are more susceptible to being victimized, and it is common knowledge that religious and pseudo-religious cults such as Aum Shinrikyo and The Unification Church (Moonies) are particularly active in their recruitment activities at this time of year.
So how justified is this perception of Tsukuba as being a particularly dangerous place? Naturally, it depends on what one is comparing it with. Clearly, Japanís reputation as a crime-free (or at least low-crime) society has been tarnished in recent years. Nevertheless, I think most foreigners in Tsukuba would still say that Tsukuba is not any more dangerous and probably less dangerous than their own homelands. But safety is a relative term, and if you have been the victim of crime, it is pretty hard to feel safe and secure. Thus, while one should not be paranoid, it is also prudent to always take reasonable precautions, such as locking doors and avoiding obviously unsafe areas.
TsukuBlog is a daily blog for the foreign residents of the city of Tsukuba in Ibaraki, Japan. It is a sister site to Alien Times. It includes up-to-date information on events, news, living in Japan, Japanese culture, and more.
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