Japan is a comfortable place to live because of the way of thinking

17 Apr

When I first came to Japan in 1990, I was astonished that the Statute of Limitations for murder was fifteen years in this country. That meant that if the police didn’t arrest a murderer within that time, it would be impossible to charge him with the crime…even if he publicly confessed.

I was surprised that this fact wasn’t a concern to the people of Japan.
But, it turned out that it was a concern because the law was finally amended…two years ago.
As of 2010, there is no longer a Statute of Limitations on murder in Japan.

One case in particular was significant in getting this law changed. It was the death of Satoru Kobayashi.

On April 11th, 1996, Satoru Kobayashi was twenty-one years old when he got into a heated argument late at night outside one of downtown Tokyo’s biggest train stations.
The other man hit young Mr. Kobayashi in the head hard enough to cause internal bleeding and, ultimately, his death five days later.

The man who caused Mr. Kobayashi’s death was wanted by the police for charges of “Accidental Manslaughter”.
He was a fugitive and the police had seven years until the Statute of Limitations for those charges would expire.

This case became big news in the Japanese media back then because it’s considered “normal” behavior that someone who gets caught up in a heated (possibly drunken) argument and (hopefully) unintentionally causes injury (or worse) to another person would confess to the police and apologize to the family of the victim.

In Japan, sincere remorse for a crime is vital and has a big effect on a judge’s sentencing.

So, the fact that this man didn’t come forward to apologize and accept his punishment was a concern to the public in Japan.
If the man didn’t apologize and feel remorse, than maybe it wasn’t accidental. Maybe he was dangerous.
The accidental tragic outcome of two people over-reacting in an argument is one thing…but a person attacking (and killing) other people in crowded train stations was quite another.

Japan has a very low crime rate. One factor in this is the Japanese mindset…Japanese people are taught from an early age to consider other people’s feelings before their own.
It makes for a very polite society…even in densely populated areas such as Tokyo.

Due to this case being in the media spotlight and a concern to the public, there was pressure on the police to catch the man who caused Satoru Kobayashi’s death before April 2003 (when the Statute of Limitations would end).

In early 2003, just before the Statute of Limitations would expire, the charges against the fugitive wanted in Mr. Kobayashi’s death were moved up to “Murder”.
The rationale for this was, officially, that since the man was hiding from the police, he must have killed Mr. Kobayashi intentionally…but it might have simply been done to “buy time” for the police to finally catch the man.
As I mentioned, at that time murder had a 15 year Statute…so that gave the police another eight years (until April 2011) to continue their hunt.

In 2010, as the new “deadline” approached, the Japanese government removed the Statute of Limitations on charges of “Murder” completely.
Now, the search for Satoru Kobayashi’s killer can go on indefinitely.

Well, the father of the late Satoru Kobayashi publicly announced yesterday (the 16 year anniversary of his son’s death) that he would like the police to end the search for his son’s killer.

I can’t imagine a parent doing that in another country.
But this is part of the selfless way of thinking here that makes Japan a comfortable place to live.

The elder Mr. Kobayashi said that he has resigned himself to the fact that the man who hit his son will never be found…and it wouldn’t be right for any more police resources to be spent on the search when they could be focused on other cases.

The police replied that since the charges are for murder, which no longer has a Statute of Limitations, they cannot officially end the search…but after the father’s made his wish known, the ¥3 million bounty for the fugitive was withdrawn.

11 Responses to “Japan is a comfortable place to live because of the way of thinking”

  1. whistleblower March 14, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    how about statute of limitations in Japan for attempted manslaughter?


    • tokyo5 March 14, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

      I’m not a lawyer but I think the statute of limitations for voluntary manslaughter has been abolished as well.
      And the statute of limitations for crimes such as involuntary manslaughter have been raised to as much as twice as long.


  2. badflea May 2, 2012 at 4:36 am #

    I love the Japanese culture and lifestyle! I have been tree times in Japan and I dream a long stay, I would like to find a job for 6/12 months in Tokyo because I wish to mix my european culture with japanese culture…


    • tokyo5 May 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

      Good luck! Maybe you’ll find a job here .


  3. Kay's Musings April 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    There really is a different mindset in Japan. We certainly saw it while we were in Japan last week. We’ve just returned and I’ve started posting about our adventures.


    • tokyo5 April 23, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

      >I’ve started posting about our adventures.

      I’ll check them out!


  4. tokyo5 April 17, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    I added a link to this post on my “Who’s Who” page.


  5. finorgan April 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    That statement by Mr. Kobayashi’s father is extraordinary. It’s so utterly selfless.


    • tokyo5 April 17, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

      I think so, too.

      I saw on your blog that you were in Japan last year. Was it your only trip here?


      • finorgan April 18, 2012 at 1:08 am #

        My Spring trip last year was my first time in Japan. Since then I’ve made one more trip, in December/January of this year and spent nearly all that time in Nagano.

        Some photo’s from the winter trip are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/finorgan/sets/72157628835297415/

        I’ll definitely be back for more trips!


      • tokyo5 April 20, 2012 at 12:52 am #

        >Some photo’s from the winter trip

        Nice photos!

        >I’ll definitely be back for more trips!

        That’s nice that you can visit often.


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