Sazae-san Part 2: Crime on the Minds of Tokyoites in the Sixties

Sazae-san_You Didn't Do Your Homework Thief

Japan is an incredibly safe city. With over 13 million strangers jampacked together, you might think that the crime and violence that plague other cities in the West might be evidenced in Tokyo. But that isn’t the case.

I won’t go into factors here. But I was surprised to see that in the world of Sazae-san in the early 1960s, crime was not an unknown quantity. In the cartoon at the top of the page from the book The Best of Sazae-san – The Olympic Years“, Sazae-san jokes about the incompetence of a con-man. In the cartoons below, the illustrator Machiko Hasegawa is able to make light of kidnapping and theft.

Sazae-san_Don't Worry I Won't Kidnap You


Sazae-san_It Was a Cheapie

The reality is, crime may very well have been on the minds of many Japanese in Tokyo at the time. As this line graph of violent crime rates from 1950 to 1996, Japan actually had higher rates of violent crime than Sweden, the United States and the UK in the late 1950s early 1960s. That was likely a product of the post-war years as Japan was crawling its way out of a decimated landscape, both economically and physically.

Total Violent Crime Rates 1950 to 1996
From the book, The Great Disruption, by Francis Fukuyama

Another popular signal of this anxiety was the powerful 1963 film, “High and Low”, by director Akira Kurosawa, starring actor Toshiro Mifune as a rich industrialist who must come to grips with the kidnapping of a child. Here is a wonderful summary and analysis of the film by New York Times film critic, A. O. Scott.