There are many things that pop into mind when the topic of Japan is brought up: food, technology, manga/anime, and also safety. Japan, overall, is a very safe country and the people are, usually, very respectful to personal belongings and security.
That is not to say that it isn’t without its fair share of crime, but generally speaking I felt safe walking around on my own in the late evening to early morning, which is something that I most certainly don’t feel back in the other countries I have lived in. I normally get back to my bus or taxi stop any where around 23:00-04:00 when I am out and about, and the street my mansion is on is a very small, badly lit one as well, yet I feel perfectly safe walking back alone. That is to say, I would not walk home from karaoke, 3-4 bus stops away, alone at that time at night, at least not without some type of protection, but nevertheless…from 1 stop away it is fine. If I were walking with others, however, I have no problem walking back home from far distances.
I usually go running at night around 22:00~25:00 in my neighbourhood and, personally, have never had any issues, and I know of many others who do the same. If you do this, especially as a women, be sure to bring a torchlight and chikan (groper) alarm with you, just in case of emergencies (in any country).
Although violent crime, theft, burglary, etc. can, and do, happen from time to time, chances are they will not actually happen to you if you come to Japan.
Beyond bicycle theft that is. Generally, it’s a place where you can leave your door unlocked, your car unlocked or forget your handbag in a bathroom and it is more likely that it will be perfectly fine rather than it will get stolen. It is very common to see people leave their cars running with the doors/trunk open outside their houses/mansions or on the side of the road, with no one else inside the vehicle, while they run off real quick to grab something or someone.
As someone who has had a history of living in cities crawling with crime and has had her fair share of run ins with lethal weapons & armed attacks, this is really, truly refreshing and it is kind of astounding to me that places like that really exist. For the most part, people here are incredibly honest, good citizens.
I’ve heard countless stories of friends or acquaintances accidentally leaving expensive items behind – be they cameras, wallets, money, passports or entire bags filled with all of them – or misplacing them, and all of them have been returned. People stop them in the street to return them, or take them to a local lost-and-found, where they go to great lengths to track you down and get your lost items back to you. You’ll usually be chased down the street by someone if they see you drop even a few coins just to return it to you. I remember dropping a 1¥ coin once and a random passer-by rushed to catch me before I got on my bus.
Every now and then there will be cases where such acts of valour did not occur but it is truly rare. More so in larger tourist areas and even then if someone were to see it take place, it would be reported right away.
If I lose something in Japan, I’d be genuinely surprised if I do not get it back. I am happy to say that I am living in a place where I feel safe enough to leave my bag in my chair and my mobile on the table at a cafe or restaurant alone without it being stolen
not that I do I fact do that often…..
Disclaimer: A warning though, this is, as stated a few times in the post, a general concept.
Trusting a complete stranger 100% or being 100% trusting in the country you are in, no matter how safe it is or appears to be, have some common sense and do always prepare for the worst.
As I mentioned before, if going out alone late at night, carry a light, alarm and mobile with you at all times in case of emergencies. Have a tendency to leave your bag or wallet on a table or chair in a restaurant to save the seat while you go order (as many do here in Japan)? Then be sure that you have copies or information on what you have in your wallet–important documents such as NHI or credit/cash card information–back at home or in your hotel, the off chance that it does get taken.
Overall, Japan is extremely safe, compared to many other nations and I feel comfortable enough to know that I will 98% of the time get back something I lost in the same condition it was in when I lost it.