The Vanishing Killer: Japan's Postwar Homicide Decline

Posted: 29 Feb 2008


Despite claims about the 'collapse' of public safety in Japan, the country has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world. Moreover, Japan's homicide rate has fallen about 80% in the last 50 years. A decline of this magnitude has not been observed in any other nation. The proximate cause of the decrease is young Japanese males, who now commit one-tenth as many homicides as their counterparts did in 1955. This article describes postwar Japan's homicide decline and critically examines two attempts to explain it. The conclusion connects homicide to suicide, a second form of lethal violence. Notwithstanding Japan's low homicide rate, its total rate of lethal violence (homicide + suicide) exceeds lethal violence rates in other industrialized nations.

Suggested Citation

Johnson, David T., The Vanishing Killer: Japan's Postwar Homicide Decline. Social Science Japan Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 73-90, 2006, Available at SSRN:

David T. Johnson (Contact Author)

University of Hawaii at Manoa ( email )

Honolulu, HI 96822
United States

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