Crime Trends Japan 1987

By William Wetherall

Unpublished report written on commission in 1987


1. Rates higher, violence down
2. Reality or drama?
  2.1 Insurance murders: Era of imitation
  2.2 Counterfeiting bad investment
  2.3 Murders inspired by religious inspiration
3. Swindles increasing
  3.1 Crime incorporated
  3.2 Reasons people bite
  3.3 More businesses exploit religious gullibility
  3.4 Ordinary people become swindlers
4. Crimes induced by soaring land prices
  4.1 Tax evasion up
  4.2 Why land prices rise
  4.3 Land price crimes to end after rise
5. Organized crime retreats: Communities oust yakuza neighbors
6. Corporate extortion: Theatrical crimes models for others
7. Crimes by foreigners: Alien criminality less than average
8. Invasion of privacy: Media peepers put on notice

1. Rates higher, violence down

Japan's official crime rate in 1986 was 1,299 crimes per 100,000 population. This is much lower than the 2,000 rate computed for 1948. But if the current rate were corrected to reflect changes in the age distribution of the general population during the past forty years, the current rate would probably exceed the early postwar rates.

Crime rates in Japan, as in other countries, are computed by dividing the number of crimes known to the police in a given year by the total population and multiplying by 100,000. The number of crimes includes only violations of the Criminal Code (except death or injury caused through professional negligence or traffic accidents) and certain other laws and ordinances. Violations of statutes like the Anti-Prostitution Act and the Stimulants Control Act are not counted as criminal offenses for purposes of computing the crime rate.

Another problem with the crime rate is that no corrections are made for demographic changes over long periods of time. Over the past few decades, the proportion of younger people who have higher crime rates has decreased while the proportion of older people who have lower crime rates has increased. So even if the crime rates for each age group remain the same and the total population does not change, the total rate will drop. The shift of distribution from younger high-rate groups to older low-rate groups means fewer total crimes and, because the population remains the same, a lower crude crime rate. Leaving aside such problems of meaning, the latest official statistics show the following trends (Keisatsu hakusho [White paper on the police], National Police Agency, August l987).

Though the number of crimes known to police in 1986 is near the record high set in 1985 and the previous record high of 1948, the crime rate, though recently higher than the lows of the early 1970s, is wavering far below the 1948 peak [62 KH p92].

The distribution of crimes in 1986 is different from that of 1948 [62 KH p93]. Felonious crimes like murder, rape, robbery and arson are down by half. Violent crimes like extortion and causing bodily injury are about the same. Larceny, from burglary to auto theft, is somewhat higher, while intellectual crimes like fraud and embezzlement have fallen by half. There were only one-third as many moral offenses like gambling and obscenity in 1986, which suggests how much 1948 standards of morality have been liberalized.

Computer crimes are rapidly increasing [62 KH p101], but cash dispenser and credit card crimes peaked in 1985 after sharply rising [62 KH p102, p104].

Homicide for insurance shows no remarkable trend either upward or downward, but arson for insurance seems to be increasing [62 KH p105].

Confiscations of firearms from members of criminal gangs have been increasing but may be leveling off [62 KH p115]. Fewer drunks and lost children are getting protective custody [62 KH p129]. Reports of missing persons, 41 percent of them runaway teenagers, are continuing to drop from their 1983 peak [62 KH pp130-131].

More stimulants are being confiscated from fewer offenders [62 KH p182], but more offenders are repeating their crimes [62 KH p185].

Crimes involving financial transactions are gradually increasing [62 KH p209], while cases of real estate fraud are rapidly declining after a peak in 1983 [62 KH p210].

The number of cleared cases of crimes committed by foreigners, and the number of arrested foreigners, have been increasing in the past decade [62 KH p25]. Felonious crimes and other violent crimes have doubled, while larcenies and intellectual crimes are up respectively sevenfold and eighteenfold. Arrests for moral offenses like prostitution are also rapidly increasing [62 KH p39].

2. Reality or drama?

Crime in 1986 and 1987 was characterized by a lack of creativity. Many cases were mere imitations of precedents which occurred during the previous three years. And copycat crimes may continue for a while.

The case of importer Kazuyoshi Miura seems to have inspired many recent insurance murders. Miura is alleged to have contracted the holdup shooting in Los Angeles in 1981 of his highly-insured wife, Kazumi Miura, who fell into a coma from her wounds and died a year later. He is also thought to have been responsible for the death of a Japanese girlfriend in Los Angeles in 1979.

These and other suspicions were raised in an investigative report serialized by the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun in 1984. Miura filed a libel suit against the magazine but authorities declined to press charges. Instead, Miura and former soft porn actress Michiko Yazawa, a girlfriend, were arrested in 1985 for the attempted murder of Kazumi Miura in 1981 a few months before she was shot. The case was built around Yazawa's testimony that she had hit Kazumi on the head with a blunt instrument in accordance with Miura's instructions.

Yazawa also claimed that the blows were not fatal, and that Miura persuaded his wife not to report the attack. In 1986 Yazawa was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. In August 1987 Miura was given a six-year sentence, which he has appealed. In the meantime, Los Angeles police have come to Japan to consider extradition. There have been insurance murders in the past, but the Miura case attracted unusual attention because it was played on an international stage, and its planning and execution were dramatic. Miura stirred interest in his own case by secluding himself abroad, and occasionally appearing before the media or sending messages. He has even written about his case, not just to express himself, but to use the media.

Another insurance murder was committed abroad by Japanese in February 1986, but the victim was a perfect stranger. Former Tokyo civil servant Ichio Hiramatsu responded to an advertisement for work in the Philippines, placed by former entertainment producer Yoshihisa Okubo and former game center employee Yoshio Kobayashi. The two men took out 15 million yen in travel insurance on Hiramatsu and then killed him in Manila. An interesting twist developed when Okubo testified that Hiramatsu had approached him with a plan to kill Kobayashi, who later carried out the murder of Hiramatsu.

Two years before the Manila case, Yasumasa Hidaka, a coal mine subcontractor in Yubari, Hokkaido, set fire to his company's dormitory and burned to death four employees and two children, in an effort to collect 24 million yen in fire insurance and 114 million yen in life insurance. Hidaka was the boss of a local criminal syndicate.

In May 1984, four male and female neighbors in an apartment building took out a special old-age insurance policy through the post office on a physically weak resident of the same apartment. They attempted to collect the insurance after causing the man to suffocate.

Kazuo Ikeda, a real estate agent from Saitama whose life had been insured for nearly 400 million yen, drowned in June 1986 after falling in the water from a fishing boat off the coast of Hokkaido. Police suspected foul play in Ikeda's death because circumstances surrounding the accident were unnatural, including the machinations of a gangster boss who was active in behind the scenes land speculation.

December 1986, gangsters-for-hire murdered Yamaguchi prefecture game-machine leaser Keisuke Karasawa at the request of his estranged wife, Yoshiko Ryu. The woman was after 160 million yen in life insurance.

Perhaps the most shocking insurance murder took place in Nagoya in June 1986. In January the following year, police arrested Ikuo Imamura, a broker of golf course memberships, for the murder of his 20-year-old daughter, Yoko, a pachinko parlor employee. The divorced Imamura decided to kill Yoko because he was angry at his daughter for visiting her mother. He had planned the murder as early as July 1983 when he got Yoko to insure her life for 60 million yen and name him as her beneficiary. Later he hired two "jacks-of-all-trades" to kill her, and he mourned at her funeral as would any father whose daughter had been the victim of a violent crime. Imamura did not have a regular job and was always asking Yoko for money. Police learned that Yoko had told a friend that she might be killed for insurance money.

In early 1985, Tochigi prefecture masseur Noboru Abe took out 30 million yen in life insurance on his daughter, a middle-school student, and tried to kill her by setting fire to the house of his brother-in-law, who was taking care of her. The murder attempt failed.

Insurance murders, though few in number among all homicides, are relatively serious crimes. Many cases arouse such strong interest that they are widely reported, and this publicity may inspire other crimes.

One trait of insurance murders which may change the character of future crime is their element of careful planing, which must be long-range and cover everything from insuring the victim to claiming the money. Such planning inevitably involves a sense of game and drama in which the criminal creates and acts his own part.

Another trait of such murders is that they can be very profitable. Crime is not supposed to pay, especially murder, which entails many risks. But if an insurance murder goes well there is no need to take further chances by stealing, and since it is perfectly legal to accept insurance money there is no need to fear spending one's new wealth. And the amount of money can run from 10 to 100 million yen.

The large sums of money involved in insurance murders is a trait shared in common with many recently crimes including murder. While crimes have always been committed for money, many modern crimes are induced by the large amounts of surplus wealth at the disposal of individuals. Insurance murders may be seen as a shift from murders motivated by theft to murders motivated by fraud, though elements of fraud are more conspicuous in non-violent crimes.

The recent spate of insurance murders will make potential victims more alert to the danger of unreasonable life insurance, and it will move life insurance companies to more thoroughly investigate claims. The murders have also contributed valuable information to the police. This climate of caution may deter insurance murders for a while, but they will soon be back in the news, probably with new variations involving more subtle, diversified methods.

Two trends may be observed from recent cases of insurance murder. First, such murders may prove a potential source of capital for criminal syndicates. This form of crime may be attractive to yakuza gangs that are strapped for funds.

Second, murders of lineal ascendants may increase. The most natural beneficiary of a life insurance policy is a lineal descendant. The increase in nuclear families has resulted in less contact between all members of the family, hence generally weaker bonds between all members of the family-parents and children, brothers and sisters, and husband and wife. Though few in number, the recent cases of contracted killings of immediate family members suggest that the crimes result from cool relations more than love-hate emotions. This tendency may become stronger if the status of women in the workplace improves while male attitudes toward their family roles lag and companies fail to accommodate the need for fathers to spend more time at home.

Though not an insurance murder, worth citing here is the 1987 case of Kuniaki Nakajima, a Tokyo dental technician who strangled to death his 22-year-old step daughter, Manami Aiba, and incinerated her body in the basement of the company where he was employed. Nakajima had borrowed money in Manami's name from a loan company, and this led to trouble between them. Yet his killing her was not an impulsive crime, but part of a plan which called for the murder of Sanae Aiba, his estranged wife and Manami's real mother, to gain possession of a house in Sanae's name which had a market value of over 100 million yen.

The most unusual recent crime was the case of the counterfeiter who murdered a jeweler. In April 1987, 400 million yen worth of bogus 10,000-yen bills were found where they had been discarded, at a garbage collection point in Tokyo's Minami Aoyama, and in a dry part of the bed of the Arakawa river. This was only a part of the total of the record 1 billion yen in bogus 10,000-yen notes which had been forged by Jun Takei, a writer of children's stories, in Japan's biggest-ever counterfeiting case. He had also shot to death jewelry dealer Takao Ogasawara and taken a large amount of jewels.

Takei lived a lavish life with over 10 cars including a Benz and BMW. He owned and ran Kitahara Sogo Kikaku, an agency which provided management consultation and event planning services, and he supervised the main office of a new religion called Junrei Dojo Daama no Kai [Association of the dharma of the seminary for following spirits in death]. But he was unable to make ends meet and had run up a debt of 150 million yen.

Counterfeiting is not, however, a profitable crime. The quality of the paper, the precision of the engraving and printing, and the watermarks make the forging of Japanese currency especially difficult. Though the bills in this case were technically not bad, they did not approach the precision of real notes.

To make even such minimally flawed bills one has to have the help of a professional printer, and so counterfeiting is not a crime that just anyone can imitate. It became possible for Takei because he was an unusual character who had a unique philosophy of crime and a decisive ability to act.

Counterfeiting becomes too risky for a certain period of time after a case like this occurs. So such crimes seldom inspire copycats, and there only one major case every few years.

Though small in number, crimes involving religion have been getting more attention. In February 1987, relatives of missing rock band leader Masahiro Mogi found two people dismembering his nude body in a Fujisawa, Kanagawa apartment. Still carving up the corpse when police came to arrest them were Mogi's wife Miyuki and his cousin Masato Suzuki. Suzuki and Miyuki appeared to be performing a ritual to exorcise the evil spirit they thought resided in Mogi's body.

According to one explanation, Mogi was not doing well with his music. So Suzuki and Miyuki performed an occult act to drive out the demon they believed had possessed him. When the demon failed to leave, they strangled Mogi to death and ritually dissected his salted body over a period of days.

The three were members of a new religious cult in Yokohama, but apparently the group did not believe in exorcism. A more likely immediate motive was a marital dispute between the Mogis, which somehow involved Suzuki, a real estate agent who had played in the same band.

In March 1987, a woman in Chiba prefecture strangled her one-year-old grandchild in what appeared to be a ritual murder. Her son, the child's father, was a sushi bar proprietor, but he had just closed his shop because business had not been going well. The grandmother appears to have been convinced that her son's difficulties were caused by the presence of an ancestral demon. Hence she killed the child in order to exorcise the evil sprit in her home. Three years before this, she had joined a new religion.

A third case, though not of murder, further dramatizes the power of cult. In May 1987, three skeletonized bodies were found in the home of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka prefecture faith healer Katsuko Mihara. Two were those of elderly women and the third was that of an infant.

Mihara had billed herself as the daughter of Sarutahiko, an ancient deity. The older women had been members of her cult, and the infant had been the son of a female follower. The women had died of illness and the boy of malnutrition, and Mihara had been praying over their bodies in an effort to resurrect them.

Claiming that the infant boy was a child of Sarutahiko, Mihara brought him to her apartment, which she shared with her common-law husband and several followers. She tried to raise him on water and apple juice instead of milk, but a month and a half later he died, so she wrapped his body in a quilt, placed him in front of an altar, and attempted to bring him back to life with prayers. Though the boy's mother seems to have actually entrusted him to the Mihara's care, apparently she did not really believe that he was a child of a god, so she repeatedly asked Mihara to return him to her, but to no avail.

The boy's death is problematical. In placing her son in the faith healer's inept care, the mother brought death to the child. But this is a case of death through negligence rather than murder.

Whether such incidents result from intentional killing or neglect, they strike most of us as totally bizarre. We have no words to express our shock at their unimaginable butchery and madness. But they serve to remind us of the omnipresent potential of human abnormality. And they compel us to examine religion's role in deviant behavior.

In all industrialized countries, science has made many converts to religious skepticism. But during the past few decades, a growing number of people have sought in religion, old and new, spiritual relief from the social, political, economic, and environmental problems and anxieties which have accompanied technological progress. In Japan, too, stores are filled with books on the occult and life after death. In addition to the large new religions with world-wide movements and memberships, many small cults have been started by charismatic people who attract dedicated disciples to share their discontent and accept their way of salvation.

That young people who made their living from rock music could be involved in a fatal exorcism may indicate how far an interest in religion has revived among their generation. And if the grandmother who killed her grandchild did so as a direct result of influence from the new religion she had joined three years previous, then her belief in the occult was not because she was old.

"True story" accounts on occult and other spiritual phenomena are a staple of the women's weeklies, and hardly a week passes that a magazine is published without at least one article on someone's claim to have seen a ghost. This trend was established some time ago and shows no sign of abating. But it is far from clear how much the circulation of such magazines is connected with the recent wave in exorcism crimes.

Whatever their inspiration, there is little likelihood that fanatic groups like resurrection religions will increase in either number or influence. For a religious group to grow, it usually has to conform to social conventions. The smaller and more fanatic a group, the more secretive its activities and the stronger the sympathies of its members, and the more likely that it will become asocial if not antisocial. And when such a group is exposed to the world through media reports of an abominable crime, the social backlash is huge.

The problem in the resurrection case is how readily the mother, who was not necessarily fanatic in her belief and had doubts about the faith healer's claims, nonetheless consigned her baby to the faith. Apparently the woman's instincts as a mother lost out to her need to belong to a religious group, and this despite the fact that she did not place all her trust in the religion.

Such behavior suggests that family bonds like those between parent and child, husband and wife, and siblings are no longer as absolute as they seem to have been in the past. It also indicates a certain defenselessness toward crime in which people are unable to resist the pull of religious authority and firm tenets of faith.

3. Swindles increasing

Another crime trend which may be associated with the "new age of faith" is the rise in number of investment companies which have turned to swindling gullible customers with empty promises of high returns. In the most sensational case, which broke in 1985, Toyota Shoji, an investment group unrelated to the car maker, cheated thousands of people out of billions of yen invested in gold bars. Even after the Toyota Shoji group broke up, remnant companies continued to make news with exposures of their own shady dealings.

In a smaller case which came to the public's attention in 1984, Toshi Journal, an investment consulting firm, went bankrupt after collecting over 58 billion yen from 8,000 people who were promised quick profits in stock speculation. The forerunner of Toshi Journal was the Aoi Group, an investment consulting company which took about 290 million yen from investors through a "tenfold financing" scheme in which clients were loaned ten times their collateral for investment. Aoi representative Tadao Yokota is said to have taught this method to former Toshi Journal board chairman Shigeki Nakae. The Toshi Journal group also used the "share division method" to inflict losses on its general investors. Reimbursements to clients always exceeded the current assets of the group, and its ability to repay was less than 20 percent. The group was charged with swindling only 1.8 billion yen, though, which is far less than damages involved in the Toyota Shoji case.

In similar cases, Aoi group member Kokichi Akiyama put the tenfold financing method into practice at Mitsui Shin'yo Daiko, a trust agency, and cheated 200 people out of 500 million yen in cash and stocks. A company called Japan Cross used a fivefold financing scheme to fleece 100 million yen from about 50 clients. And Fuji Toshi Komon, another stock investment consulting company, brought several billion yen in losses to 121 people.

Kazuo Nagano, board chairman of the Toyota Shoji group, which caused the biggest scandal in history involving 3,885 victims and 12.8 billion yen in damages, was stabbed to death in June 1985, one month before bankruptcy brought the company's activities to a halt. Toyota Shoji's scheme was to sell its customers gold bars through a so-called "Gold Family Contract" which gave the company the right to hold the gold for one to five years in return for a bond and yearly dividends of 10 percent to 15 percent in certificates. The company collected money this way while knowing that it would not be able to deliver the gold or pay the dividends when the bonds matured. When the Gold Family Bonds began to draw criticism, the company planned a shift to a membership scheme in which it would sell memberships in practically unusable golf courses and yacht clubs.

Of the 202.5 billion yen that Toyota Shoji collected from some 27,000 clients, 56 billion yen were squandered on personnel expenses, 48 billion yen on office costs, and 43 billion yen on related companies, leaving only a small amount for actual investment. The group included the Belgium Diamond Company, which was exposed as a pyramid scheme.

Toyota Shoji paid exorbitant salaries to its staff and spent huge sums of money to maintain its offices though it knew that such practices were unprofitable and ruinous. It seems that from the very beginning the company was set up to collect and divide money rather than make it. According to a list of the 2,000 top commission earners, which the company kept to spur its sales representatives, the very top earner received an average 12.76 million yen in commissions each month during the five months from December 1984. Some 389 representatives received monthly commissions of 1 million yen or more, in addition to monthly salaries of 400,000 yen or more. And nearly 400 employees were paid monthly salaries of 1.4 million yen or more, making Toyota Shoji an ultra-high-salary company.

Toshi Journal's Nakae, who had gone into hiding, gave himself up to the police after Toyota Shoji's Nagano was murdered. Though the two swindle cases came to light about the same time, the Toshi Journal case was somewhat of an anomaly, while the Toyota Shoji case was more of a trend setter.

In December 1986, seven executives of Asuka, a Toyota Shoji remnant which dealt in overseas money futures, were prosecuted for fraud. Posing as an agent which could order futures on Chicago's international money market, Asuka bilked 357 customers for a total of 1.35 billion yen, over half of which--in excess of 700 million yen--was spent on staff salaries and office rent. Kiyohide Saito, the president of the company, had been a branch manager at Toyota Shoji, and the head of the international operations department at Hitachi Shoji, a company which dealt in overseas commodity future transactions.

Hitachi Shoji was founded by Shigeru Takahashi (president of TPS, an investment consulting company connected with Nagao and Nakae) and some people from Toyota Shoji. Because it was flooded with complaints after collecting 2 billion yen from 250 customers through its paper transactions, Hitachi Shoji expanded with Asuka into a company called Japan Coop, which collected 710 million yen from 23 people before it was exposed. Takahashi was instrumental in initiating Asuka executives and many other people into the basics of future transactions, and he has been called "the father of corrupt business practices" in Japan.

Among other overseas future companies related to Toyota Shoji, Wako caused 74 victims losses of 140 million yen, and American Coop went bankrupt after causing about 120 creditors to lose around 6 million yen. Silk Road, a large company unrelated to the Toyota Shoji group, hooked some 300 people for 1 billion yen on bait consisting of overseas futures on Standard and Poors 500 Stock Index and other lists.

Maruwa Mortgage, another Toyota Shoji remnant, swindled 245 people out of 1.8 billion yen by padding and short-selling mortgage deeds. Losses came in a gush between the middle of 1986 and autumn, and the company folded in November.

Such cases of investment fraud surfaced one after another, until the summer of 1987, when finally police began to clamp down. For one and a half months from 1 June to mid July, the police concentrated on investigating corrupt business practices involving overseas futures and other investment schemes. The investigation exposed 197 companies which had inflicted losses totaling 18.6 billion yen on 52,800 victims. About 60 percent (11 billion yen) of these losses involved overseas futures, and 20 people in the 13 firms which fraudulently sold them were arrested.

These figures seem all the higher when considering that the big operations had already been exposed. This suggests that by the time the extent of damages from such crimes had became known, the situation had advanced quite far. And the many arrests which have been made may indicate the arrival at a new stage in investment fraud.

The following factors will probably determine the nature of investment swindles in the future:

Incorporation of fraud

Unlike an individual, an incorporated person can make a quick killing, though barely within the law, by collecting large amounts of money from customers and then causing the company to go bankrupt. This will probably continue to be a significant method of fraud. The trust which a company must engender in its clients is also important, hence the use of a company name like Toyota Shoji, which resembles that of a recognized major enterprise.

Birth of habitual swindlers

Toyota Shoji bred professional swindlers and sent them out as new carriers of fraudulent thinking. The crimes committed by swindlers working within an organization are light compared to offenses like murder, and so the swindler can stage many comebacks using new tricks and wares. Without stronger deterrents, the field of fraud will never have a shortage of aspirants.

Bait changing

The lures used to defraud are constantly changing. Recently they have been things like stocks, gold, overseas money and commodity futures, and mortgage bonds. Many people in Japan have large amounts of savings which they want to grow in the most profitable way. But the interest paid on bank and postal accounts and on interest commodities is extremely low. And now it seems possible to promise quick profits from a rise in the yen, which has leveled off after months of incredible increases, and the abnormal leap in land prices, especially Tokyo. Investment fraud will probably shift to these fields as new schemes are devised.

The main techniques of investment fraud are phone calls and visitations. Calling someone on the phone can give the person the illusion that one has been specially chosen to receive privileged information. The caller can also sound out how much a person is interested in investments. Some people are caught off guard because talking on the telephone presents no immediate danger. Door-to-door sales are daily events in residential areas.

Sales representatives must impart a sense of trust because people are approached by solicitors who run the gamut from extremely conscientious to marginally legal, and when an appointment is made by phone, the sense of danger is somewhat dispelled. The representative must also determine if the potential customer has enough time to hear the sales pitch and whether the person is alone. Busy people are hard to talk to because they have no time to spare on unscheduled matters. And it is difficult to convince someone to take the bait if the person is not alone, for people tend to become objective in the presence of a relative or friend.

Japan is a contract society, but most people are not good at dealing with contracts. Older people living alone or only as couples are nearly defenseless against door-to-door sales. They have some money but they feel insecure with the amount and want more. So they are sitting ducks for fraud. Housewives cannot spend money as freely as older people. But some get thrills out of dipping into the household budget to invest in the chance of their lives. And once they have put their seal to a contract, the more they sense that they have made an irreversible error, the less they want to disclose what they have done, to their relatives much less to the police.

Socially and economically, older people and housewives have always been in the most vulnerable positions. And since this situation is not likely to change overnight, they will probably continue to be primary targets for corrupt business practices and fraud.

People who are interested in religious phenomena and causality are increasing among those who have no religious philosophy. This trend has invited an increase in unscrupulous business practices which play upon people's beliefs in the spirits of the dead.

Sales are usually made on the street or door-to-door, and a typical sales pitch goes something like this. "The spirits of your ancestors are vexed. Unless you appease them, your family line will die out. To get rid of the cause of this evil, you must renounce the world and pray for three generations. If you don't wish to give up your worldly ties, the only way you can break the spell is to have a jeweled pagoda and prayer beads." The customer whose anxiety is thus stirred then buys the required paraphernalia at exorbitant prices.

The things which are sold to exorcise and placate the spirits that invite misfortune or illness include pagodas, beads, vases, seals, pendants, spiritual stones, and ginseng tea. They are sold at legally questionable prices ranging from 6 to 500 times their original cost, for example 13-million-yen beads and 17-million-yen pendants.

In mid July 1987, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations reported that 14,579 people throughout Japan had suffered losses of nearly 31.8 billion yen through such psychic sales methods. Some 85 percent of the victims were women.

Such business practices may temporarily subside in the wake of police investigations and critical publicity. But because they are not necessarily illegal, they will probably survive in modified forms that manage to skirt the law, at least so long as women and other targeted people with a lot of money to spend believe in ghosts.

The boom in natural foods and health foods seems to have quieted, but worship of and aspiration for nature and health have reached religious pitch. Though at present nothing very big has come to light, it would not be surprising if there were more cases of fraud which took advantage of people's faith in health.

In January 1987, the public prosecutor served papers on Tamaki Kikaku, a health food sales company in Kanagawa prefecture, for violating the Drugs, Cosmetics and Medical Instruments Act. Over a two-and-a-half-year period, the firm made a profit of 200 million yen by charging 1,300 women 60,000 yen for boxes of health food originally costing only 1,000 yen, on the strength of the catch phrase: "Drink this, lose weight, and improve your physical constitution".

In the same month, two Tokyo companies, Kowa Shokuhin, a health food manufacturer, and Tokai Sangyo, a sales company, were served papers for producing and marketing, without a license, a health food called Mikkyoshoku [Tantric food], which contained a herbal drug that was said to be "effective against all diseases including cancer". Sales over a two-year period reached 750 million yen. In 1978, using the name Seiyu Kiriyama, Kowa's chairman Masuo Tsutsumi began a religion called Agon. And through his flamboyant activities, which included the publication of a bestseller, he managed to gain some 300,000 followers.

In June 1987, a Tokyo firm was prosecuted for manufacturing and selling Gerumagoorudo Z [Germagold Z], a beverage which was purported to "clean the blood and prevent stress". The drink contained a harmful inorganic chemical called germanium dioxide.

Crimes which prey on brand obsessions somehow seem less serious than those which exploit religion beliefs and health cults. Brand orientation results in a flood of pirates and imitations of famous brands, but people in Japan appear to feel little sense of wrong about this problem. An increasing number of people are affluent enough to buy high-class brands, yet there is no end to the number of cases involving the making and selling of unlawful products in violation of the Trademarks Act or the Copyright Act. There were 1,689 such incidents in 1986 alone.

Many people make their living in door-to-door sales, but also in telephone and mail-order sales. The great majority of them are honest, but they have sales quotas to meet, and more volume means more pay. So they, too, are strongly motivated to make a sale before the customer has time to think and say no.

Before selling high-class cooking utensils, a sales representative will prepare a lot of food for the customer to eat. This method is effective because many people, when getting something for free, feel that they must buy something out of a sense of debt.

Many such door-to-door sales techniques come dangerously close to breaking the law. But up to the point that a sales representative does not step over the line, he-or she-is just another worker making a legal living.

Even most companies that are indicted for fraud, like Toyota Shoji, are staffed with what were once just ordinary sales people. When they do something risky, they are working for the company and so they feel little sense of personal responsibility. Besides, disobeying a company order, in Japan's corporate society, is an act less pardonable than even a crime. Hence the possibility that some pretext may turn an ordinary company, or its employees, to fraud.

Three people were arrested in June 1987 for cheating a Tokyo company president (who happened to be a woman) out of 700 million yen in cash and promissory notes, as operational capital to receive a 600-billion-yen national bond redemption before maturity. One of the men, Saburo Ideno, had been a victim in a similar case of fraud exposed in April 1984. He simply put this experience as a victim to use to forge national bond vouchers. While this may be an atypical case, it shows that anyone is capable of becoming a swindler.

In March 1987, a court ordered a real estate firm to pay the victims of a land scam damages totalling 80 million yen. 10 million yen of this sum were to be paid by actor Koichi Takada, who had aided and abetted the swindle by endorsing a pamphlet and appearing in a promotional film, both for fees. The firm sold nearly worthless Hokkaido land at exorbitant prices, and Takada had not checked its advertising claims.

In some cases people become victims of swindles because they fail to study the contents of a contract. In others they fall prey to fraud because they forget to confirm the content of an advertisement. Though the cheater and the cheated are in diametrically opposite positions, it sometimes seems as though they need each other. Takada's case is not unusual in that, in Japan, many celebrities appear in commercial ads which utilize specious or otherwise legally questionable methods.

4. Crimes induced by soaring land prices

Tax evasions cases are getting bigger. In the fiscal year ending in March 1987, national tax bureaus throughout the country investigated 243 corporations and individuals on suspicion of evading taxes. Additional taxes were levied in 234 cases, of which 76.5 percent were bad enough to warrant prosecution. The average offender hid 299 million yen in income and evaded 196 million yen in taxes, both record highs.

Tax evasion rarely occurs in larger organizations which have stable structures and histories. It is usually resorted to by smaller, especially personally-managed operations. In July 1987, the National Tax Administration Agency reported that in 1985, unreported earnings totaled 576 billion yen. This was 2.4 billion yen less than in 1984, but the amount of hidden earnings per person investigated reached a record 3.64 million yen, which was 1.2 million yen more than the average annual income (3.52 million yen) of all wage earners.

The 1985 findings were based on agency investigations of 158,199 of about 4.2 million self-employed people. 95 percent (150,825) of the individuals were found to have filed false income tax reports and hidden income totalling 576.2 billion yen. The agency levied 136.9 billion yen in additional taxes and penalties. Topping the list of evaders in terms of average hidden earnings per person were pachinko owners (21 million yen), medical practitioners (14 million yen), money lenders (9.63 million yen), hot spring lodging owners (7.98 million yen), and real estate agents (7.8 million yen).

While aware that tax evasion is against the law and concerned when the amount of taxes evaded is large, practically all entrepreneurs want to pay as few taxes as possible. And so they attempt to save as much on taxes as the law allows, and perhaps then some. No one likes paying a lot of their hard-earned money in taxes, and their sense of wrong is diminished by the feeling that keeping some of their own money is not as bad as cheating another person out of their property.

This psychology is reflected in the number of lawyers who cheat on taxes. The Tokyo National Tax Bureau investigated 443 government lawyers for tax evasion and found that 88 percent (389) had failed to report an average 3.52 million yen in taxable income by hiding income and padding expenses.

Also revealing is the case of the president of a Tokyo automobile sales company who hid 700 million yen of an inheritance in order to avoid paying some 390 million yen in taxes. He was aided in his evasion by Reiji Seki, a former officer and director of the Japan Association of Licensed Tax Accountants, and another licensed tax accountant. In another case, two branch managers of Senshu Bank in Osaka helped some local businessmen evade paying about 800 million yen in income taxes. Many evasion cases thus involve tax specialists or people who are very familiar with tax law.

Most people who get caught evading taxes are those whose income was much higher than the year before. Tax evasion is increasing among real estate agents because incomes in this field soared in 1986. Behind this leap in income is the precipitous spiraling of land prices, especially in the Tokyo area.

The incredible jumps in the value of Tokyo land over the past two years have been caused by smaller real estate agents who make quick profits by jacking up the value of the land it supplies to large developers. Between July 1986 and March 1987, tax officials investigated 1,587 small and medium real estate agencies, including some which escalate prices by buying up property and removing present occupants, then selling to big enterprises which want to construct office buildings. Some 89 percent (1,417) of the companies were ordered to pay 13.7 billion yen in additional taxes for failing to report a total of 30.9 billion yen in income. These amounts were double those for the same period a year before.

Dainichi Biru, a Shinjuku, Tokyo real estate agency, over a period of three years hid 1.317 billion yen in income to avoid paying 923 million yen in taxes. In 1982 the agency sold a tract of land worth 2.5 billion yen to a large real estate company. To another major real estate company it sold a parcel of property worth 650 million yen, and then it sold a lot to the Algeria Embassy for 600 million yen.

But Dainichi Biru committed the double offense of concluding these transactions without a license. It had even established an unlicensed agency called Shinjuku Biru which it used to save and evade taxes. To hide profits from lucrative land transactions, companies are creating dummy organizations with officers who are paid to collude in a tax evasion scheme.

In only one year the official prices of land in central Tokyo have nearly doubled. And though everyone has known that some agents have been pushing up actual transaction prices as much as tenfold, these facts have not been made clear.

Exposures of tax evasion made by the Tokyo National Tax Bureau may have opened a crack in the wall. In January 1987 the bureau prosecuted a land speculator for hiding income, and in May the Metropolitan Police Agency investigated another land dealer on suspicion of violating the National Land Use Planning Law. These actions, both firsts of their kind, have made it possible to regard the intentional raising of land values a crime in itself.

The first man investigated on suspicion of violating the land law was Tsunehiko Mogami of Tokyo's Minato ward. From July 1983 to January 1986, Mogami purchased 4,954 square-meters of land in Shinjuku ward near the site planned for the construction of the new quarters of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. He divided the parcel into three lots, and sold them to Tokyo Esuteeto of Chiyoda ward and two other companies through a dummy company. A lot which was valued at around 3 million yen per tsubo (3.3 square meters) at the time the land boom began, had soared tenfold to 31.5 million yen by March 1986 when it was bought by Fujita Kogyo, a large construction company.

The law at the time required that sales and purchases of 2,000 or more square meters of land be reported to the prefectural governor. Mogami tried to circumvent the law by subdividing the original parcel. But he was held in violation of the law's 2,000 square-meter provision because it is interpreted to mean the total area involved in a batch transaction. A revision of the National Land Law, effective from 1 August 1987, requires dealers to seek permission to buy or sell plots of land which measure 500 or more square meters.

The need in the past few years for the services of land suppliers, by large real estate companies, begins in the inability of such companies to meet the rising demand for offices in established business districts. But land in most parts of central Tokyo is divided into small tenancies occupied by similarly small commercial, office, and residential lease holders. To meet the demand for office space in large high-rise buildings, lost parcels of land must be consolidated. So the tenancies must be purchased and the people who have lived and worked there for many years must be made to leave.

Tracts for large office buildings are thus supplied by buying the land out from under tenants who are then evicted. Problems naturally arise when a tenant refuses to move. But the big developers keep their hands clean by getting the smaller agencies to do the dirty work of consolidation and eviction.

The price of the land is driven up by the subcontracting and sub-subcontracting that is used to buy up the land, and by the costs of negotiating the forced evictions. Corroborative evidence is gradually showing that this process of jacking up the prices of large parcels of land is criminal. And there is no doubt that such crimes are motivated by the needs of the big real estate developers.

Also behind the land price boom are trust banks and other financing organizations, as reflected in the sharp rise in loans to realtors. Some officials of the Chuo Trust Bank in Kyobashi, Tokyo, with other members of the Chuo group, joined with a mainstay real estate firm to raise the price of some first-class land in Yaesu, Tokyo, and sell it for a profit of 1 to 2 billion yen.

Such financial backup provides a strong incentive for the terminal realtors which buy up the land to employ rough methods to pressure unwilling tenants into moving. Their methods are practically the same as those used by gangsters to collect on loans. When negotiations fail to persuade a tenant to move, the realtor begins with relatively light forms of harassment which gradually escalate to much stronger acts of intimidation.

Some agents have resorted to arson to compel a reluctant tenant to leave. To force three commercial tenants out of their 3rd-floor shops in a Fukuoka city building, a jackhammer was used to break large holes in the walls of the empty rooms immediately below them. And a laundry in Shinjuku was flattened by a dump truck which "accidentally" backed into it. Such methods indicate the extent that gangsters can be involved in land consolidation.

The land price boom means a lot of new business for criminal gangs. The work is both safe and profitable, for it is heavily financed by banks and backed by major corporations, and each transaction involves hundreds of millions or billions of yen. As other sources of capital become less promising, organized crime will probably continue to move into real estate. In March 1987, Shinjuku ward was the stage for a gangland shootout between the Yamaguchi-affiliated Konishi-Hiromasa group and the Matsuba group. The rivalry was over a 120 square-meter lot which had been targeted for price manipulation. This suggests how important the land market is becoming as a source of gang revenue.

Though crimes related to increasing land prices may escalate for a while, they will soon disappear. One reason for this is that the price of the land in greatest demand in central Tokyo has already crossed into dangerous water. For many corporations, costs for office space greatly exceed the profit line, compared with other costs. And office space costs too much more in Tokyo than in other major cities of the world. So alarm over high land prices is spreading, and as it does, it will become more difficult to push land prices higher.

Another reason that land price crimes will come to a halt is that, even before price manipulators began to be prosecuted, public opinion was casting a critical eye at such dealings. As tax bureaus and the police expose more cases, large real estate companies are put under increasing pressure to clean up their own acts. In any case, the time to make good money in the land price boom is passing.

Japan has a sizable population of people with a lot of surplus money that they would like to invest as profitably as possible. And stocks and real estate have become the most attractive ways to make money. But making land an object of speculation has led to an increase in crimes which exploit the vested interests of ownership.

Fraud also becomes unavoidable when people speculate on land. Tokyo prefecture has reported some 26 cases of land fraud and total losses of 4 billion yen. There have also been many incidents involving groups of land swindlers who conspire to sell bogus property to unsuspecting people. Some swindlers made huge profits selling cheap Hokkaido wasteland to older people and housewives. Some victims have fallen prey to a second scam by paying money to another con artist who had promised to sell their land at a high price.

While it many appear that such crimes were invited by soaring land prices, the real cause seems to be a commensal attraction between the dishonest duper and the gullible (if not greedy) dupe.

5. Organized crime retreats: Communities oust yakuza neighbors

In January 1985, Masahisa Takenaka, the 4th successor to the helm of Yamaguchigumi, Japan's largest criminal syndicate, and two other gangsters, were murdered by a member of Ichiwakai, a rival offshoot. The next two years witnessed a growing dispute between the two gangs, staged mainly in Kobe. By February 1987 when the war officially ended, the death toll on both sides had reached a total of 25. It was then that the Dojinkai and the Yamaguchigumi-related Izugumi, which had kept the dispute going throughout Kyushu, vowed to end their warring.

Such fighting was totally against the interests of the yakuza themselves and served only to weaken them. In another way, too, such disputes suggests that organized crime is finding it more difficult to exist in Japanese society. The maturation of Japan's corporate society may have pushed the yakuza out of their traditional role of necessary evil and into one of an unnecessary existence.

This is graphically evident in the relationship between the yakuza and the general public. In August 1986, the Yamaguchigumi-related Ichiriki Ikka built a six-story ferro-concrete office building in Hamamatsu city, Shizuoka prefecture. When the gangsters moved into their new headquarters, local citizens began a movement to evict them. The eviction group set up a "watch point" near the building, from which to video-tape the movements of all Ichiriki Ikka members. It also organized a boycott by neighborhood shops, which agreed not to deal with the syndicate.

In November 1986, Tetsuya Aono, boss of the unwelcome syndicate, filed a court action against the eviction group seeking compensation for what he claimed was an invasion of his human rights. Early in June 1987, the eviction group filed a countersuit asking the court to stop the gang from using the building as its headquarters. Late the same month, a young member of the gang retaliated, by stabbing the chief lawyer for the eviction group while he was conferring with a judicial clerk in a local coffee shop. This confrontation has already resulted in Hamamatsu city rejecting the application of another gangster group which wanted to build an office building in the city.

An apartment building in Tokyo's Kita ward became the center of another dispute between yakuza and the general public. The owner of the building concluded a rental contract with a woman he thought would be living alone. Then gangsters began using the apartment as an office and their presence in the building upset other tenants. So the owner sued for eviction, and the Tokyo District Court decided in his favor.

In Fukuoka city, in Kyushu, residents of an apartment building filed a suit against a yakuza group that had turned one of the units into its office. The residents demanded a three-year suspension on the gang's use of the unit, and 3 million yen in damages to compensate for the residents having been exposed to danger. The Fukuoka District Court recognized all the plaintiff's claims.

In March 1983, the head of the Yamaguchigumi-related Masudagumi gang began using his Yokohama apartment as an office, and various problems arose between members of the gang and other residents. The apartment's maintenance association, formed by the residents, filed a suit to evict Masuda. In January 1986, the Yokohama District Court ordered his eviction, and later that year the Tokyo High Court upheld this ruling. In July 1987, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Masuda, and the matter was settled-a clean sweep for the residents.

Such legal victories may be a sign that the yakuza are striking out in Japanese society. Even yakuza movies are not as popular as they used to be. In classic gangster films, however, the good gangs battle the bad gangs. And the good gangs are those with codes of honor which oblige them to police themselves and maintain good relations with the general community.

6. Corporate extortion: Theatrical crimes models for others

Crimes of extortion against corporations, imitating the Glico and Morinaga cases of 1984-1985, increased in 1986 after it was disclosed that Lotte, another major confectionery maker, had secretly paid an extortionist 30 million yen. By 1987, though, the incidence of such cases had dropped.

The outstanding example of corporate extortion in 1987 involved Nishikawa Sangyo, a major bedding maker. Between mid May and early June, some 396 sewing needles were found in Nishikawa quilts and pillows on display in the bedding sections of 12 department stores in Tokyo and four other cities. The needles had been planted by a Kyoto woman who was bent on avenging her late father's loss of a damage suit he had filed against Nishikawa claiming that the company had stolen his design of a baby quilt. The woman's father died in April, and she was caught in early July in the act of putting needles in a quilt in the baby goods section of an Osaka department store.

The Nishikawa case seems to have been an imitation of the Glico and Morinaga cases. And they themselves may have been suggested by recent product poisoning incidents in the United States. Such is the contagious nature of crime, especially when highly publicized.

7. Crimes by foreigners: Alien criminality less than average

In November 1986, robbers took 300 million yen from a cash delivery van in front of a branch of Mitsubishi Bank in Yurakucho, Tokyo. Eight months later, 150 million yen was heisted from a Sumitomo Bank cash delivery van in Osaka. The Tokyo case seems to have been modeled on a similar robbery which occurred in Fuchu, Tokyo in December 1968. Though the amount stolen in the Yurakucho case was nominally greater, the Fuchu case (which remains unresolved after passing its statute of limitations) was larger in scale and got much more publicity. In the Osaka case, unusual in that it happened so soon after the Tokyo case, even the van was taken. Though all three cases closely resemble some well-known overseas van robberies, some of them dramatized in movies, each has its own creative variations.

Police have hypothesized that the Yurakucho robbery may have been the work of foreigners. If so, this could be an omen of more such crimes by aliens who are drawn to Japan by the many opportunities for theft which the country's affluence provides.

Crimes by foreigners have been increasing in number, but the number of foreign residents and transients has also been going up. rime rates for foreigners are not officially reported. But various official figures suggest that in 1986, the crime rate for foreigners increased while the crime rate for Japan as a whole decreased.

This be as it may, most press versions of statistics published in crime white papers give the false impression that foreigners pose a threat to law and order in Japan. In fact, they seem on the whole less criminal than the population as a whole.

Data published in the 1986 Hanzai hakusho [White paper on crime], compiled by the Research and Training Institute of the Ministry of Justice, show that 1,607,663 criminal offenses were known to the police for all of Japan in 1985, compared to 6,770 for foreigners. Dividing the first number by the population of Japan (121,020,000) and the second number by the population of registered aliens (850,602), and multiplying both by 100,000, the crime rates become 1,328 for Japan as a whole versus only 796 for foreigners. The alien crime rate would be even lower were the number of crimes divided by a higher alien population which took into account the number of transient foreigners (2,259,894 in 1985) who commit crimes before they become subject to alien registration.

These rates do not include violations of laws concerning things like prostitution, customs, drugs, immigration, or alien registration. It appears that transit aliens are the most likely to be involved in prostitution and immigration violations, while alien registration offenses are mainly committed by residents. The fact that such illegal acts are not considered "criminal offenses" for purposes of computing the official crime rate indicates that they are not truly "criminal" in nature but rather economic (selling sex to support a family) and even political (refusing to give a fingerprint).

8. Invasion of privacy: Media peepers put on notice

In December 1986, popular entertainer Beat Takeshi and 11 members of his troupe pushed their way into the editorial office of Friday, a photo news weekly, and roughed up five of its staff. The incident was greeted by a variety of reactions. Takeshi raided the magazine because its reporters had stalked his girlfriend, a college student, and a photographer had treated her roughly while trying to take her picture. Before this, Takeshi himself and his family members had been the targets of shutterbugs on the prowl for a sensational story.

Friday, published by Kodansha, was one of the most popular of the five weekly magazines that were then competing with one another for scandalous scoops documented by peeping-tom photos. The Takeshi incident resulted in sharp circulation drops for the photo weeklies, and red ink forced Bungei Shunju to discontinue Emma, its rival to Focus, Friday, Touch and Flash.

Takeshi was indicted in March 1987 on charges of causing bodily injury. In June he was given a six-month commuted prison sentence with two-years probation. The Friday photographer was also indicted.

As with most highly publicized acts, Takeshi's way of dealing with perceived invasions of privacy may have inspired similar reactions. In April 1987, actress Junko Mihara and an employee of her promotion agency were arrested for assaulting two Friday photographers who had taken their picture when they emerged from a taxi.

Now that invasion of privacy has become an ethical issue, and is negatively sanctioned by police, prosecutors and the courts, incidents provoking reactive violence should decline. But the public's appetite for scandal, and the media's profit motive, probably mean that vulnerable celebrities are never safe from the curious camera's lens.