Home Security in Greater Tokyo


When I first came to Japan many years ago it was common practice for people to leave their doors at home unlocked. That contrasted with my experience in the USA where homes are like castles, made to be defendable against burglars and even armed intruders. Yes, many homes in the USA have guns and someone who knows how to use them. That goes for all my family members in Tennessee and Texas.

Part 1

Earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, fires and floods top the list of threats in Japan. Our neighborhood received early warnings of flooding during the recent (2019) typhoon, but escaped damage from the swollen Tama River. However, at the peak of the river’s height, the local authorities ordered evacuation for our immediate neighborhood; we are in fact half way down into the river’s gorge. Most of our neighbors left home and congregated in the Community Center on the rim of the river gorge.

We elected to ride out the storm at home. I told my partner I would be the lookout for early floodwaters; if my feet got wet my plan was for us to quickly bail out and walk up to the Community Center. Fortunately for us, my feet stayed dry and we stayed at home. The next morning I walked along the river bed and noted the width of the flowing water was 10 times greater than normal, but the height had barely changed from the normal. In some downstream sections of the Tamagawa, the gorge is narrow, so the river level rose significantly and flooded some houses and buildings.    

Part 2

Several nights ago (2019) we heard a loud, incessant knocking at out front door. The intruder was extremely aggressive and spoke into our intercom system intermittently for several hours. From the tone of his voice and his image in the intercom system we imagined he was an intoxicated middle-aged Japanese man. The front door is steel-sheathed and very strong, so we were not too concerned to start with.

Later on he went over to a ground-floor window and starting trying to break it. It too is strong and reinforced (double pane), but eventually he made a small hole in the middle. That’s when we decided to call the police. After that I guarded the window and impatiently waited for the police to arrive. In the USA, at this stage I would have held my loaded pistol in hand.

The local police eventually arrived (two squad cars and two bicycles) and took control of the situation. They checked the door for damage, and I pointed out the broken window. They came inside and reviewed the extensive audio-visual recordings of the incident on our intercom system. I was amazed at the recordings, but my clever Japanese partner knew we had a record of every person who had come to our door and used the system, I guess for the entire year we have resided here.

The police requested my partner accompany them to the neighborhood police station where they booked the intruder. She was gone several hours, but was finally escorted home by a police officer about 0200 in the morning.

My summary is that the police were very professional, and avoided using physical force on the intruder, at least in our presence.

The next day we obtained a cost estimate for replacing the window glass (JPY 77,000). Soon after the police called and asked if we would be willing to settle the case (not prosecute the intruder) if he paid for the repairs. We said yes. Later, the culprit’s lawyer brought us the papers (and cash payment) to cement the agreement. In addition the culprit’s spouse included some nice Japanese sweets! 




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