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Does Japan have pickpockets?


Japan is known for its low crime rate and high levels of safety. However, this does not mean that the country is free from any form of criminal activity. Pickpocketing is one of the most common types of crime that occur in many cities around the world. In this article, we will explore whether Japan has pickpockets or not.

History of Pickpocketing in Japan

Pickpocketing has been a problem in Japan since the Edo period (1603-1868). Back then, pickpockets were known as “tegata zaru” which means “hand tag monkey.” They were notorious for being able to steal wallets and other valuable items from people’s pockets without them noticing.

Japanese Snack Box

Current Situation

Despite its reputation for being a safe country, Japan still has pickpockets. In fact, according to the National Police Agency, there were 10,357 pickpocketing incidents reported in 2019. While this number may seem low compared to other countries, it is still a cause for concern.

Common Targets

Pickpockets in Japan tend to target crowded places such as train stations, shopping malls, and tourist attractions. They often work in groups and use distraction techniques to steal from their victims. Tourists are particularly vulnerable because they are often unfamiliar with their surroundings and may be carrying valuable items.

How Do They Operate?

Pickpockets in Japan use a variety of tactics to steal from their victims. Some will bump into their target and use the opportunity to reach into their pocket. Others will distract their victim by asking for directions or pretending to drop something on the ground. Once they have stolen the item, they will quickly leave the area.

Prevention Measures

To prevent pickpocketing in Japan, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables close to you. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and keep important documents such as passports in a secure place. It is also advisable to use bags with zippers or locks.

Police Response

The Japanese police take pickpocketing seriously and have implemented measures to combat it. They often conduct patrols in high-risk areas and use surveillance cameras to track down suspects. Those caught pickpocketing can face fines and imprisonment.

Foreigner Perception

Foreigners may be surprised to learn that Japan has pickpockets since it is often seen as a safe country. However, it is important to remember that no place is completely immune from crime. Tourists can still enjoy their time in Japan by taking appropriate precautions.

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences may also play a role in pickpocketing in Japan. Japanese people tend to be more reserved and less likely to confront strangers. This can make them easier targets for pickpockets who rely on distraction and confusion to steal from their victims.

Comparison with Other Countries

Compared to other countries, Japan’s pickpocketing rate is relatively low. For example, in the United States, there were over 300,000 reported incidents of pickpocketing in 2019. However, this does not mean that Japan should become complacent about the issue.


In conclusion, pickpocketing is a problem in Japan despite its reputation for being a safe country. Tourists and locals alike should take precautions to prevent becoming victims of this crime. The Japanese police are taking steps to combat pickpocketing but it is ultimately up to individuals to stay alert and aware of their surroundings.



Are pickpockets common in Japan?

Japan has a low crime rate, and although pickpockets exist worldwide, locals report that even in large cities like Tokyo or Kyoto, they are not very common.

Is pickpocketing common in Tokyo?

Pickpocketing and theft from unlocked vehicles or homes are the most frequently reported crimes in Tokyo. It is important to be vigilant when visiting popular areas like Shibuya or Shinjuku Station as they can attract thieves looking for easy opportunities.

How safe is a tourist in Japan?

Japan boasts a low crime rate, but petty theft like bag snatching can still occur in touristy areas. Visitors to bars and nightclubs should be aware of crime risks, such as overcharging, credit card fraud, drink tampering, and physical assault.

What is Japan most common crime?

In Japan, theft is the most commonly reported crime. For violent crimes, there are more reported cases of assault and bodily harm than rape and homicide. In 2020, there were approximately 21.9 assault cases and 0.7 murder cases recorded per 100,000 Japanese residents.

Do tourists get mugged in Japan?

Japan is known for being one of the safest places in the world to travel to. Although the chances of tourists getting robbed, assaulted, or scammed are low, visitors should still be cautious and take necessary measures to avoid trouble.

Is it safe to walk in Japan at night?

The safety of walking around Tokyo at night is often questioned, but the answer is a resounding yes. Tokyo is known for being one of the safest cities in the world, and walking around late at night should not be a cause for concern. In fact, it’s more likely that someone will worry about missing the last train than experiencing any sort of criminal activity.

Technology and Pickpocketing

As technology advances, pickpockets are finding new ways to steal from their victims. For example, some pickpockets in Japan have started using skimming devices to steal credit card information. These devices can be inserted into ATMs or point of sale terminals and can quickly steal sensitive information.

The Role of Education

Education can also play a role in preventing pickpocketing in Japan. By teaching people about the dangers of pickpocketing and how to prevent it, individuals can become more aware of their surroundings and better equipped to protect themselves.

Community Involvement

Community involvement is another important factor in preventing pickpocketing. By working together, individuals can keep an eye out for suspicious activity and report it to the authorities. Neighborhood watch programs and community outreach efforts can also help raise awareness about the issue.

The Future of Pickpocketing in Japan

As Japan continues to develop and change, the nature of pickpocketing may also evolve. However, by staying vigilant and taking appropriate precautions, individuals can help reduce the incidence of this crime. The Japanese government and law enforcement agencies can also continue to implement measures to combat pickpocketing and keep the country safe for both locals and tourists.

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