The subject of Japan’s police is an interesting one. Japan’s boys in blue are organized under the umbrella of the National Police Force, one of the first areas of society to be modernized in the European model when the country began its transformation from a feudal backwater into an industrialized nation in the 1870s. As with the Ministry of Education, Japan’s police are a very top-down organization, and there’s very little in the way of variance between police in different parts of the country, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. One big difference between the police in Japan and in the U.S. is the network of koban, the so-called “Police Boxes” or small police stations situated around Japanese cities. If you have a problem or need to ask for directions, there’s usually a Koban nearby where you can get help. Police in Japan are komuin (KOH-mu-een), part of the sprawling caste of life-long public employees originally modelled on Britain’s Civil Service system, who must pass a challenging regimen of tests in order to achieve that enviable status, just like firemen, teachers and employees at government offices here. Because komuin by definition cannot be fired except in extremely rare situations, it creates somewhat of a gap between society’s protectors and Taro Q. Yamada (i.e., the average Japanese person on the street, Joe Sake Bottle if you will).
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