Japanese Police Work 101
Not all cops are created equal. Neither are all cop stories. We certainly have no shortage of cop stories these days; I think the Law & Order: Podunk pilot is coming any day now.
Because the market is so saturated with cop stories, everyone has suddenly become a police expert—or at least they think so. (Prosecuting attorneys now have to explain to juries that only the FBI’s crime lab can solve the cases they see on CSI, and even then it takes weeks, not hours.)
My novel Daughter of the Sword features a Tokyo police detective, and her jurisdiction is radically different from anything you’ve seen on CSI or Law & Order. I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a little about police work in Japan, and how different it is from anything you’ll see in the States.
The first difference for Mariko, my detective, is kind of a biggie: in Japan women aren’t usually allowed to be detectives! It’s not that women can’t be cops. They can, but paradoxically enough, they’re typically restricted to very low-level and very high-level positions. Meter maids and upper management, but not much in-your-face street work. (In that sense Mariko’s police department is comparable to the US Army of a generation ago: women could advance in the ranks even to the point of advising the president, but they weren’t allowed to fight on the front lines.)
I had to go out of my way to make Mariko a real standout, or else she’d be working a much more typical beat: the koban. This is the most visible difference you’d see if CSI were set in Japan. The koban is kind of a hybrid between a miniature police station and an information booth, and you’ll find one in every neighborhood of Tokyo. One or two cops are stationed there around the clock, and their primary job seems to be to give people directions when they’re lost. They provide other public services too, of course, and if there were an emergency in the area they’d be the first to respond, but mostly it’s, “Go down to that stoplight, hang a left, then turn right at the McDonald’s.”
Another major difference is that patrol cars are almost an endangered species in Japanese cities. This is in part because of the ubiquitous koban, in part because traffic is hellacious, and in larger part, I think, because the streets are so safe it’s almost absurd. Tokyo has as many burglaries in a year as New York has in a day. Even in seedy neighborhoods of major cities, street crime is so rare that you can pass out drunk on the sidewalk and wake up with your wallet and your passport still in your pocket. I can attest to this from personal experience.
That means Japanese cops typically don’t wear body armor, they almost never draw their sidearms—to say nothing of actually drawing down on a human being—and they exercise a degree of restraint we would find unthinkable in the US. When I lived in Japan a guy got a screw loose and took a whole bus full of passengers hostage. A Special Assault Team (Japan’s equivalent of SWAT) surrounded the bus, and I’m told that if they’d been trained in American SWAT tactics, a sniper would have killed the hostage taker at the first safe opportunity. This particular perp wasn’t all that careful in his movements, and gave many such opportunities.
However, the SAT cops managed to enter the bus, detonate a flash-bang grenade, and tackle the perp to the ground with no loss of life. When I tell American cops this story, many of them shake their heads and wonder why they didn’t just shoot the guy.
You’d like to think it literally didn’t occur to them, that Japan is such a peaceful Eden that violence simply doesn’t enter into their thinking. Given the fact that the homicide rate in Japan is just 6.8% of what it is in the States, that would be an easy conclusion to draw. But the reality isn’t that simple. Thousands of Japanese vanish every year, and cops don’t know where they go. Reporters can’t find them either. They just disappear.
Your friendly neighborhood yakuza probably knows where lots of them are buried. But another huge difference between Japanese and American cops is their strange relationship with organized crime. It’s hard to even call it crime. Yakuzas conduct most of their business openly—so openly, in fact, that they have business cards that plainly identify them as criminals. I can’t tell you how much I want to get my hands on one of those cards.
I suppose I could make my own. Steve Bein, Criminal Mastermind. It has kind of a nice ring to it.
The Fated Blades
Daughter of the SwordThe Fated Blades 1
Roc, October 2. 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
Mariko Oshiro is not your average Tokyo cop. As the only female detective in the city’s most elite police unit, she has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. While she wants to track down a rumored cocaine shipment, he gives her the least promising case possible. But the case—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it. Or so says Yamada, and though he has studied swords and swordsmanship all his life, Mariko isn’t convinced.But Mariko’s skepticism hardly matters. Her investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.
Only a ShadowFated Blades eNovella
Roc, September 4, 2012
eBook, 59 pages
The author of Daughter of the Sword takes readers to feudal Japan, where men and empires rise and fall by the sword…
The Tiger on the Mountain is a legendary blade, crafted by the master sword smith Inazuma, and reputed to possess magical powers. In 1442 Japan, the sword dwells inside the impregnable fortress of Hirata Nobushige, the enemy of the Iga clan.
Venerable shinobi Jujiro has recruited the brave young ninja Tada to steal the sword and restore power to the Iga clan. If Tada is successful, he’ll go from being the clan’s orphaned ward to a legend for the ages—and he’ll be able to ask for Old Jujiro’s granddaughter’s hand in marriage. If he fails, the clan will be annihilated.
Getting inside the castle is next to impossible—getting out is inconceivable. But as Tada prepares himself for one of the boldest thefts in history, the greatest obstacle he faces may just prove to be himself…
Don’t miss Daughter of the Sword, the first Novel of the Fated Blades!
Steve divides his time between Rochester, Minnesota, and Rochester, New York, where is a visiting professor of Asian philosophy and Asian history at SUNY-Geneseo. His other academic interests include bioethics, which led him to a brief stint as a visiting researcher at the Mayo Clinic, environmental philosophy, which led him to see polar bears in Canada and penguins in Antarctica, and philosophy and science fiction, which leads him everywhere else in the universe.
Please visit Steve at www.philosofiction.com. If you like Steve on Facebook, you can receive an autographed sampler from Ace and Roc featuring the first two chapters of Daughter of the Sword. You can also find a preview of Daughter of the Sword in the companion novella, Only a Shadow, which will bring lots of ninja action to your e-reader.
Steve Bein's Daughter of the Sword Blog Tour
October 2 - Under The Covers
October 3 - Grasping For The Wind
October 4 - Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
October 5 - Fantasy Book Critic
October 8 - A Book Obsession
October 9 - The Qwillery
October 10 - Night Owl Reviews
October 11 - All Things Urban Fantasy
October 12 - Goldilox And The Three Weres