The date in yesterday's For the Record was incorrect. The article was excerpted from The Economist (Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 1989). (Published 8/10/90)
From an article in The Economist (Aug. 1):
One of the endless ''we-are-different'' myths with which the Japanese like to delude themselves is that -- unlike Westerners -- they are not plagued with serious crime. This complacency has been shattered by the grisly story of Tsutomu Miyazaki, a 27-year-old Tokyo printer who was arrested earlier this month. He has confessed to kidnapping three kindergarten-aged girls over the past year and brutally murdering them. In two cases he hacked the bodies to pieces . . .
Such macabre mutilation and slaughter is rare; but serious crime in general is far more common in Japan than anyone wants to acknowledge. It is true that Japan enjoys a remarkable lack of vandalism and street crime, and by the official statistics Japan's overall crime rate in 1986, the latest available year, was a quarter of America's and a fifth of West Germany's. But under-reporting of crime by the police -- who win promotion through seniority rather than a good arrest record -- makes Japan seem a more law-abiding place than it is. And it is less law-abiding than it was, even a few years ago.
. . . The nature of Japanese crime is changing as well. In particular, organized crime is tightening its grip.
More money than ever is being spent on entertainment in Japan, and prostitution and protection rackets have thrived along-side it. So have other rackets. One of the latest forms of extortion being practiced by Japan's 3,200 organized-crime gangs (yakuza) is to bump into motorists on the road, then force the victims to settle the gangsters' ''damages and injury'' out of court.