This Odysseanic waxing draws us back to the Land of the Rising Sun—Japan. It is my responsibility as a journalist and intelligence professional to make sure that at least some SOBs on this rock are informed. Two years ago, the Japan Times published an article about guns in Japan. It’s not any more dated now than it was then. And I’ve been going through older—yet still relevant—stuff published in or about Japan in an effort to clear some stuff up regarding what you read versus what is. So, with that, I’m going to go on ahead and sort out some of the wheat from the chaff.
First, let me get this off my chest: I’m not sure why anyone who doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about—from primary sources or personal experiences (as primary sources)—would publish anything. Anything at all. Without that, what you write is just opinion. Conjecture. Tripe. BS. And that’s exactly what I’m hitting up today. However, the word I would use to describe what I just read would be nothing quite as heavy as those descriptors above. Nope. The only one word that comes to mind with this one: comedy.
I’ll go on ahead and preface all this madness with “In my experience….“ (Which, unfortunately, should not be taken lightly; it was not easily gained.) Now, anything that follows—unless otherwise stated—will have been entered into my record due to direct, primary, personal, hands-on/eyes-on interaction or contact. This has led to the knowledge and/or understanding I now possess on this topic.
I like to carry myself like I don’t know a damn thing. Luckily, through this medium, I don’t have to carry myself at all. I just type. But as a professional, I’m going to do my damnedest to not make any real comments about the writer on this one. My concern is the info. The message. Not the messenger. And this message is FUBAR (and has given me more than one hearty guffaw).
Right out of the gates. Comedy. It is so far from “impossible [to get a gun in Japan]” that either my skills really are just that epic (which I won’t argue about much after enough drinks), or I have lucked out completely on the multitude of occasions I have had personal contact with firearms in Japan.
These weren’t cops’ sidearms or soldiers’ weapons. I’m talkin’ street-level. These were extra-legal, and not in the possession of anyone who aimed at doing anything ethical. Now, the above comment doesn’t even take into account the multitude of firearms I have seen in the possession of hunters or sport shooters in the country. Hell, there are four ranges within an hour drive of my last apartment. I guess those ranges could have been for ninja stars. I don’t want to make any assumptions here. And my first year in Japan, some old woman alone killed a record number of bears in my prefecture…I suppose she could’ve done that with Judo chops, though.
That covers a cursory list of having a gun. Buying a gun? No problem. Your only real glitch here is that you may be trying to buy something from someone who doesn’t want to sell that particular piece. That simultaneously cuts the “selling” impossibility. If I can buy one, somebody’s selling it. It’s economics. Firing one? Yeah…we’re not a paragraph into this dude’s article and I’m wondering if he was interviewing 5th graders and giving them sweet code names.
Right…sorry. The message.
One thing you may notice about said message if you ever get around to reading it is that it’s missing some very requisite verbiage. For instance: not just any ol’ Nihonjin is out on the prowl for a gun. The only person who’d need or want a gun would be—basically—one of three non-gov/mil/LEO people, in no particular order:
- Sport shooters. I actually met one of the Japanese Olympic shooters, once.
- (Me. Just to see if I can get one. Mission accomplished. I’m not suggesting I might not be able to fit into any or all of the above categories.)
Japan has a lot of hunters. I’ve met many. From old women shooting bears with…uh Judo chops…to a dude who flew a Golden Eagle. There’s really no shortage of country folk in this country, and many of them hunt. Just head on over to your favorite Google, punch in “hunting in Japan,” hit the Images button, and feast your eyes on all those impossible guns. They couldn’t possibly hurt anyone. They’re for killing bears! And, in defense of the original “message,” it is mentioned that you can have guns for hunting (and sport shooting), but it—true to the rest of the message—horrifically chicanes the actuality of the matter. In any case, to assert that it is “almost impossible to get a gun” J-side—even just counting numero uno up there—is lame enough. Lucky for you guys we still have two (three) more to talk about!
Now admittedly, the vast majority of sport shooting in Japan is done with air rifles. Majority. Not nearly all. You can find all the way up to large-gauge shotguns. But given that they were made for shooting clay pigeons, and only upright, law-abiding citizen athletes have purchased them legally, there is clearly no danger of those firearms ever being used illicitly. (I also have a nice Nigerian banker who needs you to let him hold some of your money for you for a few days.) Sport restrictions are more…uh…restrictive than hunting ones. I’ve heard this from the mouth of an actual Japanese law-enforcement officer: “Why would you have a gun if you’re not going to shoot a living thing with it?” He was a hunter. I mean, when he wasn’t chasing Yakuza ninjas through rice-paper doors past a gaggle of nude women sprawled out on the floor, covered in sushi.
I joke. But only because I’m trying to keep up with the sheer hilarity of that other article. Man, this hurts. I play grab-ass like everyone when work’s off. But I give zero quarter to those who promote untruth. Mis- or dis-information—even if only through negligence, and especially for personal gain—toward those you are supposed to be informing is a cardinal sin in my world.
Now, before we get into gun-toter population slice #3, let’s talk numbers. I’m not even going to gut-check the ones mentioned in the article, because the numbers mentioned are guaranteed to be true—as far as the official community is concerned. And by that I of course mean that they’re completely not true.
The numbers mentioned in the article state that approximately one percent of the population of Japan owns a gun. And, on average, each of those gun owners own two firearms each. Every year in this century, Japan has had a couple of dozen shootings, give or take. Most of these are Yakuza-related. The moral of the story the article is trying to sell you: “Low guns equals low crime.” Ha.
That’s a fantastic punchline. Now, I take for granted that I’m the only one looking at this stuff through my own sick lens. But giving me the number of licensed gun owners and licensed guns, and then giving me crime data ignores the fact that clearly there are guns prevalent outside of licensing and restrictions. Which, sports fans, bring us along to the next slice of the gun pie.
Now, this “Detective X” repeatedly quoted in the article above is either completely fabricated (which I personally suspect), or is holding on way too tightly to this OMOTE thing I harp about in my stuff. Some of his quotations are just precious. If guys like this are in charge of finding guns in Osaka, I’m not at all surprised by the number I’ve had access to—or been at the business end of—there. In the stuff I’ve written for SOFREP, I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that I do my damnedest to stay the hell away from Osaka. The dangers that lurk there for dudes like me exist specifically because this Detective X character and others like him believe and promote that those dangers do not, in fact, exist. It’s really quite impressive, sociologically, and one of the reasons why I am so enraptured/infuriated with Japan in general.
So, the original article gives us a few numbers (mentioned above) showing the “actual” number of guns in Japan. I use “actual” here as sarcastically as textually possible. But then Detective X states—without anyone even venturing a guess as to the number of unlicensed guns/owners afoot—that, “Japan is basically a place where only Yakuza and cops have guns.” Well, without those “other” numbers, you can’t even begin to make that comment. Of course, this comin’ from the same dude who said, “In Japan, no civilian is allowed to have a gun.”
Alrighty then. We can slide that off the table immediately, given that we’ve just seen actual–oops, “actual”—statistics from the J-popo stating the number of licensed (civilian) gun owners. Look, the point of this runaround here is that no one knows how many guns the largest criminal organization on the planet has in its gun racks. No one. Which means, by extension, no one has any idea how many guns are in-country. No one.
The Olds Coolers remember the hazy disco days of the Yak War in Kobe in the ’90s. That stuff was straight outta “Highlander.” Dudes were getting cut to shreds by Nihonto (Japanese swords) in alleyways. Not everyone in the gang is strapped, and they use what they can. People get stabbed on the regular. Hatchetings aren’t unheard of, either. That should show you that when someone wants to shank someone, they will.
My “impossible” gun
Let me move on to that parenthetical #4 before I give a great example of that gun control stuff. The transition here is priceless. Everyone in the U.S. remembers the Virginia Tech Shooting, 16 April, 2007. As that was unfolding, I was sitting at a dinner party at a sushi bar with some coworkers. The Japanese news coverage of the shooting was looping on the TV above the bar. The ranking dude in the room looks over at me and says, “See, here in Japan this kind of thing would never happen, because we don’t have guns here.”
I’m looking at the TV, thinking this guy’s obviously on the outskirts of reality. But I don’t argue. One of the other dudes in the room chimes in with his U.S./guns trash talk. No biggie. I chew my sushi and drink my beer. Five minutes later, everyone in the place is in on the trash talk. U.S. this, guns that, violence this, crime that.
Now—this bit’s only relevant in case you look it up—at this point it’s the evening of 17 April, J-side. Still the 16th CONUS. And that day is infamous in Japan for what the gods sent to halt these chatty Cathys: breaking news. Mayor of Hiroshima Gunned Down In Street.
The word everyone hung onto here was “gunned.” Sweet vindication. But only for a moment.
So, this illustrated—internationally—that these gun laws were superfluous, at best. The man who shot the mayor was an upper-mid-level Yak boss from the Yamaguchi-gumi. That’s the biggest group in the gang. There are other, smaller groups, but that’s the top dog right now, and was the top dog then, as well. The gun was unregistered.
This is not nearly the only example, but it’s the only one you’re getting from me here. But this example also isn’t my prime vindicator with these coworkers. Now that their argument about Japan being safe, and having no guns, had just sunk like the Yamato, they immediately fell back on the fact that the shooter was a criminal.
“Not just anyone can get a gun here,” they said.
So I asked, “You think I can get a gun?”
Everyone laughed. “No. Hell no. You’re just a Gaijin.”
“Cool,” I said. “Wanna bet?”
More laughter. I’ve never worked anywhere long enough for anyone to learn me, so they had no idea. But after the laughter died, we set some parameters. The most important of which stated that I would produce an illegal firearm in the next 24 hours, and I would not be held legally accountable for said production, nor be asked any questions about where I got it, nor would it be reported. Nor, lastly, would the firearm be touched by anyone else, thus not taken from me.
Less than 12 hours later, I produced the aforementioned “impossible” firearm. No questions were asked. No one even wanted to touch it. And no one ever spoke of it again. It was the first of more than one illicit Beretta that I have had access to J-side. And at least one of those was taken from the hand(s) of someone who was pointing it at me.
That seals #4. Three months later, I was transferring out of that office. Never saw any of them again.
So, despite the fact that a “law-enforcement expert” stated in more than one way that guns were not only hard to come by, but that everyone was afraid of them and/or afraid of getting caught with them, a complete outsider was able to gain access and possession of an illicit firearm. I didn’t buy it, but I damn sure put it right back where I got it. The fact that the author of the original piece incessantly stated and repeated absolute fallacies means that either he was misinformed—which isn’t exactly his fault—or he is misinforming his readers.
Now, I hold myself to a somewhat harder line than, say, your average round-eye writing about Japan. And given that there are only a few of us doing it anyway, I can’t expect everyone involved to be as savvy or strict as myself. However, as I mentioned above, the publication of information you do not know beyond doubt is the lowest of the low for a journalist or intelligence professional. To me, they are one in the same. They just have different bosses, different customers. But I can tell you from experience in both arenas, the BS stacks high on both sides.
I choose to be different, because I am also an educator. I’m not here to sell myself, my perspective, or my story. I’m here to inform and entertain.