Thoughts on violence in Japan? How do you think the VDR could be lowered? Feel free to comment below.

Current VDR: .86 Life Expectancy: 83

Average VDR over nation’s recent history: 33.1

Average VDR over current life expectancy: 43.1

Lifetime Chance Of Dying By Someone Else’s Hands (2009 rate): 1/1400

Lifetime Chance Of Dying By Someone Else’s Hands Since 1894: 1/36

Average Military Death Rate Since 1894: 30.7

Average Homicide/Execution Rate Since 1894: 2.4

Link To Spreadsheets

Category Of VDR– # of Years-% of Nation’s History-Year of Last Occurrence

OBLITERATION4 (3.5%) 1945

DECIMATION1 (.8%) 1941




HARSH LIVING1 (.8%) 1937



LOW LIKELIHOOD2 (1.7%) 1895

PEACEFUL62 (53.9%) 1969

UTOPIA40 (34.8%) 2009

Japan’s violent death history is completely dominated by World War 2, and the Second Sino-Japanese War that lead up to it. For a country as old as Japan, there is obviously a rich and detailed history of conflicts that go back much farther than this timeline covers for now… I will get to the Shogun era and beyond as soon as I find semi-reliable data. Hopefully soon.

It’s difficult today, to reconcile the docile Japanese that we know… with the brutal war mongering Japan of the past. I guess in some odd way, you can’t entirely blame them. By the 1930’s, Japan was so technologically far ahead of China and all it’s other neighbors – that acquiring these territories must have seemed like some kind of birth right. Add to that, the fact that China had been politically reeling for a long period, and I imagine many Japanese thought they would be doing them some kind of favor through colonization. Of course, this wasn’t the case in practice – and the Japanese committed unspeakable horrors to the Chinese people. Historical hind-sight tends to agree that by 1939, the IJA (Imperial Japanese Army) had grown so autonomous in China, that there was no effective way for Tokyo to control it any longer… and the excesses that followed are at least partially to blame on that.

The Russo-Japanese War which took place at the beginning of the 20th century is a historical landmark. Japan won… heartily. But there was no major changing of territory, and to be honest, the immediate impact was not all that important. What is important, are the after effects:

The steady decline of Czarist Russia which followed. The end of the belief that a Western style power would always triumph against an Asian one. The surge in Japanese military confidence, which came on the heel of this victory. The first use of the heavy machine gun in combat… this point would be of paramount interest to anyone fighting in WW1 a generation later.

Post WW2. Japan has experienced a renaissance of nonviolence and high living standard. They are possibly the safest country on Earth (Singapore may be numero uno). They have the highest life expectancy. They are quite wealthy… though it should be noted that they have been mired in a long pattern of economic difficulties which will likely drag them out of the top 5 world’s largest markets by 2040.

Since exorcizing their demons in WW2 – Japan has been the model of a non-violent society. With the steady aging of their populace, they will probably be able to keep it at it’s current historically bizarre low for quite some time.

Japan does have some quirks regarding death and homicide. First of all, they take such pride in their high murder clearance rate – sometimes claiming upward of 96% – that there has developed a culture of under-reporting. This is not a good thing by anyone’s standards. Numerous reports of wide spread chalking up of obvious homicides as suicides are too hard to ignore, and the autopsy rates of suspicious deaths are the lowest of any amongst the wealthiest nations. I’m tempted to raise each year’s homicide tally by 20% as punishment… but seeing as though other countries can be accused of the same thing, I have left the numbers alone.

Curiously as well – even though they have such low homicide rates –  they join The United States as one of only 2 “first world” countries that still use the death penalty. Not only that, but polling research shows that around 85% of Japanese support capital punishment… a number far above practically every society on Earth. Since homicide is the farthest thing from a legitimate problem in Japan, this is quite the head scratcher.

I stumbled upon one opinion – one in which I lean toward agreeing with – that observed the following: Japanese society has a tendency to prioritize the group, and shame those who engage in destructive behavior more thoroughly than other societies. This shame extends to someone’s family, and where they are from. This helps to explain the low homicide rate. However, it also has the unintended effect of a very clausterphobic, suffocatingly un-expressive society. To compensate for this frustration, Japanese are thought to possess an extreme level of belief in the idea that “good” people should be rewarded… and “bad” people should be punished. This black and white view of justice can be used as justification for the repressive feeling that Japanese society can impose… and this helps explain why capital punishment is viewed as such a moral good.

For the record though, they only execute around 5 people a year. So it’s not like they are “execution crazy” or anything. The method of execution in Japan is hanging fyi.