Juvenile Crime No Longer Rare in Japan

Juvenile crime is no longer that unusual in Japan — three violent juvenile crimes make the national news on a single day.

An extortion, an assault, and a murder by a boy who said he wanted to know what it felt like to kill.

This in a country still known as one of the world’s safest.

Shocked and worried Japanese have no shortage of explanations. Too much video game violence, not enough parental supervision, too few job opportunities.

A Lost Generation

But many now believe the roots go much deeper.

Some think decades of excessive pressure to succeed at school and to sacrifice all for one’s job have crippled traditional family values in Japan, creating something of a lost generation.

Kids on the street now speak openly about feeling a sense of rage, or wanting to strike out — a nothing-to-lose mentality with no traditional sense of shame for failure.

And many kids do fail. Jails and reform schools for young Japanese are filled to capacity.

Just the Beginning?

ABCNEWS was allowed a rare visit to a reform school here that is having some success with troubled teens.

We were not allowed to speak with or identify the young offenders, but counselor Kenji Otsudo says many of these kids are loners with no self-esteem.

The school tries to provide the attention they never received at home or school — a mix of education, discipline and chores, with team sports to emphasize group responsibility,

Sociologists here say these schools are a good start, but they fear Japan’s juvenile crime crisis may only be just beginning.

“Unfortunately, there are all sorts of signs that tell that it is going to increase and get worse,” says Hiroko Kawaguchi, a professor of sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa.

A Tragic Creed

One sign of this crisis was visible on live television recently as millions of viewers watched a bus hijacking by a teenager armed with a kitchen knife.

Before it was over, he had stabbed three women, killing one. He told police he wanted revenge against the parents and society he hated.

And, he wanted to be famous.