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日本はとても治安がいいように感じますが、これは昔からなのでしょうか?

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國學院大學文学部教授 根岸茂夫

2015年10月14日更新

Q.日本はとても治安がいいように感じますが、これは昔からなのでしょうか?

I think Japan is very safe for locals and visitors alike. Has it always been this way?

A.治安がよくなったのは江戸時代からです。
Japan’s public safety improved from the Edo period

近世の江戸は、18世紀ころに人口が100万を超え、うち半数が武家屋敷や寺社の構成員、半数が町人と呼ばれた庶民といわれています。町人を支配したのが町奉行所で、南北2つあり、職員は各与力25騎・同心140人(ただし幕末)でした。与力・同心300人余りで50万の町人を支配し、治安を守っていました。ちなみに現在警視庁の警察官は4万3千人です。江戸は治安がよかったといわれますが、理由は2つあります。1つは、近世は戦乱の世を経て成立しましたが、それは武士たちが合戦と征服を重ねて統一政権を作ったわけではなく、戦乱に巻き込まれて逃げまどっていた人びとの平和への願いを取り込みながら、暴力による紛争の解決を禁止して成立した社会であることです。近世には暴力が悪という社会観念がありました。もう1つは近世の町や村が自治組織をもち、江戸の町には木戸があって夜間には閉じられ、木戸番や自身番などが設置されたことです。また多く発生した火事に対し、町火消が設置されていたことも、治安にとって大きな役割がありました。

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During the Edo period (1603-1867), the population of the capital Edo (now Tokyo) exceeded 1 million in the 18th century. Half of its residents were members of the samurai and religious communities and the other half comprised common people, called “chomin” or townspeople.

Edo had two “machi-bugyosho,” or offices with the functions of both police and courts, who were responsible for the affairs of the townspeople. Each office’s staff included a team of 25 mounted senior officers, known as “yoriki,” and 140 “doshin” officers, subordinate to “yoriki” and introduced in Edo period. This means that Edo’s overall police force was quite small – just over 300 officers covering the entire capital with a population of 500,000 common residents. Today, the Metropolitan Police Department has 43,000 officers.

Edo is known to have had high levels of public safety for two reasons. First, Japan’s early modern society came into being after decades of feudal wars. This does not mean that warlords agreed to simply set up a coalition government after a spate of battles. Rather, the new society emerged only when the use of force as a means of settling disputes was forbidden, a development that reflected the wish for peace among those who had suffered the hardships of war. As such, there was a consensus in Japanese society of the early modern age that violence was evil.

The second reason for high levels of public safety during the Edo period was the presence of autonomous communities in towns and villages. In Edo, each town had a gate at the entrance – a checkpoint manned by “kidoban” or “jishinban” guards. The gates were closed at night.

Further, fires broke out frequently in Edo, where townspeople lived in wooden houses. To combat major fires, the shogunate institutionalized “machibikeshi” (town or civilian firefighter) corps in Edo. Their presence also greatly contributed to the maintenance of public safety in the capital.

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2015年10月14日付け、The Japan News掲載広告から

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