Koban: Police Box

Nov 18, 2020Blog, Culture

Koban: Police Box

When one thinks of the police, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Watching recent events around the globe, it’s easy to see the police as adversarial, but are they?

Not where I live.

One common feature of the Japanese landscape is the ever present police box.

Called kōban in Japanese, this is a small neighbourhood police station found throughout Japan.

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These small kōban buildings are staffed by uniformed officers at around 6,000 locations all over the Japan.

Kōban are the foundation of community policing activities, which leads to community security and peacefulness.

The kōban in my neighbourhood also has a house attached to it where the single policeman in charge of the kōban lives with his family, making them a friendly and familiar part of our small community.

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One of the great things about the kōban is they are able to keep a general watch on one’s community, respond to emergencies, give directions, and otherwise interact with citizens on a more intimate basis. This truly leads to a community spirit which is safe and peaceful, and one of the main reasons why one has lived here for one’s entire adult life.

The earliest structure of what is now the kōban were built in1874, which were simple boxes where a policeman was stationed, and the citizen could call on for assistance concerning all sorts of matters.

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Interestingly enough, in 2017, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has been posting officers in kōbans who speak more than one language to help tourists and foreign expats. This is a welcome upgrade to the kōban as Japan continues to open up to the world, and becoming more foreigner friendly as time goes on.

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The success of this community policing system has not been unnoticed by other countries as kōban-style community policing programs have been implemented in several other countries, such as Indonesia, Brazil, and Honduras.

Often foreigner marvel at how safe and secure Japan is when they visit, and one believes this is in large part of the community style of policing, which is necessary for a harmonious society and peaceful community, which must be the goal of all communities, wherever they may be across our world.

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Bonus Story:
A dear friend of mine had a little bit too much to drink with his lunch one day. As he walked home over a deserted part of a small road, he felt the need to take a nap by the side of the road.

This slumbering foreigner was noticed by a gentle farmers in the area and called the local kōban. The friendly policeman came on his small motorcycle to wake the sleeping foreigner, woke him up and then sent him gently on his way, while admonishing him not to sleep by the side of the road, for his own safety.

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