Global Times Mobile

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Is Japan safe? Having lived here for nearly a year now, I get that question a lot. Especially in the past few weeks since a string of news reports suggest there is danger out there.

It was reported a few days ago that a Chinese woman who was traveling by herself in Hokkaido, Japan went missing. She left the hotel one morning and never came back. This came not long after news that the bodies of two Chinese sisters who went missing in Japan were found stuffed inside suitcases and abandoned.

Some Net users jumped on the news to blame Japan and accuse everyone in the country of being a pervert or deviant. In addition, some blamed the victims for traveling to Japan.

But let's not be taken away by the news and irrational discussions and jump to conclusions that the whole world is against Chinese people. For starters, in recent years there has been an increase in reports of Chinese either traveling or working overseas getting robbed, kidnapped or murdered. However, aside from the suggestions that there are safety concerns in those countries, this increase in crime reports may have to do with the simple fact that more and more Chinese are traveling or working overseas.

Then there is a matter of selective attention and the cycle of news. You read one story of interest and it seems all of a sudden there is similar news everywhere. Think back to stories of food security scandals, theft by people from He'nan Province or any particular province that's stigmatized. Media finds what gets people talking and they seek out such stories, and people who find these stories interesting seek out even more news related to the subject.

I think it's generally believed that Japan is a relatively safe country. But then again, there are different dimensions of what we consider safe.

I feel perfectly safe leaving my computer on the table at a restaurant unattended while I use the toilet or leaving my bag wide open while walking down the street in Japan, exposing my phone and my wallet, without worrying about pickpockets. But I have many girlfriends, both Japanese and non-Japanese, telling me the outrageous sexual harassment they encountered in broad daylight or on their way home at night.

In China, a woman may feel relatively safe walking home alone at night - not always the case of course - but you can't turn your eyes away from your phone or wallet for a second while out in public.

News stories and statistics often don't give us the full picture.

We like to make generalizations based on snippets of reports or anecdotes, especially if those stories agree with our perceptions of a particular issue, country or people.

We see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe. For stories that suggest otherwise, we tend to just ignore them or count them as a rare exception.

So I guess in conclusion, it never hurts to be careful wherever you are.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.