Public Safety and Surveillance in Kinshicho

I paid a daylong visit to Kinshicho, where the latest Tokyo Metropolitan Police ‘supa bohan kamera’ (super security camera) video surveillance system was installed earlier this year, the first for a while (see here). The system is in the area to the south of the train station. It’s a curious place, a bit of a no-place or a neighbourhood in transition. A lot of the guides emphasize that Kinshicho is somewhat ‘dangerous’ but this is a bit of an overstatement even for Japan – it’s got nothing on Kabukicho – and certainly if you’re used to cities in countries with rather higher crime rates. Parts of it were certainly seedy and not places I’d hang about out of choice, particularly at night and especially if I was female, and its reputation for ‘gaijin bars’ (where Eastern European and Russian hostesses work) was certainly justified by the look of things. However most of it was just a shabby and forgotten place squashed in between railway, expressway and river. It’s also clear that, as I speculated earlier, the place is being gentrified, with huge, expensive-looking apartment blocks dotting the area and dominating the streets where they have sprung up, expensive shopping around the railway station, and the Sky Tree Tower is visible from almost everywhere.

The police video surveillance system itself was spread rather sparsely around the area. There was certainly not the blanket, all-angles coverage that there is in Kabukicho (there are only 17 cameras as opposed to 55). But sometimes the choices of camera location didn’t seem to accord with what I would have judged to be the most ‘dangerous’ spots. Something I will have to ask the TMP about later when I talk with them. Along with the new CCTV system, I noticed a strong police patrol-car presence and the police officers in the koban (police box) outside the railway station looked significantly younger and fitter than the average koban police, a sure sign that the police at least think that there is a threat here. However, in the absence of any actual crime, I witnessed officers harassing an elderly homeless woman who had been pushing her bike, loaded with everything she had, along a backstreet. They made her open up various bundles for no justified reason I could tell. I surreptitiously took a a few pictures without them noticing me. There were also a number of private security personnel and not just around station and new shop developments, as well as a lot of non-police cameras, some part of local government / shopkeepers’ association systems but quite a few just private. Again, compared to Kabukicho, the numbers of other cameras was small, and certainly not every car park and pachinko parlour was equipped.

I’m going to visiting again a few more times, and at least once at night, to make sure I’ve got a better feel for things. In the meantime, here are just a few of the (over one hundred) pictures I took.

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

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