Community Safety in Japan
I have 2 small kids, we live in a small house, on a narrow street. We have wonderful neighbors, and our street is not too busy, and yet I still have worries about my children’s safety when walking in our community. Traffic safety is my main concern. Japan is such a safe country, possibly the safest in the world. That said, roads are narrow and children are small and impulsive. As such, community safety is of special interest to me.
Local Community Safety Group AGM
At the end of March our community held its AGM (annual general meeting). One of the subgroups in the Neighborhood Association is the Community Safety Group. This group manages traffic safety, parking, neighborhood patrols, and before and after school community safety monitors. These monitors consist of volunteers from the community standing at spots that have been identified as “high-risk” for accidents or other issues and ensuring children walking to and from school do so as safely as possible. At the meeting, my wife brought up a few new points that she thought should be highlighted. Her comments were noted and the meeting moved on.
A Wonderful Monday Full of Surprises
The day after the meeting was a Monday. Mondays are a half day at our English franchise school, meaning we only teach in the evening (the morning and afternoon we are off). Generally speaking, we spend Mondays doing banking and other office duties. On this particular Monday, we received a number of neighbors at our front door.
Neighbors ringing my doorbell
At about 9am our doorbell rang. It was our number from 2 doors up, who was at the meeting. This particular neighbor knows our kids well and also knows about the street we live on. He had brought us an old traffic mirror, which he thought we could put at the bottom of our stairs, increasing visibility for our children when emerging from our driveway. Furthermore, he even lent us the tools needed to install the mirror.
At lunchtime, another neighbor, who is the head of the community safety group this year, rang our doorbell. He had an idea to increase safety next to our house, where there is a drop-off beside a narrow road. His suggestion was to put a rope safety line down the edge of the road. We thought this was a wonderful suggestion. By dinnertime, he had already gotten rope and installed it.
A third neighbor rang our doorbell in the afternoon and offered us some reflectors to put along the concrete wall in front of our house. He told us that these reflectors would help increase visibility at night. He also suggested that we could get some “tobi-dashi boy” signs for our driveway. These are child-shaped wood cut-outs which are put around schools. These were a community safety initiative started in Shiga, which have became popular all across Japan. Sufficient to say, all 3 of these neighbors listened to my wife’s concerns, went home and thought out the issues, came up with solutions and then proceeded to take action to make them reality.
This Community is Our Family
My wife and I were impressed by our neighbors’ kindness and care. This particular course of events, from meeting to neighbors’ visits to increased traffic and thus community safety, had a strong impact on me especially. I was once again shown the wonderful community we live in, and the care that our neighbors have for each other and for community safety in general. I live in Japan, and being so far from my home-country (Canada), such small acts always make me feel welcome and loved.