The Washington Post: For some expats, U.S. gun violence makes Japan feel like a haven

Families picnic and play in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo on a recent Sunday afternoon. Many expatriate Americans here say they relish the feeling of safety in public places.  (Abigail Leonard /For The Washington Post)


By Abigail Leonard

TOKYO — Last year, there were more than 13,000 gun deaths in the United States. In Japan, according to the National Police Agency, there was one. 

The two countries share robust diplomatic and trade ties, but they could not be more different when it comes to gun violence: Japan has the lowest rate of gun deaths in the developed world, while the United States has the highest. 

Now, following news of the latest mass shootings in their country, some Americans living in Japan are trying to decide whether returning home is worth the risk. 

As Sibyl Kane prepared for a 13-hour flight from Tokyo to Newark, she said the violence was heavy on her mind. To get to her brother’s house in Connecticut, the 45-year-old lawyer will drive past Sandy Hook Elementary School, site of a 2012 mass shooting and a reminder, she said, that “no place is immune.”

“If Americans are okay with that,” she said, “that says something about us as a society that is so profoundly disturbing, it’s hard for me to parse out where I fit into it.”


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