This week: how has Japan been policed? Was there really such a thing as a samurai cop? Was their hair as good as the samurai cop from the iconic 1991 film? And how did policework in Japan change after the Meiji Restoration? We will answer all but one of these questions; I leave it to you to guess which one.


NPA translation of the Keisatsu Shugan

Deal, William E. Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan.

Hildreth, Richard. Japan as It Is and Was. (Note: this is older than most sources I would recommend, but Hildreth claimed he interviewed some folks who lived through the tail end of the Edo period, and thus it adds some interesting perspective)

Allee, Mark. Law and Local Society in Imperial China.


A jitte (sometimes called jutte) with its case. This weapon, in addition to being highly practical for disarming an opponent, served as a sort of badge for law enforcement.

An illustrated scene from an Edo era novel (The Tale of the Eight Dog Warriors of Satomi). The hero of the scene, Inukai Kempachi, is shown at right fighting his opponents on a rooftop. In addition to looking cool as hell, this image gives us an idea of how law enforcement would have been equipped; you can see specialized polearms designed to trap someone, as well as light forms of chainmail designed to allow for mobility while providing some protection.

Kawaji Toshiyoshi, the man who built the modern Japanese police.

Japanese police c. 1875. You can see the military inspiration to the uniforms (modeled after French gendarmes). Early in their history, Japan’s modern police actually were deployed like military units, most notably against Saigo Takamori’s rebellion.