There was a massively thick copy of the Yellow Pages next to the Gideon Bible in my hotel room in Miami. It turned out that the reason for its excessive bulk was that there were more than 100 pages devoted to adverts from lawyers. There are over a million lawyers in the States and I’m sure there’s enough work for each and every one of them. It’s a reflection of the difference in the way of life between America and Japan that Japan has only 25,000 lawyers.
One of the reasons why America has so many lawyers is that there’s so much crime. The fear of crime permeates every aspect of ordinary American life. In Japan, crime is rare and consequently there’s no fear of it. If a woman goes into a crowded Starbucks in Tokyo and wants to bag a seat, she’ll leave her handbag on a chair while she joins the queue at the counter. She doesn’t have the slightest worry that it won’t be there when she gets back. When the bars and clubs empty in Shinjuku in the early hours, a lot of very tipsy people will pour out onto the streets, but it’s a happy crowd, completely free from any tension or aggression and everyone will get home safely. When motorists park up they’ll leave their car unlocked, with the keys in in the ignition.
There was a time when, as a visitor to a new and unfamiliar place, I relished the sense of danger in knowing that I couldn’t trust anyone and that my money and passport were under constant threat. But there’s a wonderful feeling of liberation in being in a place where you can trust everyone, and equally importantly, they trust you. When you check into a hotel you won’t be asked to pay in advance and only rarely asked for your credit card details. And when you do come to pay, whether it’s in a hotel, restaurant or shop you can be certain that no-one is trying to over-charge you or rip you off and you don’t have to count your change. A country with only 25,000 lawyers is a very good place to be.