(3) Koban 交番: police boxes

Note: this post was referenced as a resource in the book, Law and Justice in Japanese Popular Culture: From Crime Fighting Robots to Duelling Pocket Monsters 日本の大衆文化に見る法と正義 (Amazon) (Google Books) (Kinokuniya)

Koban 交番 are police boxes or small police stations that occupy street corners throughout Tokyo. I’ve never used a koban other than asking for directions as a tourist (once), and handing in a found cell phone (once). There are over 1200 koban in Tokyo (source); a list, with addresses, of Tokyo koban can be found here: Navitime

Here are some that I’ve encountered:

Hard at work in Shibuya:

An empty koban, late at night:


Scene from a koban in in the 1960’s; see YouTube video around the 12:17 mark. (For more about these films, see: Films of 1950’s and 1960’s Japan, via an old Dutch man).

The Saginomiya Eki-mae koban 鷺ノ宮駅前交番,  at right, next to the Seibu-Shinjuku line, west of Saginomiya Station 鷺ノ宮駅 (map):

The oldest koban in Tokyo, located in Tsukishima (map):

And a wonderfully-designed police box outside Chofu station, which was demolished circa 2007:

The ubiquity and small size of koban help to make the police seem more friendly; there is something cute about the tiny little buildings with their spare furnishings. In addition to koban, the police cultivate a friendly image through use of cartoon characters. Tokyo has the ubiquitous Pipo-kun, and nearby Saitama has Poppo-kun ポッポくん and ポポ美ちゃん, which are a type of dove シラコバト:

Do the ubiquitous koban (and cute police mascots) help explain Tokyo’s famously safe streets?

See also:

General koban information:

Crime in Tokyo:

Koban historical pictures:

Old-fashioned crime-prevention and police history:

Mascots and other:


  1. Hello there, I’m one of the authors of the essay in Law and Justice in Japanese Popular Culture that you mention. Your site is really informative – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Alison.

      One item that may be of interest to you (and which you may already be familiar with) is the 1956 film 真昼の暗黒 (Mahiru no ankoku) “Darkness in the Noon”, which is the first depiction of a false conviction in Japanese cinema (I believe). Based on the real-life Yakai Incident 八海事件 (1951).


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