Top 10 Strange & Unusual Japanese Police Stations

"Koban", or Japanese Police Boxes, are commonly found on street corners in cities or towns, large or small, across Japan. Not to be confused with the Doctor Who's Tardis style police call boxes formerly common in Great Britain, Japanese Koban are larger, display a red light and five-pointed gold police badge outside - and often feature unusual styling... here are the Top Ten!


1) Jewel of the Ginza Strip

This koban may be the most famous in Japan, being as it's located in the heart of the pricey Ginza shopping district. The classic red brick facade reminds one of the old Tokyo Station while the conical roof with spire is, well, distinctive in its own right. (via Wikipedia)


2) Chinatown Cop Shop

Here's a koban from Yokohama's famous Chinatown. Most street-corner koban are designed to hold just a couple of police officers, so this one is larger than usual and boasts a pair of red lights instead of only one. (via PhotoPass Japan)


3) Op Art or Cop Art?

Not sure where this koban is, but it certainly looks modern and artistic! Perhaps it was built by an architectural design firm during the free-spending days of the Japanese economic bubble, which burst in 1989-90. (via WUSTL)


4) New Blockhouse on the Block

This older style koban in the town of Tsukishima features a block-house design that some people find off-putting, considering the reputation of koban as welcoming places where citizens can go for help, ask directions or the like. This one displays the International Red Cross symbol indicating medical assistance is available if needed. (via


5) Seaside Station

The Hachinohe Chuo Koban in Japan's northern Aomori prefecture displays a seaside motif with blue & white "boat" detailing accented with what appear to be stylized seagulls. Just one more way Japanese koban try to present a friendly face to the public. (via Wikimedia)


6) The Dream Police

Roarfish chose this dreamy, "futuristic" koban located in peaceful Ueno Park as an example of Tokyo modern architecture. Good choice!


7) Rocketship Lock-Up

Looking weather-beaten and somewhat the worse for wear, this dynamic koban displays elements of Space Age styling from the late 1950s. The minimalist openwork roof reminds me, at least, of the bomb-shattered Atomic Dome in Hiroshima. (via Rob's Japan Photo Gallery)


8) Watching Over You

Much cuter is this koban from Chiba prefecture, just east of metro Tokyo. The endearing Owl motif in its design conveys the impression of watchfulness and wisdom while still retaining that essential Japanese commodity - cuteness! (via Ohka Lab)


9) A Streetcar Named Perspire

I don't envy the pair of policemen who have to inhabit this tiny koban, especially on a hot summer day and regardless of the AC unit on the roof! Resembling a miniature streetcar crossed with an old-fashioned hot-dog stand, this cramped and confining (yet undeniably cute) koban at least keeps the officers well placed to observe passing traffic! (via Bookmice )


10) Cop-per Roofed

Talk about small... this may be the tiniest koban in Japan as well as one of the oldest! Koban trace their origins to the early days of Tokyo (then called Edo) in the 17th century, when samurai warriors were posted at important street intersections to maintain order and intercept invading forces. This particular koban photographed by Virtual Tourist somewhere in Tokyo, only looks that old. With a pair of police bicycles parked outside, an awning for shade and an ancient loudspeaker mounted just under the eave of its patina'd bronze roof, this classic koban appears to be still in use!


And there you have it, a varied selection of strange and unusual (well, for the most part) Japanese koban! Their distinctive design combining openness with security has found a wide variety of expression through the ages. Wouldn't it be great to have these koban police boxes on street corners over here?

Steve Levenstein
Japanese Innovations Writer

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Sep 12, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

Wouldn't it be great to have

Wouldn't it be great to have these koban police boxes on street corners over here?

You mean like in Times Square? Nice.

Oct 14, 2007
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture


Cool, great night shots of many average kobans so you can see the red lights. Handy map feature too. Thanks for letting us know!