Japan Today

Spate of violence targets people walking while looking at their phones in train stations

By Richard Simmonds, SoraNews24

While it goes without saying that looking at your phone while driving, operating industrial machinery or supervising children with scissors can be hazardous, even using your phone while walking can be risky. For example, since the advent of the mobile phone how many lampposts have born the brunt of brutal facial attacks?

And if you need another reason not to stare at your smartphone while walking, consider that there have been a number of physical attacks on phone users in Japanese train stations.

Last month, a local Kobe newspaper reported that a Japanese man in his 60s was arrested at the city’s Sannomiya JR train station after deliberately bashing a passenger who was using her phone as she walked. The phone user, a young woman, was knocked over, hit her head and was rendered temporarily unconscious. Despite the severity of the injury caused, the attacker is said to have claimed that the woman was in the wrong since she had been looking at her phone rather than where she was going. It later came to light that this same man had been involved in a number of similar incidents where he intentionally targeted those walking and using their phones at the same station.

The Internet response was mixed, with some suggesting that using phones while walking, especially at a train station, was inherently dangerous, and others expressing their dismay that people like the man involved in this incident exist.

JR and other railway lines have put a lot of effort into warning of the dangers of arukisumaho (walking while looking at your phone screen). Posters have even been produced in a number of different languages to warn visitors to Japan as well.


There have been documented cases of similar attacks in other parts of Japan, with one woman from the northwestern Hokuriku region of Japan claiming that, on a business trip to Tokyo, she too was deliberately bumped into for using her phone while walking. After exiting the shinkansen bullet train ticket gate, she stopped to check the map on her phone when a man came directly at her and knocked her off her feet. According to her story, the man said nothing and just continued walking without so much as a backward glance so all that she saw was his back as she suddenly found herself on the floor. This despite her having chosen somewhere slightly out of the way of the crowds so she wouldn’t be in the way as she checked her phone.

While women might be seen as less likely to react aggressively to such an attack, they aren’t the only ones being targeted. A man in his forties suffered a similar assault where another man, slightly older than himself, crashed into him. By the way he then walked off in a highly unnatural manner it was clear it had been no accidental collision. The victim speculated that he had been chosen over the other phone users in the vicinity because of his slim build and because he didn’t look like the type of person who might retaliate.

Some other people agree with the idea that the attackers are choosing their targets carefully. According to one female university student living in Tokyo, there are often older men clearly picking which phone users to bump into. They almost always choose lone females, particularly females who aren’t wearing bright or garish clothing which might suggest they are more confident and more likely to respond or draw attention to the attacker. In the student’s case, as she was waiting for friends an older man veered towards her and knocked her over. Her friends saw the incident and began screaming and shouting at the man who quickly escaped into the crowds.

While these are isolated cases and still incredibly rare, the incidents seem to have started about a year ago with the popularity of the Pokemon Go mobile game. At around the same time, anonymous accounts on a number of Internet sites started crowing about faking accidentally bumping into phone users, with many proudly claiming that by doing so they were helping to warn people of the dangers of not paying attention as they walk. Even if they truly think they are doing a public service, which is highly questionable, there is no excuse to attack other people, particularly at places as potentially dangerous as train stations.

Source: Livedoor via Jin115

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Your smartphone could kill you: Phone-related deaths on the rise in Japan

-- 27-year-old in Japan arrested for 3-D printed pistol, says he didn’t know it was illegal

-- Italian man kisses woman on train in Wakayama “as a greeting,” gets arrested instead of her number

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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If you run around deliberately knocking people over who are looking at a phone, you should be prosecuted.

However some people make very bad (dangerous) decisions that make it their fault when something happens.

I've bumped into people and gotten upset. One lady in the article says she figures she moved out of the crowd slightly and stopped to use her phone and knocked over. Suddenly stopping in a moving crowd is kinda dumb. Tourists doing it with luggage at the tops of escalators is always hilarious too.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

After exiting the shinkansen bullet train ticket gate, she stopped to check the map on her phone when a man came directly at her and knocked her off her feet.

Not excusing the behavior the man who bowled her over, but I would be curious as to how far this victim was beyond the gate before stopping to check her. As noted by a poster above, the tendency for some to stop in high traffic places (just exiting ticket gates, reaching the top of an escalator or flight of stairs) without taking into consideration anyone around them (behind them being more of an issue) beggars belief. I intentionally move as far away from traffic as possible before stopping (not always easy, I know). I even look over the my shoulder when walking along busy thoroughfares. A higher awareness of one's surroundings and those around you is always in order.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Yeah... the escalators... that one is a shocker. Also people waiting for trains right in front of the door. If I'm about to get off a train and I've got nowhere to go because of that then they are likely to get knocked over. It's unfortunate really. When I first came to Japan I felt people were far more aware of what is going on around them but in the last five years I've noticed a lot more ignorance to it.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

What a bully, it's like these people that think because they have a non K car they have right of way over all other cars.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

NTT DoCoMo and Softbank are the ones that should be prosecuted, for turning the Japanese into a nation of self-absorbed zombies. People cross the street while texting, parents ignore their small children, morons play video games on their phones while blocking the doors of buses and trains and teenagers use LINE to chat while going down train station stairs. It's become so ubiquitous I wonder why anyone is surprised to see that it's driving otherwise sane people to violence.

-4 ( +8 / -12 )

What a bully, it's like these people that think because they have a non K car they have right of way over all other cars.

If the other cars are going the wrong way in my direction maybe.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

People riding a crowded train, getting off first and then suddenly stopping in front of the doors and blocking the exit of everyone behind them. Infuriating.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Maybe this person became crazy and violent because nobody is doing anything against those smartphone attackers, so usual to see them riding bicycle while reading their phones, this must stop and police should have zero tolerance to this, only by fining them, hitting their wallet, they will learn how to be aware of the surrounding people.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

the problem has got worse with the massive influx of tourists trying to find their hotels.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Many of the examples in this article don't really fit the headline. The university student at the end just sounds sound like a 'standard' assault/chikan attempt which are being connected to phone usage (unless she was 'waiting' for her friends whilst walking). Other cases (like the woman near the ticket gates) sound like the 'victim' stopped in a stupid place and then got bumped into. If she had actually being walking at the time it probably wouldn't have happened.

In any case, whilst I do not condone any actual violence that may have occurred, I do think many people here should have better manners and more consideration when walking around. When someone chooses to walk around with their heads buried in their phones (or book, or map, or whatever), the message they are sending to oncoming people is 'You need to get out of my way'. I find it very inconsiderate and I've personally stopped accommodating such people when out-and-about. I won't attempt to bump into people (though it has happened two times, once at a zebra crossing and once on a train platform, two places where people really should be paying attention), but I will see how close I get before they are forced to look up and actually consider their surroundings. 

For people looking actually where they're going I'm happy to be the one who gives way.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Yeah, I have to admit there are huge problems with mobile phone use all over the world. I guess it seems worse in Japan because of the population density and number of people owning mobile phones. A large part of the problem is those mind-numbingly stupid and addictive games. Last week, while I was waiting inline for the train, a mid-30's guy walked into me while playing a game on his iPad. He dropped the iPad and smashed the screen. He started abusing me for his own stupidity. However, the lady next to me saw what happened and told him to bugger off. I also saw a woman walk off the platform playing that stupid 'join the lines of balls' game a few weeks ago. I can't count the amount of people I see pinballing their way through crowds at train stations with their faces stuck to their phones (or iPads) playing games. However, something that is specific to Japan is the number of drivers using their phones while driving. I'd estimate at least 2/3 of the drivers I see are using their phones while driving. Most are texting, but others are speaking on the phone and a few are playing games. I saw one truck driver playing a game on an iPad on the steering wheel while barrelling along a major route. And, that comment above about women in 'K' cars is actually quite true. I see many with their phones stuck to their face while driving although, the really stupid ones are the ones that keep their phone on their lap. The do this to avoid detection, but they are not looking at the road.

It's all well and good to put up this cute advisory signs and have funky little ads on the trains warning people about the dangers, but it's pretty obvious very few people pay any heed to them. As for the drivers, the fine for using your phone while driving is ¥50,000 and 3 points, but it's only effective if it's enforced. I saw the Australian news the other day and they had a sting operation with a plain clothes cop walking along the street and nabbing people using their phones as they stopped at traffic signals. If the Japanese police were more strict and got out of their kobans and onto the streets they could curb this epidemic and save lives.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Intentionally assaulting someone is wrong but not looking where to go is dangerous and I am not able to change directions fast enough to prevent a collision With some errant self absorbed phone user.

Walkong while texting or otherwise in public places should be controlled.....

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Walking, cycling, driving while looking at your phone is twattish. Also is looking at or using your phone when you are supposedly interacting with another person ie shop staff, waiters, friends etc. Unbelievably rude.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

nice story disillusioned, instant karma! i get more collisions than most cause they can't see a dog lead.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The attack of the dumb smartphone zombies

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Was in a train to Sapporo when a passenger tried to get off at an earlier stop. The entrance was blocked with dozens of people, most of them in high school and all of them wearing headphones and playing with their phones. The man screamed that he was getting off. No responses. He tried to push his way through and people barely budged. Ten seconds later he started swinging his fists. Yeah, he was wrong. But in this day-and-age when jobs are scarce and always in jeopardy you cannot afford to be late because of bunch of brainless idiots who are playing with a free app.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Japan is horrific for spacial awareness as it is. It's just gotten worse with mobile phones. Is it okay to bash into someone? No. It is okay to refuse to move out of their way? Yep. Is it okay to laugh at them when they walk into things? Yep. Is it okay to comment on their manners if they walk into others? Yep. Not only are these people putting themselves at risk, they put others at risk. It's selfish. Move off to one side and let others walk by without fear of being run into by a smart phone zombie.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

why should you have to move to avoid someone because the other person is not paying attention and makes no move to try and avoid you also? its a two way street. they are as much running into you as you are into them.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I can't say I've ever really experienced any of this to be honest. I live in a smaller city, but it has fairly crowded shopping streets or train stations. While I tend not to use my phone so much, there are times I'm reading news or whatever while walking down the streets and honestly, I've never been so engrossed that I wasn't aware of what was going on around me. I'd also wager most people are similar as anyone else who's walking around me on their phone was aware enough to sidestep around me like anybody else. I'm sure there are some cases of clueless people not paying attention, but this all seems more about bad decisions of where to stand around, or just malicious people trying to get their jollies off by preying on phone users.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Scary, these old men knocking into lone young women sounds like just another attempt to normalize chikan after the catastrophically disastrous decision of the women only carriage. These people should be charged as gropers and be punished as such

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In have to admit, I have almost been overcome with an overwhelming desire to simply smack the smart phones out of people hands while they walk. Working at a Uni it is insane some days. Trillions of sumafo zombies. Ahhh smack smack smack.

But I just calm myself and start starting down at my cell phone again ;)

5 ( +8 / -3 )

ozzledesigner: "The attack of the dumb smartphone zombies"

Not just people who use their smart phones who don't pay attention, and definitely not all people who use their smart phones don't pay attention. I've been bumped into by people checking bank books, looking at maps, or checking their bags, or just staring at their feet instead of looking ahead, and not to mention the myriads of people who suddenly whip around or jump left or right without looking behind or beside them.

dcog: "Scary, these old men knocking into lone young women sounds like just another attempt to normalize chikan after the catastrophically disastrous decision of the women only carriage."

We're in agreement on this one. There is too much rationalization of bad behaviour TOWARDS people just minding their own business and looking at their phones or what have you, and often the victims are blamed as the cause. I know for a fact that since women-only cars were introduced if a woman is assaulted on a train they are asked (at least in a few cases I know of) why they didn't ride that car as the first thing the police ask when the story is being told. Here, too... the victim is being painted as creating the problem.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Walking, cycling, driving while looking at your phone is twattish. Also is looking at or using your phone when you are supposedly interacting with another person ie shop staff, waiters, friends etc. Unbelievably rude.

Yes, many can agree that staring into a cell phone while moving is rude. However, when did it become ok for a man to throw or injure a woman because she was doing something annoying to him. Saying something is one thing but assaulting is criminal.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

come on, admit it. some/many of you have had the exact same desire as the oyajis in this article. if i had a yen for every time i wanted to whack someone on the back of the head for not having basic manners or common sense, i'd be a...

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Yes, many can agree that staring into a cell phone while moving is rude. However, when did it become ok for a man to throw or injure a woman because she was doing something annoying to him. Saying something is one thing but assaulting is criminal.

Nowhere in my post did I say it was OK to assualt anyone or condone violent actions, so I am baffled as to why you think I did.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A loud 邪魔よ in their ear is likely to be far more effective in making these zombies change their ways than shoulder-barging them to the floor, which only makes them feel the victim. Furthermore it doesn't constitute assault!


NTT DoCoMo and Softbank are the ones that should be prosecuted, for turning the Japanese into a nation of self-absorbed zombies

Hardly limited to Japan, Line, and Softbank. I've just spent 6 months in Korea and a year in Taiwan; same thing happening, though I do feel it's slightly worse in Japan (as many people seem to use their phone as an intentional method of ignoring others, whereas in Korea & Taiwan they just seem to be so utterly absorbed in their phone they don't notice anything else)

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

NTT DoCoMo and Softbank are the ones that should be prosecuted, for turning the Japanese into a nation of self-absorbed zombies

like blaming McDonald's for fat people? In Tokyo it is so darn crowded it is impossible to go a day in rush hour without giving a little push sometimes.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

There's never been anything better to look at to pass the time than a smartphone screen.

Its a TV, computer, communicator, and a Swiss Army knife gadget with any app you put on it.

If someone's about to bump me, I just holler at them.

Otherwise, go ahead and stare at the screen. You would probably have more luck if you looked up at all the beauties in the train and made some eye contact though...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Oh, lucky me I'm a strongly built man. It helps in such cases, as a j-man would think twice before bumping into me intentionally.It also helps, for example, when trying to get out of a packed train, and the idiot wearing headphones and blocking the exit does not hear my "sumimasen".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Actually think that sidewalk etiquette isn't 'that' bad in japan considering how crowded major cities are, the high % of elderly etc.

Families/group of ppl who walk (slowly, obviously) side by side & block everyone else is my n1 sidewalk pet peeve. Again not too bad here, mostly cause many/most J ppl are loners and not as self entitled as in the west I guess.

In a any case, a loud/clear 'sumimasen' is enough, no need to bash/push ppl. Plus we've all been guilty of this at some point (as tourists, mums/dads, drunks, when we're lost or while posting on jt etc). I certainly don't like selfish walkers but I like over-assertive/aggressive ppl even less.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Agree not too bad here a quick "sumimasen torimasu' will move the stubborn new.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I find people cycling on the pavement more annoying than smartphone users... just ambling along and before you know it some salaryman dings his bell and tuts as he whizzes past. Pavements are for pedestrians!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It is getting extremely frustrating no doubt. I cant believe that people dont step to the side, out the way of people, to conduct their phone business. So many people are so self absorbed and dont think about anyone around them.

People walking as they are texting is annoying, yes. Those playing stupid smartphone games as they walk drives me insane.

I would welcome a phone update that only allows incoming calls or emergency functions when walking. Texts can wait. If it is really important it warrants a call.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I was reminded of this article today at the station when an extremely slow-moving woman created a bottleneck in the 'fast lane' of a long escalator. No need to guess what the reason for her slowness was. On this occasion, the 'oyaji' directly behind her just stamped his feet loudly and then gave her a dirty look when they reached the top (none of which the woman noticed since the clothing/fashion site she was looking at had all her attention).

I'm sure if that oyaji taken the kind of action described in this article, the 'victim' would've claimed to have been walking at a 'normal pace'.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't walk around looking to target anyone. But there have been a number of incidents where I've found myself having to make split second decisions based on what I've been confronted with.

Out with my gf, walking together on sidewalk. Tokyo. Not crowded. More than enough space for people to walk in opposite directions without even coming close to touching each other. My gf speeds up her walk to reach the bank before it closes. I'm 20 feet behind. I see a late 20's guy with eyes glued into a book smash into her, and keep going as if she wasn't there. So I walk straight into him and he falls to the ground. And I looked directly into his eyes and asked if there was a problem. There wasn't. I don't care what anyone else thinks about it, but I knew it was obligation to teach him that what goes around, comes around.

I'm sure often times, people get entrenched in their app, call, email, sms, game, book, etc - and I do think a simple excuse me or sorry would go a long way. Even if I feel pissed about their lack of attention or the possibility of them hurting someone other than themselves (which I have no care about), it quickly dissipates once the apology comes.

But I feel it's rather lazy to expect those of us who are walking without distractions to be the ones who need to bear the brunt of responsibility over those who feel compelled to continue doing whatever they please. I've had people shoulder into me while I'm walking with a cup of hot coffee. I can tell you that I would sooner let it "accidentally" spill all over their face, chest and crotch, and they can enjoy the hours of painful skin grafts and dry cleaning bills before I'm going to risk it touching my skin or clothes.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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