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BBC reports on Japan's 'chikan' problem which now includes videos

22 Comments
By Michael Hoffman

“An epidemic in  Japan,” is Britain’s BBC News’ diagnosis following a year-long investigation. The virus is moral rather than biologic. “Chikan,” the BBC explains in a report published in early June, “is a Japanese term describing sexual assault in public, especially on public transport. It also describes the offenders themselves.”

“Women who are groped on trains in East Asia,” the report says, “face the further threat of their assault being filmed and uploaded for sale online” – a prime attraction being the shock, disgust and helplessness they register in facial expressions and body movements, duly captured on film for viewers’ amusement and stimulation.

“Chikan,” says the BBC, “has been normalized by its prominence in Japan’s adult entertainment industry. One of the most popular types of pornography in the country – the chikan genre – has spread to other Asian countries.”

All too true, says Shukan Post (July 14). It’s “Japan’s shame,” a blot on a country otherwise known, respected and envied worldwide for its safety, kindness and civility. Safe, yes, and yet the UK government website warns Britons traveling to Japan: “Reports of inappropriate touching of female passengers on commuter trains are fairly common.” Canada’s government issues a similar warning.

Shukan Post, following up on the BBC report, makes contact with a Japanese producer and purveyor of chikan videos. Many work in organized groups; this particular operator, a man in his 50s, works solo. There’s big money involved: he claims to have sold 30-second clips to Japanese and foreign websites specializing in that kind of thing for 50,000 yen.

He displays an entrepreneur’s pride as he lays out  his modus operandi.

“I didn’t only work crowded trains,” he says, though most of his colleagues do, taking advantage of the crush to grope unidentified and as though unintentionally. He speaks in the past tense, perhaps having moved on to other endeavors. “I targeted young women passed out drunk on last trains or asleep on first trains. I filmed them all over – face, bust, crotch – and if they didn’t wake up I’d go inside their bras too. There are cameras so small you can do that. I worked mostly (Tokyo’s) Yamanote Line. Distances between stations are short, so if you’re caught it’s easier to get away.”

Train cars lately are often equipped with surveillance cameras, raising the risks but also – the law of unintended consequences never sleeps – the profits to be earned by those bold enough to defy them.

Does the “epidemic” rage only in Japan? British journalist Gavin Blair suggests to Shukan Post one fact of Japanese life that favors it. In the West, he says, the Me Too movement has been instrumental in shifting the moral degradation from victim to perpetrator. That’s major progress – yet to be registered here. Japan too has a Me Too movement. A recent survey it conducted highlights the challenge it faces: it found only 10 percent of victims report the crime; 90 percent shrink from coming forward.

Blair  once found himself personally involved in a pertinent incident. On a Tokyo train he saw a chikan in progress and collared the man (he’s a karate expert), intending to march him to the station office at the next stop. Don’t, pleaded the woman, unable to face the ordeal she foresaw. The matter ended there. We can imagine the offender’s relief.

What  all this says about human nature, the degradation it can sink too, the Internet’s tendency to cater to and stoke our lowest instincts, is a vast subject, far beyond the scope of this story. The perpetrators are the tip of the iceberg. Its mass below the surface is the demand they cater to, the people who buy the stuff – for the most part no doubt ordinary people leading ordinary lives, innocently indulging, so to speak, their secret little vices, probably without it ever occurring to them to spare a thought for the victims, or even that there are victims.

“On a quiet back street in the red-light district of Yokohama,” says the BBC report, “a storefront decorated like a metro station catches your eyes. A sign spells out its concept: ‘legal chikan trains.’”

It’s a sex club called, appropriately enough, Rush Hour. Once inside, you might as well be on a train. Train smells, train announcements, train sounds weave the illusion. Here you can grope to your heart’s content. The “victims’” squirming is part of the act. Enjoy.

“I think it’s important for men to be able to pay to vent in a place like this, so they don’t commit rape and other forms of sexual assault,” manager Shuhei Hasuda tells the BBC.

Clever people can justify anything. Ten days after its chikan report the BBC published another: “Global network of sadistic monkey torture exposed by BBC.” People pay to see that too. No doubt it, too has apologists defending it as a social service.

Michael Hoffman is the author of “Arimasen.” 

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

22 Comments
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Women are not safe on the train in Tokyo.

Don’t, pleaded the woman, unable to face the ordeal she foresaw.

Women are shamed, blamed, and disbelieved, which allows the chikan to get away with it.

-10 ( +21 / -31 )

Japan still sends a man to a international conference discussing the rights of women. It's an open secret misogyny is in full bloom in Japan. And the government can't figure out how to get more women to marry and have babies.

-1 ( +27 / -28 )

Blair  once found himself personally involved in a pertinent incident. On a Tokyo train he saw a chikan in progress and collared the man (he’s a karate expert), intending to march him to the station office at the next stop. Don’t, pleaded the woman, unable to face the ordeal she foresaw.

Put this under "things which never happened" and it sounds like a Playboy reader's column.

The article is sensationalistic of course and seems to be conflating the real "chikan" problem with the pornographic simulations and sex industry recreations which are staged with paid participants.

-10 ( +15 / -25 )

The BBC has released a series of damning investigative stories on Japan this year. This article fails to mention that the group filming these Chikan acts and uploading them online - the group the BBC was able to infiltrate - were Chinese, not Japanese.

And just the other day there was a not so flattering story about the deceased Sri Lankan girl and Japan’s treatment of asylum seekers.

Nothing new to anyone living here but apparently it’s only embarrassing to Japan if a respected international outlet reports on something that Japanese journalists have been doing forever.

-15 ( +11 / -26 )

The article is sensationalistic of course and seems to be conflating the real "chikan" problem with the pornographic simulations and sex industry recreations which are staged with paid participants.

No it does not, it clearly states that the simulations are negative in the sense that they make the problem seem less serious.

“Chikan,” says the BBC, “has been normalized by its prominence in Japan’s adult entertainment industry. One of the most popular types of pornography in the country – the chikan genre – has spread to other Asian countries.”

6 ( +19 / -13 )

Good to see the BBC reporting on this

Nothing new to anyone living here but apparently it’s only embarrassing to Japan if a respected international outlet reports on something that Japanese journalists have been doing forever.

Agree

-8 ( +18 / -26 )

Shukan Post, following up on the BBC report, makes contact with a Japanese producer and purveyor of chikan videos. Many work in organized groups; this particular operator, a man in his 50s, works solo. There’s big money involved: he claims to have sold 30-second clips to Japanese and foreign websites specializing in that kind of thing for 50,000 yen.

(1) And there you have it...the porn industry is a major driver of the chikan/rape problem in Japan.

*What  all this says about human nature, the degradation it can sink too, the Internet’s tendency to cater to and stoke our lowest instincts, is a vast subject, far beyond the scope of this story. The perpetrators are the tip of the iceberg. Its mass below the surface is *the demand they cater to, the people who buy the stuff – for the most part no doubt ordinary people leading ordinary lives, innocently indulging, so to speak, their secret little vices, probably without it ever occurring to them to spare a thought for the victims, or even that there are victims.

(2) The viewers who are so keen to deny that porn is the problem are a major part of the equation.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

I've warned my girls about this sort of thing. They know what to watch out for and what to do. Luckily for my girls, they look out for each other. I tell them these guys are disrepectful and don't deserve relief. There's no shame in defending yourselves.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

Finally global media seeing under the flimsy tarp of 'omotenashi' with this and the Johnny's exposé.

0 ( +14 / -14 )

Start with outlawing porn magazines in the kombinis

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

The UK is not exactly free from this sort of thing.

https://www.mylondon.news/news/zone-1-news/perverts-who-rub-themselves-women-20915698

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Kniknaknokkaer

Today 05:59 pm JST

ianToday 05:17 pm JST

> Start with outlawing porn magazines in the kombinis

> It doesn't need outlawing it just needs some common sense and discretion. If a combini I go into with my little girl has an adult mag on low shelves at her height by the checkout or anywhere else as quite a few do, I ask for the store manager and ask them if they think it's appropriate.

Ok.

Anyway, what do the managers say? And do perhaps

4 ( +6 / -2 )

It took the BBC's commentary for some people to come to their senses on this...others continue to lurk in the shadows

1 ( +7 / -6 )

whoamiJuly 21 09:38 pm JST

Unfortunately, this problem will continue until the women begin to stick up for themselves

The problem will continue until these men stop sexually assaulting women. Women should not be made responsible for preventing their own sexual assaults, particularly when there is a very big price to pay whenever we attempt to speak up for ourselves. Look at the number of downvotes my first post got - do you honestly think any of those men would support a woman who spoke up?

-4 ( +8 / -12 )

girl_in_tokyo is totally correct.

Maybe not totally. She just mentions "on trains". Any darkened street at night in the city, especially near a train station, is a danger zone. Women here (and young girls, by the way) are NOT safe.

Why hasn't there been more of an outcry? The lack of sympathy from authorities, which women know about all too well, and results in well below 10% of sexual assaults in Japan even being reported. Plus rapists who are actually caught red-handed are assisted by the legal system, which bullies victims into accepting minor cash compensation settlements.

Cool Japan? Nah...Primitive Japan.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

Dr MaybeJuly 22 06:05 pm JST

girl_in_tokyo is totally correct.

Maybe not totally. She just mentions "on trains". Any darkened street at night in the city, especially near a train station, is a danger zone. Women here (and young girls, by the way) are NOT safe.

Exactly right.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

9:30AM waiting for my train at dimly lit Roppongi Station, without warning an angry sounding man touched, then patted my shoulder and neck from behind. The hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up! Do I run?! I turned around and found a station employee scolding me for standing on and not behind the yellow line on the barrier protected platform! He returned to his spot completely ignoring the men standing on the yellow line so I took their photo. Incensed I went up to him and said you scared me. I said there are barriers, the train wasn’t pulling in, he had time to approach me from the front and he should not have touched me. I pointed to the men standing on the yellow he had ignored and asked why did you only target me? He apologized.

On my way home I told the Roppongi manager to train his staff not to touch women and especially not from behind. I told him to look at the video footage for evidence but the angle was off and didn’t show contact. How convenient!
1 ( +2 / -1 )

I was on a subway in Tokyo. It wasn't completely full, but all the seats were taken and there was a line of people in front of the seats, standing, mostly reading. My eye went to a girl who was standing reading a book with a guy standing very close behind her. The carriage wasn't that crowded and he had no reason to stand that close up to her, so I felt something strange about it. Then I noticed his hips moving in and out. The girl had stopped reading and was staring ahead like a deer caught in a car's headlights. The whole thing looked so funny, so like a Far Side cartoon that I just burst out laughing. I said to the guy, in Japanese, "What are you? In heat or something?"

The guy's face went bright red, he rushed to the door and got off at the next station. Admittedly, this wasn't a professional with a camera, but there are times when turning on the humorous side can be very effective.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I consider myself a sexual being, but I don't understand the attraction of this "chikan" thing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think this kind of thing happens almost anywhere, but it is the frequency which it happens in Japan and the lack of action by people that see it happening. Girls should be given self defence classes in school.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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