The Japanese word "bukimi" translates variously as ghastly, creepy or ominous. Or, it can be used with the nuance of causing feelings of nervousness or discomfort.
This sentiment, reports Shukan Gendai (Feb 27), is the result of a series of thefts starting from last December on passenger cars on commuter lines operated by the Tokyo Metro and also by the Tokyo Kyuko (aka Tokyu) rail company.
The stolen items are the handles and straps gripped by standing commuters.
"Since six of them taken from the Chiyoda Line last December, similar reports have been coming in sporadically," a spokesperson for the Tokyo Metro is quoted as saying. "Up to February, a total of 98 -- including the straps and the hand grips -- have been taken from the Hibiya, Chiyoda and Yurakucho Lines."
A spokesperson at Tokyo Kyuko reported similar thefts.
"As of Feb 8, there have been 184 straps taken from the Tokyu Denentoshi Line, 31 from the Tokyu Toyoko Line and four from the Meguro Line. The worst on one single day was 11, all taken from the same car. As they are mounted at a high position, to remove them, either a knife for cutting or a screwdriver for dismounting is necessary, and one would think that kind of activity would be noticed by someone. But up to now, nobody has reported it."
Both rail companies have filed reports with the police, but so far it's a bit disturbing that neither the culprits, nor their motives, have surfaced, while the losses have continued.
"The most conceivable motive would be for resale. It's possible that they are aimed at fanatical hobbyists," says a Itsuo Tobimatsu, a former detective.
But Shukan Gendai counters that the going rate for a used strap/handle might be around 500 yen. So while stealing and reselling 100 of them might net the thief 50,000 yen, that would be scant compensation for the risks of fines and/or imprisonment if caught.
Tobimatsu also speculates the thief might bear a grudge against the railways. "But the number stolen each time isn't that many, so if all of them are being done by the same person, the possibility of some kind of kinky fetishism -- like the men who steal women's underwear -- can't be ruled out. He might just be doing it because he experiences some kind of thrill."
A thoroughly mystified Shukan Gendai invokes a rhetorical question in Japanese that's reminiscent of the 1930s American radio crime fighter Lamont Cranston, aka The Shadow, who began each program asking, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"© Japan Today