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Mysterious thieves on bizarre train strap binge


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?"

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Maybe someone was "strapped" for cash and couldn't "handle" it anymore?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

HollisBrown, it occurred to me that nobody would pay attention to someone wearing worker fatigues, who detached them in plain sight. Of course on late evening trains, most of the passengers are either likely to be sleeping off the effects of booze or totally immersed in their cell phones.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Maybe someone is just tired of having to stand up all the time and is taking out their revenge on the company.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Perhaps we shall find a strange bar opening up some time soon. Make the salary men drunks feel good at a stand up nomiya.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

..As they are mounted at a high position..

Also known as eye level for the average north American/European. Maybe I am missing something, but the straps seem rather easy to remove, as they are secured with two simple Phillips head screws halfway up the straps. (Odakyu Line)

And if it's done by train personnel, who would even think of as being strange? or let alone, say something about it? as it just look like maintenance to the average person.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Do the drivers work on different lines? It seems strange that 11 straps can be taken from the same car without anyone noticing. It wouldn't be so unbelievable though if the straps were taken after the train had finished its service for the day.

"Bear a grudge against the railway", "fanatical hobbyists" - both of these could conceivably relate to a driver (or other staff with access to the train).

Are there any tools in the cab in case of breakdown etc.?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yes "Shonanbb," and you can work in it!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

wow,,,,on ebay ,,, from $17-89 USD , and the originals are being sold from Thailand , things that make you go hmmmm..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When an Uber train line starts up we'll know. But fear not - the erstwhile police will get a handle on this very soon! Could be a train-geek-densha-kozoh (電車小僧) gone feral!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

NcK: I am American, but they sure are not eye level for me. I have to reach for them. I do see the easy to remove screws though.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

These conspiracy theories are ridiculous. It's likely just an angry train worker like another commenter mentioned earlier.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They're for sale on eBay.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Perhaps they should check pawn shops and internet auctions...

0 ( +0 / -0 )


Do they look like this?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bosuzoku use to steal the straps and hang underneath their cars, the more strap that drug on the ground due to how low the car sat = more street cred that car had, also the number of straps that drug also increased the cred. Though you can buy those things at places like Yellow Hat and Upgarage these days so I'm surprised to read this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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