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Groped, scared, disgusted: Stories of dealing with 'chikan' in Japan

18 Comments
By Lucy Dayman

In light of the #metoo movement making traction in Japan, we reached out to seven women who shared their first-hand accounts of dealing with assaults and harassment on Japan's rail system. They shared their stories hoping that it will help destigmatize the issue and bring it to the forefront of public discourse.

In early April, a video of a foreign man groping a woman on a Tokyo train was shared around various online Japan communities and networks, inciting outrage and disbelief. Although the angered responses and open discussions were a positive sign of the public attitude to sexual assault, in reality, this is an occurrence that’s still all too common.

Known as chikan (痴漢) in Japanese, gropers typically take advantage of their surroundings, knowing that the victims’ fear of causing a scene, and the anonymous nature packed public transport (where personal space perimeters are challenged) makes it difficult for victims to call out or report the incidents.

Over the years, Japan has continued to try and find ways to fight the issue. Some solutions have included the introduction of women-only train carriages, and signs encouraging commuters to speak up if they witness an assault take place, playing on the group mentality that often keeps people quiet; ‘together we can stop chikan.’ In 2010, the Saikyo Line, a line notorious for groping, had cameras installed in an attempt to deter future assaults. More recently, a number of other anti-chikan initiatives have been put into place, including pervert branding stickers put into place by the Saitama Prefecture Police department, and popular warning badges, which were created by a 17-year-old high school student.

But chikan eradication is still a work in progress. As the Metropolitan Police Department’s recent reports shows, 2017 saw 1,750 cases of groping or molestation reported, 30 percent of which occurred during the peak rush hour times of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. The report also states that 51.3 percent of all chikan cases occurred on trains, while another 20 percent happened in train stations. Given the insidiousness nature of the behavior and the difficulty in prosecuting cases, chances are that statistic is far higher.

We spoke to seven women, both foreign and Japanese, who were eager to share their stories in hope that speaking out about the issue would help others find some solidarity in their collective experiences. In the name of full transparency, all the women in this article are personal acquaintances and these experiences have been shared as a response to social media call outs and conversations we’ve had in person. Here are their stories.

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

18 Comments
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That video is disgusting, did they ever catch that pos?

More recently, a number of other anti-chikan initiatives have been put into place, including pervert branding stickers put into place by the Saitama Prefecture Police department, and popular warning badges, which were created by a 17-year-old high school student.

Did it help? If ladies won't even have the guts to cry for help i doubt a stupid sticker would work. Perhaps trains need chikan guards. And of course more cameras.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

If ladies won't even have the guts to cry for help

"Guts"? So it's their fault for not screaming and shouting? Read their stories; they froze, they were scared, it's an instinctive reaction when this happens. Not everyone reacts to sexual assault in the same way but that doesn't make them culpable in any way whatsoever. People don't speak out about sexual assault as they feel humiliated and feel by reporting it their humiliation will intensify. They also worry that they won't be taken seriously, or believed or, like you did, that people will think it is their fault in some way.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

i pray this animal is named and blamed.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Part of the reason why these creeps get away with it is because they know full well the woman isn't going to say or do anything! If Japanese women had a little more proactivity in response to being groped it wouldn't happen as much. Silence and shame just enable more of the same actions.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

In early April, a video of a foreign man groping a woman on a Tokyo train was shared around various online Japan communities and networks, inciting outrage and disbelief

Dont get me wrong, the last thing we need is the foreign community to indulge in this abuse. But - it makes me sick how as soon as a foreigner gets caught the video is posted all over. Yet how many of the thousands of Japanese assaults are given the same social media treatment?

This is a huge issue in Japan including policemen abusing female commuters yet they only express outrage when one of us foreigners does it..??

8 ( +9 / -1 )

TTT - I tend to agree with you. Foreigners count for a tiny fraction of the losers who do this, but he is such a greaseball, I hope his face is plastered in every station in Kanto.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

clam - our community need to expose that idiot. It causes issues not only for the poor victim but for all of us.

But I'm angry at how this country only expresses outrage when an idiot foreigner does it. The percentage compared to Japanese culprits would be less than 1%.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Fully agree with the previous posters - this guy is an absolute creep, but it all feeds into the notion that foreigners are dangerous and more likely to commit crimes. The reality is that statistically foreigners in Japan are much less likely to break the law than Japanese. I look forward to a spate of videos posted showing non foreigners molesting women on the subway.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

With the red light industry so big in Japan why don't these guys just go to one of these establishments

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Hope this vile knacker gets caught and soon.

It's people like this who give gaijin a bad name.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"Guts"? So it's their fault for not screaming and shouting? Read their stories; they froze, they were scared, it's an instinctive reaction when this happens. Not everyone reacts to sexual assault in the same way but that doesn't make them culpable in any way whatsoever.

Luddite you misinterpreted my comment. I didnt say they are culpable. As you said in your comment, some women freeze and are too scared to say something so if they cant even scream because they are scared then how would they find the courage to paste a sticker on the perp, in my opinion seems more scary to do?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I watched it on mute, and it seems staged to some extent. The object of his affection did not move at all, and he fully let himself get filmed. The only real chikan I ever saw was in a fully packed train, and I can tell you it is hard not to touch other people in such a situation.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

But I'm angry at how this country only expresses outrage when an idiot foreigner does it. 

Sadly, in this respect, things have'nt changed much in Japan for many years. 25 years ago, signs appeared in public telephone boxes in English saying that anybody caught vandalising the kiosk would be arrested an prosecuted. Nothing in Japanese.

*It's people like this who give gaijin a bad name.*

I never did understand why people put this Japanese word in the middle of an English sentence. It secularists forigners in Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The woman didn't seem to mind. It's pretty common to be that close in a crowded train. Happens all the time.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I have said this before but one reason I think that people don't report these obvious perverts is the hassle of dealing with police. You are on your way to work and see a chikan. So you go to the stationmaster to report the incident. After that, you probably have to wait for the police to show up the have to give a step-by-step account of what you witnessed then walk them through it. During this time, they interrogate you on who you are and why exactly were you that train. By the time this is done, you have missed half to most of your day. After that, there may be a follow up which also can consume another day or 2. Being a Good Samaritan consumes time which people may not want to give up.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Andrew Crisp - With the red light industry so big in Japan why don't these guys just go to one of these establishments

Because the 'rub and tug' joints cost money. These perverts get a free feel and their company is paying their transport costs. I've stepped in on a few cases of 'chikan' over the years. There is definitely something wrong with these idiots. One incident that comes to mind was with a young girl who had just gotten off the train and was screaming at some salary worker for touching her up on the evening peak hour train. As I was standing there watching with an ever growing crowd of onlookers, she let go with a karate kick to the goon's chest and dropped him like a bag of poop! I applauded and gave a loud, "Woo! Hoo!" It was about then the train guards arrived. The restrained her and took him away. These perverts who carry out this chikan rubbish are just more Japanese man-children with no guts or brains!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Guys, chikan don't grope because they don't get enough sex. They grope because they get a special thrill out the power they have over their victim in forcing themselves on her. They love that they have the power to terrify her, take her power away, and show her that her body is not hers.

That this is so incredibly common shows exactly how misogynistic this society is. Men don't respect women's bodily integrity and think they have the right to abuse them because they see women as lower in status and themselves as having power over them. In particular, men who feel powerless in other aspects of their life take out their anger and resentment on women.

Also, don't criticize the women who aren't able to speak up when they are groped. I've been in that exact situation many times, and it is terrifying. The pit of your stomach just freezes, you feel dizzy, your mind goes blank, and you just panic. Being violated in that way makes you feel powerless. You also have NO idea how the guy will react, so you are too afraid to do anything that might put you in further danger. Think about it - these guys are brave enough to grope you in a public place in front of other people. You know that it's likely no one will come to help you, and if you speak up he may well decide to hit you, stab you, or otherwise physically hurt you. He will also completely deny that he did anything - which means you will have to defend yourself in front of him as well as the other people in the train, who he is trying to get to take his side. We know that a lot of the time no one believes women, and the fear of being disbelieved coupled with the shame you feel for having your body violated is just too much for a lot of women bear. In fact, I also know some men who have felt the exact same way when they were groped - too scared or too shocked or too embarrassed to fight back.

Now that I have gotten older I have managed to find my voice and not care what others may think. I don't hesitate to fight back or yell at the guy, and have done so many times. But even when I have, no one has ever come forward to see if I am okay or need help, or joined to help me defend myself. So if you want to put blame for not speaking up or not taking action on someone, put it on the bystanders, who have the power of the group yet do nothing at all to help the lone victim.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I don't hesitate to fight back 

Love that!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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