Japanese anti-sexual violence ad, #ActiveBystander, becomes online hit

By Kirsty Kawano

One of Japan’s most striking public awareness commercials was released last month, but you won’t see it on TV because it was not made by Advertising Council Japan. The #ActiveBystander campaign against sexual violence toward women was made by two Japanese women and is raking up views on social media and understanding among watchers.

The ad portrays six common cases of sexual harassment that women in Japan experience on a daily basis: upskirting on an escalator; a butsukariya incident of a man intentionally banging into a woman’s chest as they pass each other on the street; groping by a cyclist; a persist on-street pickup attempt; a drug placed into a date’s drink; and a boss hugging and asking private questions of a female employee while out with co-workers on a company drinking event.

The opening shows a young man who sees the upskirting take place and then shows the other incidents from his point of view as a bystander, including him looking away because it’s all none of his business. The second half of the video shows the same man taking small actions, some of which stop or prevent the original incidents, some of which offer assistance to the victims. 

For example, on the escalator, he steps closer to the upskirter, making him aware that someone can see what he is doing, and the upskirter puts away his smartphone. To the woman who has been knocked down by the butsukariya, he asks if she is OK.

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© Savvy Tokyo

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The need for a commercial about this says a lot about Japanese men...

3 ( +6 / -3 )

The advertising Council of Japan has 100% responsibility to back this. If they don’t I’d say they have a few skeletons they’re hiding.

Not to toot my horn but some years back I saw a tall guy banging his girl’s head on a wall. 20 meters away I heard the thumping. They’d had a fight I guess. I took my bike & all but ran it into him. I told him to leave her..all in English. He turned to me as if to pick a fight with me. He just bowed & said ごめん. As I left the girl in a weak voice said thank you in English.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

This is a relatable video. I hope a lot of people see it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A foreigner would be asked to come to the Koban and then be asked the usual questions...having nothing to do with the help he offered.

Do you have a residency card? (Yes)

What is your address? (look at the card)

What is your birthday? (look at the card)

What is your age? (look at the card)

What is your job? (Look at the card)

Do you speak Japanese? (What language are we speaking now?)

Foreigners! Do not get involved.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Its great that people are watching it. But we have to encourage people to take action. That is important.


Foreigners! Do not get involved

I learned about this very early when I moved to Japan. Helping someone and being treated as the criminal and ending up in the police station was my "welcome to Japan" moment. That was the last time I stopped someone groping someone on the train.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Sorry, as a foreigner, I know better than to get into this but hope the locals pick it up well!!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@JJ and Pure:

Best approach is to leave it to the locals.

You can inform a local though and then walk away and hopefully they take action.

Sort of why in America there are open cities so that the illegals can report things and not get deported.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Foreigners! Do not get involved.

You will be into trouble as well as a foreigner immediately.

 I can just imagine the world of trouble I'd be in if I, as a foreigner, tried to intervene in any of the situations

This is a pretty blanket statement. For those of us who speak Japanese (not pidgin, but actual Japanese where one has the ability to clearly explain points and situations, and debate issues), the above statement is incorrect. I've stepped in on situations multiple times in Japan, and never been arrested or got into trouble. I twice intervened in fights and not been in trouble. Once, one fella knocked out another, and was kicking him while he was out. I stepped between them, and then told a Japanese bystander to call the police. Another, I pulled one Japanese guy off another, in front of a police officer who was just standing there watching the top guy beat up the bottom guy. Again, I didn't get into trouble. If you can explain what happened, and haven't gotten physical, I've found the police are fine.

I did however get myself into trouble one time, quite badly, when trying to help out a friend before I could speak Japanese that well. And sure enough, the police threatened to take me in, even though I was only trying to help. The problem was I couldn't explain myself, and the cop was doing what Japanese police do - stamping out the situation and making everyone disperse, regardless of who is at fault.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Yes, Japanese people should be more aware and actively intervene in these kinds of sexual harassment. However, if you are a foreigner, stay right out of it. I spent two hours being interrogated after a nabbed an upskirter filming one of my high school students on the escalator at the train station. The cops let him go after 15 minutes. However, they held me for two hours checking all my ID, visa etc. They even called the school I worked for. At the end of my interrogation one of the cops said to me in English, “Stay out of Japan business.” I returned to work the next day and was hauled straight to the principle’s office. He told me exactly the same thing. Stay out of Japan business folks. The Japanese don’t want those pesky foreigners intervening in their smutty little exploits.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Women don't have the luxury of "staying out of it" because we are on the receiving end.

And I have stepped in on many occasions when I saw a woman being abused - interesting that I seem to have far more bravado than the men here.

I would rather be in the koban for several hours getting interrogated by cops than sit and watch sexual abuse happen and do mothing.

But hey, that's how I roll.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Women don't have the luxury of "staying out of it" because we are on the receiving end.

Can turn it around

I would rather be in the koban for several hours getting interrogated by cops than sit and watch sexual abuse happen and do mothing.

Women aren't kept that long tho

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As if the predators are always local Japanese people and they limit themselves to local Japanese victims. Half of the situations from the video happened to me in real life in Tokyo.

If you’re an innocent bystander trying to help, you shouldn’t be afraid of spending few hours at the police station. Your cowardly excuses are truly pathetic.

Also, if you see something and choose not to react, you’re just as guilty of the crime as the predator. Someone got hurt physically and/or emotionally and that’s on you, too.

-1 ( +0 / -1 ) you speak Japanese?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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