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A punching bag on the Odakyu line

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By Ron Scott

I was recently the victim of a random act of violence. To set the scene: I was traveling home in the sardine can known as the Odakyu line on a weeknight around 9:30 p.m. The commuter in the seat next to the door had decided that getting a seat wasn’t enough — he also wanted the metal railing next to the seat as his elbow rest. When I entered the train, I was jostled and pushed, and eventually settled into the space by the door, my back to both the metal hand railing and the commuter with the well-rested elbow. Unfortunately, my position meant that my rear end intruded upon his elbow rest space.

The commuter expressed his dissatisfaction with a few vicious elbow jabs throughout our 15 minute train ride. I was completely unable to move away, or to communicate with him due to my squished, immobile position. When the train came to his stop, he gave me two particularly vicious final jabs before standing up to get off the train. As he passed me, he pulled back, punched me in the face, and quickly exited.

Needless to say, everyone was rather surprised. The other commuters around me were torn between shock, intense curiosity, and valiant attempts at pretending that they hadn’t seen anything. Only one man dared acknowledge the incident by digging into his wallet and thoughtfully (albeit impractically) offering me two rather old band-aids for my then-bloodied nose.

As for me, I stood with my mouth agape. A couple of elbow jabs in the butt was one thing — but a punch in the face?

I had no idea how to proceed. My first reaction was to run after the guy and retaliate. But the little voice in my head that keeps me out of prison reminded me that in that case, I would most likely be the one penalized. Instead, I considered reporting it to the station staff or police. I began to formulate in my head what I would say, but realized that I lacked the language necessary to communicate the situation. I study Japanese, and I can definitively state, with conviction, that yes, the book is on the table; however, the grammar to express “That psycho over there just punched me in the face” was unfortunately left out of my current text.

As I was trying to decide what to do, the train doors closed — and with them, any opportunity to seek justice.

In fact, this was my sixth accidental run-in with violence since arriving in Japan three years ago, albeit the most serious. It makes me laugh now to think about how many times I had been told that Japan was a “safe country.”

Speaking to friends about these experiences, the knee-jerk reaction seems to be to chalk it up to xenophobia. Call me an optimist, but I’d like to believe that this isn’t the case (or at least not always). In the most recent incident, for example, the commuter probably had no idea that I was a foreigner.

Acts of violence are becoming more and more prevalent in Japan. The news is full of beatings, suicides and murders. According to the Metropolitan Police Department, violent acts drastically increased between 2002 (8,666 violent acts) to 2006 (11,253). Specifically, non-lethal, less-serious acts (such as those that I experienced) more than doubled over that same period (from 2,677 to 5,635).

One problem, I feel, is that people in Japan face too much pressure with too little positive release. The stress that causes people to jump in front of trains or to decapitate their parents is probably the same type that prompted the commuter to punch me in the face. So, in that light, I guess I should be glad that my injury was only a punch.

The other problem is that no one wants to get involved with these kinds of situations. Nobody, for example, moved in to help me with my attacker. In fact, my own first reaction was decidedly Japanese; I didn’t even step up to defend myself. After the incident, I asked several Japanese people what they would do if faced with a violent person or "chikan" on the train, and almost all said that they would do nothing more than switch train cars.

So, what can we do? The answer, I guess, is not much. The police, by and large, are ambivalent about these kinds of crimes—and seemingly even more so when foreigners are the victims.

Instead, we need to help each other out. If you see something fishy on the train, don’t be afraid to step in and intervene. But also, be cautious and take measures to protect yourself. I, for one, have invested in a mouth guard.

Ron Scott is an English teacher and freelance writer from Canada. This commentary originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

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Yes, tricky situation. If you had retaliated, as a foreigner, you would definitely be the one under arrest and facing prison time/a big fine. I would never, as a rule, get involved in any situation, as the crime of being a foreigner outweighs anything else. I've been involved in 2 martial arts for over 20 years and of course training gives you a degree of defensive skills. But nothing is guaranteed. I certainly wouldn't call japan a safety country. It's just the same as everywhere else. There are crazies wherever you go. You have to be on your guard at all times.

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Acts of violence are becoming more and more prevalent in Japan.

I guess the ubiquitous massage and "aesthe" of all types in and around all stations are just not doing enough to lower the cumulative stress levels in Japan.

Mr. Scott: I am sorry about what happened to you, but I think it is an all-too-common occurrence in the Kanto area with the crowded trains and stations. There was a good story several months ago about a guy who did retaliate in Shinjuku Station after being indiscriminately attacked by a Japanese, and the hell and expenses he went through in the slammer for the next three weeks.

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oh you mean the guy who "broke his monkey face" with a bottle? not such an innocent victim as Mr Scott here

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this was my sixth accidental run-in with violence since arriving in Japan three years ago

This line sets my BS bells ringing. Six bust-ups in three years? One every six months on average?

Strange how the train was so crowded our victim couldn't shift his bottom or turn around, yet the elbow-jabber was able to 'pull back' to get a good punch in.

There's something here we're not being told.

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"this was my sixth accidental run-in with violence since arriving in Japan three years ago"

Sounds like this canuck engrish teacher has anger management issues and should relocate out of Japan. He won't be missed.

RR

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Hey, Ron, if you find it so difficult to deal with Japanese, you should take taxis to get you from Point A to Point B.

Problem solved.

RR

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Personally, having lived here for over 8 years, I find this example a very rare one. There are plenty of idiots who will shove you around and walk through you on the trains and in the street, but actually laying into someone, especially a foreigner, is almost unheard of. I am fortunate enough to have been brought up on the rough streets of London and for a few years in a soccer gang, therefore the incidents I have been involved in here have dissolved into the other guy realising that I am not going to back down and will probably punch back if he started swinging.

However you do have to be very wary of the yakuza/ yankee factor. Unfortunately these are people you need to avoid, although it is not so easy to recognise yakuza members outside and on the trains. The young 'yankee' guys, although young enough and small enough to take on, will almost certainly be carrying a knife that they will use if you did choose to fight them.

Where I'm from (the UK), random acts of physical violence are all to common. Far more than here in Japan. I have heard of people being slashed on the street in London for no reason at all.

I would also be interested to know, following the publication of this story, whether the Oedo line and the Tokyo police are going to follow this story up and appeal for witnesses or check their cctv system ? We would certainly do that back in the UK as a 'punch in the face' is actual bodily harm (ABH).

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"Unfortunately, my position meant that my rear end intruded upon his elbow rest space.

The commuter expressed his dissatisfaction with a few vicious elbow jabs throughout our 15 minute train ride."

Dude needs to stitch a big ol Canadian flag/drapeau du Canada on the seat/derriere of every pair of trousers/pantalon he owns, a preventive measure the Canadian Embassy should recommend to all Canadians living in or even passing through Tokyo.

Only way to solve the problem.

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Having lived here for 12yrs and done my fair share of daily commute to work and clients.

For me it sounds like the problem is with the Ron not the other commuters. Few altercations(2 or 3) I had I ussually ended with "Let got to the Koban"(in japanese) before punches started flying. After which they usually apologized and left quickly.

But I see in the article the same feelings I get of poster on JT on how bad japan is, yadda, yadda.

And with so many articles I read I would say that there is a LOT more to it than was related in the on-sided account.

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Very beautifully worded. I enjoyed reading it!

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I do feel Ron's pain. It is tough for foreigners living in Japan, or rather it is tough living in another country than your own. It's even worse in Japan because the group culture, where noone cares about anyone else on the street, especially in Tokyo, and you only get penalized for fighting back.

I had a wonderful experience when I first arrived in Japan, 8 years ago now. I was sitting on the last train home after a long days work, when a drunk Japanese businessman grabbed me by my suit, pulled me from my seat and started shaking me, shouting "Do you know me? Do you know me?" This is probably the only English the guy knew. "No, I don't!", I replied. I didn't know what else to do, whether to shout for help in Japanese or what. The other passengers just looked on. Eventually the drunken guy's colleague came, took him off me and apologised.

That's Japan for you. It is generally very safe, but when something does happen everyone is scared of getting involved. I love Japan, but Japanese people really do need to start growning a backbone. On the other hand, my Japanese friends living back home in London have had much worse experiences. The have been punched on the train, been spat on, had eggs thrown at them, and told "Go back to China". I just love the British yobbo. All in all, it's tough being a foreigner whereever you are, but Japan isn't that bad at all compared to other countries.

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In the most recent incident, for example, the commuter probably had no idea that I was a foreigner.

I don't know if Ron was the problem or if it as the other commuters. I was a witness to a similar altercation on the Inokashira line, where an old man actually threw a punch at a middle-aged business man who refused to let him squeeze through the door and onto the train.

In this case, I saw some Japanese bystanders placating the man who'd been swung at, though he (of course!) looked pretty angry and ready to show the old man a thing or two (and he could have, being fairly large for a Japanese).

I usually question this sort of account as well, but this time, the only thing I would ask is if Ron is of Japanese ethnicity, though native to Canada? That's the only way I could understand his xenophobia comment.

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This reminds me of a personal experience about 10-12 years ago on the Odakyu Line. I was coming home from work and the train was packed. I was pushed into a corner by the tide of people and left facing the wall. I drew in my arms to try and get some space, but it was no good. Anyway, the train starts moving and three young Japanese guys behind me start doing some "freelancing," taking turns jabbing me in the kidneys. I could see their reflection in the window and they were having a great old time, laughing. Everytime the train leaned one way or the other, a short-arm punch was being delivered. They were also jabbering away, about "foreigner this, foreigner that" in the belief that I could not understand Japanese. What they didn't realize, however, was that because it was winter, I was wearing about 5 layers of clothing. Moreover, most of the kidney punches were being deflected by my belt. Anyway, I toughed it out for about 20 minutes until we came to a certain station where there was an out-pouring of humanity. At last, I was able to get my arms free and expand my chest. The "rocket scientists" must have assumed that I had been carried off with the current of people getting off at the station. They were more concerned with grabbing a seat. Anyway, I ended up standing in front of them (they were sitting down). It was probably at about that time that they realized I am about 117cm around the chest, despite being just over 170cm tall. These guys started XXXXX themselves. Moreover, they started off with hand signals and rudimentary English accusing each other of punching me. It would have been sad if I was not so upset. To cut a long story short, just before my station there is a bit of a vicious curve where trains always tend to severely lurch, they knew it and I knew it.....

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The only violence I have ever witnessed in trains in Japan was a young boy hitting his sister on the head with the palm of his hand 3 or 4 times. It wa the Inokashira line.

Maybe I am not frustrated enough in my every daylife to get into more trouble?

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Whenever cases like this come up there always seem to be two camps, and nowhere in between:the foreigners who come forward with similar stories that they've encountered numerous times, and the foreigners who have had nothing but good experiences in Japan and therefore immediately assume the others are lying or the cause of the problem and claim they are the ones to blame.

I've been the victim of a similar crime once, and several less serious situations many times. I sometimes wish I could see pictures of victims of such violence and extreme discrimination in Japan, and pictures of those who have nothing but positive experiences here. I think it might give some insight into things. I know most people aren't going to agree with this, but I think if you are a big, intimidating-looking, "American" male (doesn't matter where you are actually from) there is actually more chance you'll be discriminated against or assaulted by a drunken ojisan, than if you were a small blonde-haired young female (or male).

I'm making huge generalizations here, I know. But I think there is something to that. For me there definitely has been. I don't do anything particular to look intimidating or to attract negative behavior, but there's been no shortage of it. And I have plenty of friends who do nothing in particular to look sweet and innocent in the Japanese eye, and have had a wonderful life here.

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Wow. This sounds rough and completely uncalled for just like the last five times you were assaulted(common thread?). On the other hand you admit to not be able to speak Japanese, even after being here 3 years, yet digress into a diatribe that includes a slanted opinion and stats pulled from the web. I think you should really stop playing the woe is me foreigner and try to understand the country you're living in.

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Mr. Scott.....what's the deal? You were involved in 6 acts of violence in a 3 year period? I've been here roughly 10 years and have seen only a couple cases and they all involved Japanese on Japanese. Sure, last year an older Japanese guy hassled me while passing at a crosswalk but, hey, I got over it. Think about why you seem to be having all sorts of problems here. Japan can be stressful for sure, so if it's too much for you I don't think anyone is forcing you to be here. Good luck though, you look like you need some.

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Some legal, and common sense advice from me to you:

Don't talk about stress as if you were Japanese and mindless of the inexcusable daily conditions of the packed train.

People packed in like animals will come to blows.

File a suit for damages against the Odakyu line. They run the trains over capacity with flagrant disregard for passenger safety and this negligence caused your injuries.

Whether you were totally blameless here is irrelevant, and all the readers know that that these conditions exist and that punch-ups on the train are so common as to warrant posters in the stations urging the peace-loving locals to knock it off.

Let me know how it goes.

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Are you sure you didn't release any 'gas' when your rump was pressed against him? This appears to be a very rare/isolated/unfortunate incidence and provided there was no deliberate aggravation on your part, the guy is a nutter.. but you should have had the balls to give him what he deserved on the platform once he got off.. and then split. Never involve any of the station staff or the police as you will find them very unhelpful, and like another person commented, may get you into trouble because you are a gaijin. Unfortunate, but true. I lived in Tokyo for 9 years(now Hokkaido, God bless) and had my fair share of 'alterations' commuting on crowded trains. Like any other gaijin who has experience living in Tokyo will agree, for the most part Japanese commuters are polite and will put up with all manner of discomfort and annoyances in the 'sardine can' - Back home there would be fights going left, right and center if the crowds were like the ones on central Tokyo trains. Having said that, Japanese(or more specifically, Tokyo) society being what it is, there are always some who will erupt with violent outburts like the one you describe here. It's true, some Japanese workers are under considerable stress and lack an 'acceptable' means in which to release it - Some of them crap their pants and do something stupid. Some cast their lots in front of trains, others lash out at bystanders, and others go to soaplands and the likes to 'release' the tension on some poor high school girl saving to buy a Prada handbag. Learn to recognise the twisted ones on the street(or in the train, as it may be) and keep the hell away. They aren't so hard to spot. Look for connecting eyebrows and guys with fruit down their pants. Better still, stay away from male Japanese businessmen in general - They are a weak, mummied, mixed-up bunch with skeletons and closets too small to contain them. Over.

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if you come to Japan, learn simple Japanese. A simple "sumimasen" to the person would have shamed him into moving his arm. Odakyu line is terrible and I understand your anger, but don't take it out on Japanese. I have been using that line for 12 years, and never had a problem. (And I'm not the smallest of people) Also your 15 minute ride had several stops from point A to point B. Why didn't you move? Did you expect him to move? Stop bitc%ing. Just get along with people.

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Gaijin whining like this is what makes me completely adverse to reading Metropolis magazine.

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I remember an incident I had once similar to this, all I wanted to do was get home without spilling my Supa dry and there he was this little, neku tie suit clad angry pereson, he just had to give it to me. U know the cold stare, mean eyes they call it from down south, no good ever comes of it. Getting all ruffled up and that. Finally things came to a head, as Ron found out they sometimes do. Broke three bones in my hand on his fat head and had to jump the tracks and jump the fence. Spilt my beer too.

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Oh, BTW, I agree with keshii, no good whining about it and no good letting a good smashing chance go to waist. Next time Ron, get in there and show some balls! Whats the worst that can happen, get hit again and bleed some more? Give those punters on the platform something to talk about when they get home. Nothing like a good Gaijin story to get the Missus all hot to trot.

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I thought your story was very well written you are obvisouly well educated, but dude dont complain about in a on-line forum. one of the most basic instincts is to defend your self. Next time write a forum about how you showed some man-hood, and punched him back. About your #'s of assaults do keep in mind that those are only the assaults that got reported! Like in your case hear no evil see no evil. Dont be a punching bag. Purchase a punching bag learn a quick combo, and next time dont let someone punk you out like that.

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Seen a lot of these cases. The foreigner is to blame in 99% of them. You are a guest in Japan, remember that.

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Yeah busting a few heads are not worth it. First of all the "law" is in favor of the one with the most injuries, I guess your not allowed to defend yourself. Second its not worth the 10 to 20 days in Jail however I really enjoyed the vacation.

But as with the 4 guys that thought they were tough I'll say it again. If your going to swing at me make sure you connect with me and not my wife.

Sadly 4 drunk " I wish I was a Yak" guys started harassing me and my wife. Don't worry my Japanese is as good as theirs and my witty insults back to theirs was about all they could take. One of them decided it was time to strike out and did he. As he swung at me he lost his balance striking my wife in the face. SO after the one punch KO to him and merciless abuse to two others one ran for the cops. Now I was at gyotoku station with plenty of witnesses to this and many spoke up to my defence. In fact the cops were going to let me go until the paramedics examined one punch and noticed that I had put his eye out and broke his cheek bone.

The interrogations were a joy as I had a Chinese girl trying to translate even though I was fine with the Japanese interrogation. The prosecutor was more in favor of me and went out of his way to call my employer and explain the situation. However as I had done the most damage I was sent to jail for 10 days with Asahara sitting next to me. The judge who I never saw released me on a 200,000yen bond forfeited for restitution to the court and I didn't have to pay any medical expenses.

Would I do it again IN A HEART BEAT, would I tell someone else to do it NO, I would say roll with the punches especially if you are unable to communicate fluently.

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Next time, punch back, but use the palm of your hand, not your knuckles. Use your free hand to pull his head toward you. Go for the nose. Scream as loud as you can.

If someone starts shouting at you, an uppercut to the chin will shut him up.

You also need to work on your "my gun is always loaded" look. This has become my natural expression and I haven't had any trouble since I've started using it.

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DXXJP - "Don't worry my Japanese is as good as theirs and my witty insults back to theirs was about all they could take"

Could you please teach us one of your witty insults ( in romaji please, for those JT readers who don't have Japanese software / can't read Japanese )? Thanks.

anderstungtwist - Or, just stun 'em with your phaser.

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Hello thats Bad that it happened firt of all id like to tell all the dummies who gave a negitive responce To think if it was your mom or sister on a Train. ""keshii writes ""Gaijin whining like this"" what an idiot! hoppfully soon youll get Punched in the face, also keeep in mind it could have been a "zainichi" / Korean person to, its True alot of Foreigners do commit crime usually Chinese or Korean cause they Blend in easyer. this shouldnt be tolerated anywhere

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This doesn't surprise me. I've done over 5 years in Japan and I think people have got ruder and more aggressive in that time.

Travelling round Tokyo especially, you see a lot of stressed out, miserable people. I certainly get wound up at times by the crushes on trains, the pushing and the shoving, and the constant looking at the watch stressing about whether you're going to make it to where you're going on time.

I think most Westerners get the feeling when they first come here that it's really safe. When you're out and about on the street, the general atmosphere feels a lot milder and less threatening than the West. Because of this, people tend to throw caution to the wind. However, with a bit of time and experience in Japan, you can see that there's other things going on beneath the "mild" exterior.

A lot of the social problems you hear so much about back home are happening here too, and are only going to get worse. Japan might still be SAFER than a lot of places, but it's not SAFE.

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How typical that some posters called the writer names and blamed him for the incident in spite of the fact that he was the one assaulted. There's a particular type of long-term resident who in their attempt to become "more Japanese than the Japanese" will always suspect the foreigner regardless of what actually occurred. This piece is not an attack on Japan or Japanese people. It's simply an account of a disgusting and cowardly act which should never have taken place. Although "six accidental run-ins with violence" in three years does sound like a lot, I know first hand that this type of stuff does happen, and that as a foreign resident, you have very little recourse, legal or otherwise, when it does.

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I was assaulted twice, not seriously thank goodness, on Japanese trains. Once in Kansai and once in Tokyo. Overcrowded trains are easy breeding places for violent behavior. The good thing is that they are not as violent as they could be.

By the by, editors, you forgot to give this poor writer his byline!

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Oh yes, I also agree with I rock. The poster who begins his posting with, "Mr. Scott.....what's the deal?" is unfortunately typical of the sort of bootlicking Japanophile that this country and this world could do without. What's the deal? indeed. The man was socked in the face.

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I love how these works of fiction get so many posts. They really keep the xenophobe card going. A gaijin that is afraid to stand up for himself. After the jabs in the butt you think you'd practice your japanese you learned in class. I bet Metropolis Magazine and JT are somehow related. Both trash. but I love learning news and getting a bit of trash at the same time. I used to read the National Enquirer at one time in my life too just for laughs. The internet has made it ever so much more enjoyable however because now I can write back.

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Everyone seems to think the police will never help a foreigner here, and that they will always side with a Japanese, but it's not true. It's just a matter of selective perception. it's like hot air ballooning: you only hear about the accidents in the media, not about the countless trips that went free of any incident.

I had a fist fight with some drunk Japanese who head butted me in the face and busted my lip because I scolded him for systematically kicking over each and every bicycle on the block. The police came, recognized him as the wrong-doer and locked him up for a few days until he compensated me for broken glasses and a torn shirt.

But most people feel compelled to write a 'gripe story', when things don't go their way, so we hear a disproportionate number of 'innocent victim' stories and fewer 'happy customer' stories.

Maybe a small percentage of police here hate all foreigners, and maybe a small percentage of police worship foreigners...but most, just like the rest of the population, lie somewhere between those extremes.

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My advice: Avoid confrontation. This is very hard for Americans to do, because we grow up watching these John Wayne BS movies where the good hero teaches the bad guys a lesson, but in reality you risk injury, jail, legal trouble, job trouble or even death. Your ego is the enemy--violence just isn't worth it. If someone is jabbing you, getting yourself away from that person would be the sensible thing to do.

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As soon as you get elbowed, shout and let yourself be respected. If they punch me in the face, I'll punch back I know it, then I'll think about the consequences. This is not an advice, it's just to have guts.

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The cowboy response from some is just evident of the manifold deficit that exist here in maturity. It is just not worth getting into a fight with anyone regardless of the circumstance. Remove yourself from the situation as quickly as you can

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First, I apologize to you as the Japanese. Second, I agree with Lamarr's opinion. Atmosphere of society of Japan is getting stiff and cold day by day. Everyone including me are irritable about something. Some people say that has been caused by the policy of former prime minister Koizumi. Koizumi and Mitarai who is leader of business circle had broken warm society of Japan. (Mitarai is also president of Canon). I expect government of LDP will break down.

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Yet another example of violence on a Japanese train. I also travel each day in these human sardine cans, and experience the terrible rudeness of the Japanese people. It makes me angry when I hear people say that Japanese people are polite - they may have been polite in the past, but the politeness has gone, and been replaced by selfish hedonism, hatred and violence. This applies to the majority these days, at least in Tokyo. It matters not if its a well-heeled lady in a very expensive kimono - the lack of common decency and manners is appalling. A lot of the hatred and resentment is towards foreigners, but it runs much deeper than that. Japan is a sick society, and getting worse with each passing year. The homeless people living in Ueno Park and along the banks of the Edogawa are perhaps the lucky ones. They dont have to venture into the human jungle each day on those trains.

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It's normal that people will get more irritable as their lives get more stressful. Cities become more crowded and lonely, jobs become less secure and less satisfying, and people are less considerate of each other. This is happening in many places, not only Japan.

In Japan, people's anger and frustration gets bottled up because it's wrong to openly show your frustration. Although it's no justification for it, this is why the guy on the Odakyu line reacted the way he did.

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I used to say japan is about 15 years behind the states. Wait if they had guns then we would have train rage.

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Ron,

Sorry you had to have experienced that. There are obnoxious people like that everywhere, and the fact that the guy ran shows he is just a coward.

Next time take a picture of the offender with your cell phone or iPod Touch. That will definitely put the fear of the unknown into him, and give them cause to think before he pulls a "smack and run" next time.

Your not retaliating was probably wise, not only in Japan but in the States and UK cops are quick to take someone into custody and ask questions later. (I don't know about Canada.)

Getting off of the train and reporting the incident to the nearest Koban might not have been a bad idea, provided you did not reek of alcohol.(I'm not suggesting you were drinking. Just that police take a person a lot less seriously when they reek of booze.)

Having said that, Japanese cops are a good lot, and are duty-bound to report and investigate all legitimate complaints no matter the nationality of the reporting part. The guy might have been waiting in a taxi line or at a bus stop, and you could have nabbed him.

I would still report it to the police and get it on the record. People usually repeat their daily patterns and odds are the guy lives on the Odakyu-ensen and probably in the area of the station he got off at. Therefore you may spot this guy again, on the same day of the week around the time the original incident happened. If you do and the incident is on the record, you can then let the police take care of him. Odds are the guy is a trouble-maker and probably has had some kind of contact with the police before.

You may still be able to catch this guy and even get just compensation. If they do find him and arrest him they can hold him for two periods of 10 days each without releasing him on bail. They usually do this as a means of bringing about "wakai" on the part of the offender to the offended party. This "wakai" arrangement is informal and generally involves the offender agreeing to pay the offended party compensation. This helps both parties avoid civil litigation, and lets the police release the guy without charging him, which saves them time and money. They are satisfied, you get some sort of compensation, and the guy gets off without going to jail. (Although the arrest record and "wakai" agreement are kept as part of the record by the police.)

What would you pay to avoid jail time if you were guilty of a crime against another?

That's my 2 cents for what its worth.

That's my 2 cents for what it's worth.

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That's bad, but why did you get a mouth guard? Will you buy a helmet or full body armor next time you're punched in another part of your body?

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I also travel the Odakyu line and sympathize with Ron. I have seen many scuffles on the subways, many on the Odakyu line, some on the Inokashira line. It's mostly between the Japanese, occasionally directed towards me, and for the first time in 17 years I had a young gaijin punk have a go at me while attempting a hostile takeover of the same spot as me on a train which was already 400% full.

I don't understand why Ron didn't just walk away from this loser jabbing him in the side. We all know it is the gaijin in Japan who will come out worse from any altrication regardless of who started it. To avoid situations like these you need to 'know' the Japanese treat riding that particular train at that particular point in time, despite another coming behind it in 2 mins, as a situation of life or death - like many things in Japan do not attempt to understand it ... you won't ... ever!

There is no shame in adopting a submissive stance or walking away from an agressor, whether he/she is right or wrong.

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AndyBaker you are right, walk away, stand down, disengage and retain your dignity. What on earth are you going to prove by pushing back. I am 190cm tall and somewhat fit for my age. I have almost in every situation of this type walked away and I have felt better for it the next day. Restraint is a respectable and courageous disposition, it empowers, enlightens and calm the soul

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hey people,

I suggest those of you who hate the rush hr trains try to do like I did, start looking for a way to work outside the big smoke, I did & life is great, have a big house nice garden, can you say BBQ!, out on my deck, & a leasurely 20-25min commute by car to the office, always get a nice seat, and now I enjoy going into Tokyo on occasion & I rarely ever have to ride the sardine cans, what a world of difference, no one can pay me enough to ride those inhumane trains again they wud have to hire me a driver.

I urge you folks to look at the alternatives before those train rides turn you into one of those pyschos we have all seen looking like the living dead!

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Punched in the face, plasters for a bloody nose from an old geezer ... We're missing something here. This is not the full story. Was Ron wasted? Was Ron pushing back? Did Ron stay in aforesaid position when he could have moved (e.g. when the doors opened at the next stop and theres a bit of slack)? Did Ron use offensive language? Was the guy even Japanese?

Ron, next time, walk away (and walk tall) or act early - say "gomen nasai" loudly and clearly so that the 'offender' sees that other people know about the situation and that it's not your fault. It's unlikely he'll want to look like a jerk in front of others because you've just embarrassed him. Or go for the double and do both.

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I was recently the victim of a random act of violence

What an understatement, it was most likely a racially motivated purge of frustration. Why is the author so modest about this encounter? As a minority it is well within his right to make a live issue that this incident is likely to have been a racist attack. The bastard hit him in a public place in front of many witnesses, he would only do that if he subjectively thinks the victim is of little social dignity that mainstream society wouldn't give a crap him because of his race. Therefore it is an offence against both Ron's bodily integrity and self-esteem. I hate to see minority groups acting like they can't do anything but accept that this is the way it must be Japan. If any of you think that you've come under racial abuse at first instance, don't doubt, do what you think is just and lawful against the threat. As Ron says that witnesses to his attack were quiet and pretended that they didn't see anything which is typical of the Japanese. They will also be unlikely to speak out against how you would react as well. So don't despair!

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Here's the video from the event I'd mentioned earlier. Excuse me, it was not the Inokashira line, but actually Osaka.

http://www.veoh.com/matureContentVerification.html;jsessionid=043FDC9BEEDDB80A7B8F0E967360AF2B?permalink=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.veoh.com%2Fvideos%2Fv8026199Yex3N5C3%3Fconfirmed%3D1&noAd=false

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Sorry, it didn't post correctly/ completely. Let me try again.

http://www.veoh.com/videos/v8026199Yex3N5C3

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I used to live on the DenenToshi line and on a few occasions fights broke out between Japanese Commuters. Sometimes it was nothing more than a shove, other times punches have been thrown.

A couple of times people tried it on with me and I've found that a good hard stare is enough to make most people back down and think twice about what they do next.

Having said that, if I was getting into a situation where that happened to me every few months then I'd probably think about what I was doing to create such a reaction. It's not random if it's regular.

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saw agreat cat fight once at kamiyacho - funniestthing was watching all the salary men walking round the two girls pulling each others hair!

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I have never been in a situation like this myself; most likely because I am almost 200cm tall and I can be very intimidating; But, I have had people try to push me around on the trains. I could understand what happened to you because I have seen it done before but I have spoken up to stop it. I may not try to use force but just a simple word or phrase can help the situation. I have noticed this too much in Japan. Not one person will lend a hand or even bother to notice what is going on. I know for a fact that if this same situation was in the US, the attacker would be in the hospital/jail for a few days. Japanese people have become very soft and it can be depressing at times. Just a few people can stop a big problem. Now, I'm not saying you should stick your head into every situation. But a situation like this or the rapes on the bullet trains could have been prevented if someone would have stood up against those people. These people will realize in that split second that they are in the wrong and will correct themselves or other people with correct them.

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You should have chased the guy off the train and kicked the ever living crap out of him. I would have risked a night in the slammer for that!

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I remember seeing an elbowing guy on the Keio line. It isn't too far off the Odakyu track. The incident was maybe two years ago or more. The whole, this is my elbow space seems very familiar. I wonder if it is the same agry ass. He was rather large and had the Yak look。

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When I first came to Japan a few years back a chikan thought he could touch me. I just reacted like I would at home, started shouting at him and calling him a pervert. He got off at the next stop, and all the other passengers either ignored me or gave me evil looks, so I didn't try to report it. If it happened now I would go to a koban and report it.

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"he pulled back, punched me in the face"

I would have made sure he felt some pain if he had done that to me.

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Patrick exactly. The foreigner in japan is ALWAYS guilty, no matter what. I've even heard it said that the foreigner has to accept that he will be demasculated in japan as he CANNOT fight back.

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If, as people are implying, the non-Japanese here get imprisoned even for self defence and for fighting back. Isn't it about time we used our consulates ? As an example, the guy who wrote this article could still report the incident to his embassy, to the police and to the Oedo line.

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In fact, this was my sixth accidental run-in with violence since arriving in Japan three years ago,

I stopped reading here. Another frustrated J-illiterate.

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Actually Japan sees BOTH parties as guilty, considering that 98% of situations are fights and not self-defense. Big legal difference.

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Don't be the weak docile cuddly little gaijin that they all want to see. If somebody hits you, defend yourself for christ's sake.

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Don't be the weak docile cuddly little gaijin that they all want to see. If somebody hits you, defend yourself for christ's sake.<

This is exactly the type of advise that will land you in jail. I could get into a rant.

Self defense is a guy hitting you out of the blue without warning and unexpected. Anything verbal, etc before that is a fight. Don't matter who landed the first bunch. If you can walk away than the altercation is finished, don't do it you are just as guilty as the other party.

Short answer.

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I am lucky that I have never experienced this, helps being tall, well built and intimidating looking (so Japanese people tell me anyway). I have had few try to shoulder barge by, I just tense up and hold my ground and let them bounce off. Mostly trouble stays away from me, thankfully.

can we call this incident 'train rage'?

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I rode the Odakyu line for years and never saw an incident as you've described. We always used to do the "Sagami? Oh no!" bit every morning because of the crowd coming from Enoshima, but there was no avoiding it. Of course that was about a decade ago and things in Japan have been changing rapidly. I'm amazed at the lack of civilized behaviour any more. But at 320# and build like a linebacker I usually get given a little extra room. Beyond that as gaijin there isn't much you're going to be able to do about it. A good stomp on the foot followed by profuse apologies might work but in this case I don't think you had the chance. Much beyond that and you are going to wind up in jail for sure.

Hope things get better.

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I on the other hand have some connections so I would have taken my chances and messed him up. Probably would have followed out of the station hoping he would cut down a nice quiet side street.

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usaexpat- good to see that not all gaijins in japan have turned into weak pathetic little dancing bears then! Someone with a backbone, how refreshing to see.!

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shame to see some foreigners here regarded as either

Another frustrated J-illiterate or the equally charming weak pathetic little dancing bears like that izzit? My Dad can beat up your Dad,I have been in Japan longer than you and you cant come to my birthday party (and we are having jelly and ice cream na na naaaa na na) you need a good slap yourselves

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The commuter in the seat next to the door had decided that getting a seat wasn’t enough — he also wanted the metal railing next to the seat as his elbow rest.

This alone would've smelled like trouble right from the start, Ron. Maybe acting crazier than crazy people on trains might help. Sometimes it doesn't, you really have to call the station employees, I know I do it every time something weird happens, whether I've seen it or have been harassed myself. BTW I'd like to know where I can find pepper spray.

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"The police, by and large, are ambivalent about these kinds of crimes—and seemingly even more so when foreigners are the victims."

Not when the role is reversed, and the foreigner is the perp and the J-Citizen the victim. At any rate, I've dealt with more than a few rude passengers, pushing their way through an extremely overcrowded train, the jabs in the sides, the rear, and even the front from someone who was disgruntled. I'm not sure what I'd have done had soemone punched me in the face; I do know what I'd do if anyone ever punched or in any other way mistreated my wife (since I'm not in jail, it stands to reason that that hasn't happened yet).

At any rate, most of the jabs, secret slaps, and disgruntled and impolite pushing passengers get the same thing that the evil-eyed, ultra-nationalist (and ultra-old, usually) passngers get frm me: a smile, and a turning of the other cheek. Again, these aren't deliberate punches to the face, but I'd like to think that the Lord'd give me the grae to let even a sock in the looker go. After all, I have found that retaliation in any culture or country is never wise. Here in Japan, the foreigner who retaliates usually gets the limelight in the crime section of the news....

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been here 25 years, never been in a fight, never seen a fight, never seen anyone ever get punched... in fact I have never seen any of the above overseas either. Must be because I don't hang out in the middle of Tokyo after midnight and seldom go by places like Shinjuku. All I can say is at least very very few people carry guns or knifes in Japan and I can still feel safe after dark in the subways, most back streets, bars, taxis, etc which is more than I can say for any other major city except perhaps Helsinki or Auckland which is small small small in comparison.

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"been here 25 years... never seen a fight, never seen anyone get punched"

I was here no more than a month or two when I saw 2 drunks punching each other.

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been here 25 years, never been in a fight, never seen a fight, never seen anyone ever get punched... in fact I have never seen any of the above overseas either. Must be because I don't hang out in the middle of Tokyo after midnight and seldom go by places like Shinjuku.

Early to bed, early to rise ... that's the way to live.

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Ive enjoyed reading all the comments on this thread. I realised that I am not the only one facing the menacing throngs of depressed Japanese each day! In my experience, apart from an incident involving two Japanese thugs and a young Japanese schoolboy, the 30 year old women are the worst. Ive seen women chikan in action on the trains, and one woman attempted to push me off the train one evening. When she failed, she then tried the jabbing in the ribs technique. Another one refused to budge when I asked her to move her a$$ a bit (she was taking up two seats) so that I could sit down. I persisted, and won that one, much to her consternation. Then again, we have probably all experienced the "dont sit next to the gaijin" syndrome, too. What a wonderful place!

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Oh man, don't start me on the 'don't sit next to the gaijin' thing ! Most recently happened to me on the Oedo Line as well just a week ago. Average looking 20-something girl sat down in the one free seat next to me and when the seat to her right became free a little later she almost jumped into it, despite there being some other man in the seat next to that. What is it with that ? It was so obvious. It is honestly like they cannot bear sitting next to a foreigner.

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The problem is that if you retaliate you will be arrested. It happened to a close friend. He was kicked and twice punched before throwing one punch back. 18 days later he was freed from the slammer after finally agreeing to pay damages of 400,000-yen to his assailant. In the meantime he had lost his job of course.

Similar thing happened to someone I know, he got into a tussle - no punches thrown - with a bar owner and ended up paying out a similar amount of money because he wouldn't apologize to the guy.

That's the way it works in Japan, they come down heavily on any kind of aggression.

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been here 25 years, never been in a fight, never seen a fight, never seen anyone ever get punched... Lucky you! Been here 18 years and the only bit of excitement I have experienced (without my dog) was what I mentioned at the top of this thread. Then again, I have seen the locals go at it a number of times, including one really vicious 2-on-1 head-kicking event early one morning. Having read most of the posts here, however, I am inclined to support the notion that as much as possible, you should try and not to loose your cool. At the same time, however, I would urge everybody to use their best judgement.

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fortunately being 6ft4 I`ve never encounted such a thing, but can imagine how not one person around this guy would even acknowledge something actually happened..

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What odd responses from a lot of people. Complaining about getting an unprovoked punch in the face can never be described as "whining" in my book. I suspect such comments come from those who would actually complain the loudest if it happened to them.

In my view much of the problem stems from the deluded view of the world that Japanese people often seem to have - i.e. that Japan is 'safe' and that any other country (by varying degrees) is, by definition, 'unsafe'. Consequently, some people think that they can act with impunity here, even in cases where they are attacking somone who has the potential to give them a serious beating in return. Possibly they are emboldened by the assumption that their victim may not be able to explain himself and that nobody would stick up for them if they did protest. Funnily enough though, I have seen the same assumption in a tiny handful of gaijin here over the years - the belief that they can say what they like, take advantage of the relative safety of Japan and be the kind of obnoxious, offensive loudmouths that would soon be silenced in their home countries. Trust in karma, however - eventually someone teaches all of these people a lesson.

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f'n'c -

Complaining about getting an unprovoked punch in the face can never be described as "whining" in my book.

Assuming that it is unprovoked. Mr. Scott tells us this happens to him with surprising regularity, leading some of us to surmise that maybe it wasn't as unprovoked as he would like us to believe. I find it very hard to believe that someone simply minding his own business is going to have an 'accidental run-in with violence' six times in the space of three years. There's something Mr. Scott isn't telling us. Maybe he doesn't even know what it is himself.

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i am using odakyu everyday too. i have seen thing similar to what Scott said quite number times, all of them are japanese vs japanese.

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Cleo, I have to comment based on the assumption that the author is telling the truth and not making this up. In any case, if Ron Scott didn't hit him or grossly insult this person, then he certainly didn't deserve to be hit in the face.

I agree that the regularity with which he claims to have been involved in physical incidents seems to be high, but I have no experience of the Odakyu sen and the standard of behaviour on Tokyo's various lines does seem to vary.

My point is that my Japan experience of several years bears out most of the points made in this article. Some Japanese men do seem to have what would be an almost suicidal urge to pick on people who in other places - on the Tube in London, for example - would quite probably return the gesture "with interest". I have never suffered a serious assault on the Tokyo subway, but I have had some none-too-disguised digs in the ribs from salarymen of limited stature who - presumably denied by mediocrity from promotion to head of widget sales - have nothing greater to prove in their day than their physical prowess by shoving people, including women, when on trains.

While I don't think he's trying to point out that Japan is genuinely a threatening or dangerous place in general terms, what Ron Scott has illustrated is that this isn't the super-polite, deferential and safe society that many non-residents still tend to assume it is. I actually think people in Japan are polite out of habit and training, and in fact when it comes to dealing with unknown people in public are often profoundly inconsiderate. Physical violence, while obviously worse than rudeness or mere inconsiderate behaviour, is just one logical step beyond this stage.

[disclaimer: just back from lunch, during which two salarymen on the next table sparked up and started blowing smoke in my direction while I was eating. Not highly impressed]

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Fights do happen here, though it says a lot about Japan that all-out brawls don't occur on the train every morning. Herding a lot of overworked and overstressed salarymen into sardine can trains is gonna cause some friction occasionally, and then there's a sprinkling of aggressive raving weirdos who pop up occasionally.

I've never been close to getting in a fight here, but was jolted to my senses one morning when a couple of salarymen, one older, one younger, got into a tiff after exiting the ticket gates. A bump in the wrong place escalated into an elbowing match, followed by full-out slugging each other in the face several times, sending both their glasses flying. The younger one beat a retreat, the older guy retrieved his glasses and stamped on the pair that the other dude left behind.

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I'm not suggesting that Mr. Scott is not telling the truth. I'm sure he is telling the truth as he sees it. I'm simply saying I don't think it's the whole story. Maybe there's something in his attitude or actions that gets people the wrong way. (Not dissimilar to the tale of the two Singapore ladies 'roughed up' by the police in Shinjuku Station, except in that case it was pretty clear to anyone reading the article that the ladies' behaviour was less than exemplary).

I'm not saying that all Japanese are ultra-polite. Some are downright rude. But if I can live here three decades without a single 'accidental run-in with violence', I have to take claims of 6 encounters in three years with a pinch of sodium chloride.

Smoking nincompoops - If you were sitting in a non-smoking area, you could have complained to the management.

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Revisiting the article, one thing I'll say is that the first sentence represents a poor choice of words. This may have been an unjustified attack, but it was not a "random act of violence" - because by Ron Scott's own account prior to the punch there had already been some interaction between the attacker and himself. A truly random act of violence would be when one person attacks another with no interaction and no reason whatsoever. It seems to me that Ron Scott's attacker had his reasons for doing so (relating to the elbow space issue), however reprehensible his subsequent actions may have been.

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I was in Japan for two weeks and witnessed a fight. It was at Tsukiji Fish Market between two workers. I blame the working environment which isn't very nice, which you'd realise if you went there.

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Damn tough call. Lots of good comments. Randomly being punched sucks, but I think you were the man in avoiding escalating. Imagine that A-hole who punched you must have a pretty crappy life and that may be your consolation. Anyways, strong guys don't have to show off like that. I recommend you start lifting and take up a martial art, then when you are punched you can say is that all you have pussy?

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well instead of modestly enduring the elbows I would have turned around no matter the strain it took and made him feel death from above with the coldest death stare you can imagine and a few retaliatory kicks to the shins. why are you a victim of random crime? you give off meek, weak, signals that get pounced upon by scummy predators like on the train that day. I don't so I do not get hurt. Being a alpha male is the only way to go.

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Think if you saw your face and had known you were caucasian probably wouldn't have done that.

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romulus3 best post mate! I agree totally. These crazy type dudes home in on weakness. Something happens to gaijin when thay come to japan. They seem to turn all effeminate, weak, placid and pathetic. I guess they feel they will be accepted by their japanese masters that way. But in fact, the effeminate male is despised.

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WMD

You know it! There is no need to go as far as Batman boxers did a few months back but a bit of dignity and self esteem goes a long way. People have to learn how to carry themselves and adjust to certain situations.

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I mean, if you are the type of person who allows someone to aggressively elbow you repetitively then you should expect a punch to the face. You the saying. Give and inch take a mile.

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errrr, that should be "you know the saying"

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Ron, I have had several things like this happen to me on the train, as well as just walking on the sidewalks here in Tokyo. The absolute worst one was when I was walking with my umbrella on the painted line for a sidewalk near my house I saw a business man coming near so I moved and he moved with me so we were eventually in each other's way. I stopped, and he wouldn't move so he punched me in the stomach- twice and kept walking! I screamed out "Don't you EVER treat a woman like that you #$% &&*#@" and then hit him over the head with my umbrella. This was UNCALLED for and random anger- mind you I'm a 30 something professional model, not some junky hoodlum or something I'm a woman and I should be respected. What if I was pregnant?

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In all of my four years riding the Odakyu at all hours of the night, I can't say that I've ever been in a car at 9:30pm on any day (or on any train line for that matter) that was as packed as you claim yours was. Just sayin'...

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Apparently, a lot of the people are suffering from Stockholm syndrome, in Japan. The writer was not criticizing the Japanese for being uncivilized, xenophobic brutes, in fact, he/she's being an optimist about it and treating such events as one off incidents that randomly happen while he/she is in Japan. Wth is wrong with you people, so ready to defend the Japanese people- just because you give them BJs, it doesn't mean they will treat you like friends, so instead of bashing the writer, how about lending a sympathetic ear and for those who have experienced the same thing, shame on you cowards, for not offering a empathetic perspective. Being a foreigner, not a tourist, working outside of the familiarity of home, can be severely stressful for some- I should know, I live in Newcastle Upon Tyne for 3 years, and in that time shit happens, case in point, some adolescents hurled at me rotten green apples on my way to the bus stop; thankfully, their deficient hand and eye coordination only makes their efforts laughable. Geez, aren't some people just butts- gaping butts, tired of sushi, ramen and soaplands, waiting to take in a Japanese in their asses just so they can become, for a moment slightly more Japanese- have some self esteem, you worms.

Thanks for sharing your experience writer, and yes, after 4 years, it's still a very relevant issue and it was a great read- not that I took pleasure from your misery, it was eloquently written. Anyways, I hope this hasn't happened in the 4 years after you wrote this- statistically, on average, you would have likely been battered another 8 times. In your shoes, I would have probably been too shocked to act immediately, but I would have definitely liked to punch him, then take him to the police station.

This comes late, and less profane and articulate than I would have liked, but seriously.

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