This morning, as I passed through the ticket gate, I could hear the train pulling into the station so I sprinted up the endless staircase taking the steps two at a time. By the time I reached the top the passengers had already boarded and as I rushed towards the nearest door the passengers facing my approach liked to jump out of their skin. I had to touch people a little to get on…something that was never really an issue until I came to Japan. Now I avoid it whenever I can… A woman on my left and a man in front of me decided this was entirely too close for comfort and hopped off the train running to the next door which was equally if not more packed.
This gave me a little breathing room so I was grateful for their iwakan. I needed it. Being a smoker, I was winded by my climb, full-tilt up Mt. Fuji jr., to catch this sucker.
I was facing the door. Someones briefcase was being shoved against me. I peeked left and right to see if there were any way he could put his briefcase where it wouldn’t be up against my back. Of course there was space. He was using as a barrier between us.
So I turned around to face him, daring him with a glare to put his briefcase against my stomach or chest. He didn’t dare. Rather he avoided looking at me and turned his body so that his shoulder was now wedged between us.
Actually, not typical…
Typically Japanese men are not even this aggressive. Japanese men that actually get physical with me scare me a little, to be honest. They behave as if they have something to prove. Like they know they ought to be intimidated by my size, or my strangeness, or even my color. But defiantly go against that inclination, somehow blaming me for producing the fear they feel. Of course all of this is conjecture based on my interpretation of body language, which I’ve learned since I’ve been living in Japan is notuniversal, so I could be misreading theirs. But, avoiding looking at me while directing a menacing stiff shoulder towards me, in my face vicinity…hmmmm, I wonder if some body language is universal.
Fortunately, the next stop was only 2 minutes away. I can ignore him for 2 minutes, I told myself. And then I can move. We pulled into the next station and I prepared to do just that. A good number of people got off including my aggressor. I wanted to trip him but I didn’t. I waited until they had all exited amid the line of passengers waiting to board…as Japanese etiquette decrees. Some of the waiting passengers scrutinized me and retreated to other lines extended before other doors, as, apparently, Japanese prudence decrees.
I took a deep breath of patience, boarded, and made my way to a strap near the corner to the right of the door between the cars. I whipped out my cellphone and started playing Tetris. I try not to look at Japanese people as often as I possibly can. It’s the only way I’ve learned to not start to really hate them. I know what they are going to do, that they really can’t control it…most of them. It’s instinctual like blinking when something is headed towards eyes, or ducking when something airborne approaches your head. It’s even predictable that one or two people might do something unusual like stand comfortably near me…like I’m a regular person. It happens often enough. I used to feel hope at those moments but it’s mostly fool’s gold. So I really don’t need to see it- the good nor the bad…Something inside me wants to see it…some feeling inside me wants to be felt… But in a self-therapeutic measure I’ve chosen Tetris over torture. I don’t need to play with that scab, rub that itchy eye, scratch that itch.
As the passengers boarded and the car became more and more densely crowded I noticed something peripherally that drew my attention away from my high scoring session with Tetris. A high school girl entered with a Salaryman on her tail practically glued to her. Maybe he was even holding her. I couldn’t see his other hand. Yappari, chikan, I thought.
I wasn’t far from him… They had been pushed along until they were practically standing behind me, separated by one man in-between us. I considered cockblocking, running a little interference. But, I was still fuming a little over the behavior around me and besides I actually hadn’t seen him do anything aside from be pressed against her and considering the compactness of the car, and all the pushing and shoving that goes on, it’s hard to distinguish between the incidental and the intentional. I moved a little to the left to see if I could catch a glance of his other hand. I could see her sailor uniform- her navy blue skirt -very short- rolled up high on her thighs. She wore the thick white socks bulging around her ankles and she was standing on the backs of her penny loafers, wearing them like house slippers. Her hair was bleach blond and long and the wire for her I-Pod snaked out of it.
I noticed there was another man on her left and he was closer to her than it appeared to be necessary. Or rather he didn’t appear to be trying to conspicuously stay away from her which is what half the Salarymen do when they are in close proximity to schoolgirls on crowded trains. They like to keep their hands where they can be seen at all times, in order to avoid any accusations or even suspicions. You’ll see them reading Manga (even if there is no room to do so smoothly they’ll have it almost pressed against their faces) sometimes they hold on to straps with two hands, cellphones are always held high so people can see, sometimes they even just play with their faces or put their hands to their mouths as they pretend to read advertisements…anything not to be mistaken for a chikan. Which makes chikan easier to spot. They are among the minority whose hands are not visible. And even from a rather close distance, this guys right hand was not visible. The first man’s hands I couldn’t see either but from his shoulder’s position I could tell he was doing something with his cellphone. Maybe I was wrong about him. The man between us suddenly opened his newspaper fully and began reading, only the top of his head was visible. This pretty much prevented me from seeing anything. He seemed to be unaware that he had accomplished this so I didn’t think anything of it.
At the next stop, a bunch of people got off. But the HS girl and her parasite remained, as did the other man. I could see her face for a moment. She wore heavy eyeliner and and long fake eyelashes and had really shiny glossy lips. She didn’t appear to be in any distress…but, like I mentioned, Japanese body language can be misleading. I turned away and noticed there was a long line to get on, so I decided I would use the surging boarding crowd to adjust my position and get closer to the girl and see what was happening and possibly in position to intervene. As I maneuvered to the spot where I would be pushed towards the girl if the surge had proceeded naturally, as I should have expected, upon seeing me, the surge diverged like a river around a rather large rock. A river of people pretending not to see me. Suddenly the river ran out of space and burbled awkwardly towards me like the tide lapping at the shore. I turned away from the door and faced towards the girl, the crowd lapping at my back. I couldn’t use the crowd to inch me in closer because they wouldn’t touch me. Great.
But, now I had a different angle and I could see what I couldn’t see from behind the guy reading the paper. The girl was hemmed into that location by the first guy who was still glued to her and appeared to be rubbing her breast through her white cotton sailor blouse while holding his cellphone against her, but I wasn’t 100%, and the second guy was still extremely close to her…and his hand was sliding up and down her thigh…of this I was sure. Two chikan!.
I’ve seen two chikan in a car before. The Saikyo line was infested with them. But, they always worked separately. These two…they seemed to know each other. They seemed to be complimenting one another, covering for one another. Of course the people around who could see what was happening more clearly than I were pretending to be oblivious. Then the guy with the newspaper moved slightly into my path again and I suddenly I realized something. The man with the paper had his back to the girl…and his paper was making it difficult to see clearly what was going on. Oh man! He was working with them, too!!! A three-man team, or was there another man? I started looking around for other possible accomplices…There was another guy on the right with a newspaper. It wasn’t opened and he seemed to be…I don’t know…solid, like a solid citizen. He was dressed as a Salaryman. In fact, they all were. There was nothing distinguishing them from regular Salarymen.
The first guy’s shoes were a bit worn down and the other guy, the thigh rubber, his sports jacket was a little threadbare, the guy with the Newspaper was flawless…maybe he needed a shave, and this new guy, his briefcase had seen better days. But that was it. Otherwise they were your typical everyday Salarymen.
I’m not a fool. I wasn’t about to play hero when there was clearly a gang at work here. I mean, shit, this is their country and their turf and all these cowardly fucks are just standing around, afraid of me, afraid of these three (or four or more) chikan plying their perverted trade right before their eyes. If they go out of their way to avoid touching me now I know they wouldn’t lift a finger to help me if I were dying, especially since they won’t even help the most helpless of their people, their women (or in this case adolescent.) So, I was tempted to just let it be…mind my business… to write the whole scenario off as one of those When in Rome…things the way many here have written chikan-ing off as one of those Shouganai things like atomic bombs and Perry’s Black Ships…
But was I allowing my experiences here in Kawaiiland to diminish my personal sense of common decency? Probably.
At the next station many people got off and another mob was waiting to get on, but Team Chikan hadn’t budged. In fact, even when people tried to get by they wouldn’t budge. The 4th guy with the newspaper had gotten off so there were at least 3. The crowd waiting to board took a gander at me as they prepared to board and I could see the distaste in their faces, the raw fear, the desire to evade…and it gave me an idea.
I quickly moved over to where Team Chikan was. The Newspaper guy only had one direction covered so without a good crowd encircling them they would not have the privacy they obviously desired. So I stood in the area which would have given them optimum cover and privacy, and the predictable Japanese went the opposite direction scampering as far away from me as they could. One man boarded, saw me, started finger fucking his face and then turned around and started walking backwards like he was a mentally challenged crab. A woman literally took to her heels and ran…maybe she owes me money, another man…etc, etc… I’m sure the chikan behind could see what was happening and the reason but I don’t think they knew I was doing it purposely. I turned so that I could see them and their hands. The first guy was sending an email or something on his cellphone but now that he had no cover and could be seen very clearly and easily, here in the gaijin perimeter I enmeshed them within, he lost his confidence and had released her breast. And the thigh rubbing second guy was looking at me like he suspected something. But his hands were nowhere near her thighs… And the newspaper guy, well, he just read his paper.
The girl looked exactly the same way she had when the chikan had had their hands all over her body…
…like it had never happened…
dou itashimashite (you’re welcome)