I could feel the awkward pressure against me, his bodily insistence that I move when moving was unnecessary; ample space awaited him in the other direction I discerned with a glance. If this were NY I would’ve thought he was a pickpocket or nutcase…but this is Yokohama, and the mere fact that he was touching me voluntarily was a red flag, in and of itself.
What the hell was he up to?
At the next station the doors slid open and more people filed in. I am accustomed to being surrounded by what has come to be known as the “Gaijin Perimeter” (a perimeter Japanese tend to place around some foreigners in their effort not to come into contact with them) whenever I ride the trains. Sometimes this perimeter is gaping, sometimes it’s pretty tight. The size varies from day to day but it’s generally there, and I’ve learned that anyone who dares to enter this perimeter usually has an agenda.
This guy certainly did.
Once the perimeter is breached, I’ve observed, then others will follow suit, as if the initial breacher had informed them using some secret Japanese masonic-like code, “come on in…the water’s warm!”
And, that’s just how it went this morning. People filed in, glimpsed me, in all my conspicuousness, hesitated (or froze causing a logjam) then, noticing the breacher’s rather close proximity to me, decided I must be relatively safe and bounded for any available space even if it brought them within the perimeter.
To my left was a High School girl, traditional uniform, skirt hiked up rather high but no higher than can commonly be seen on any given day during any season. She favored one of the kids who had graduated from my Junior High School a couple of years ago, but it definitely wasn’t her. She was writing a text to someone, her thumb a tiny blur. The space to my right, previously vacant, was now filled by an office lady, one of the Women in Black, the uniform for freshmen office workers here. My rear was occupied by the breacher.
As the passengers boarded, I could feel increased pressure on me. A couple of commuters wanted to get by the breacher to the vacant space on his left, but his hand was holding the strap over my shoulder with a grip that would impress an undertaker. So, they had to squeeze around him.
The red flag became a fire alarm! With not only the option of moving but the insistence that he do so coming from his fellow nihonjin, he wanted to stay close to me?! What the hell?!
I turned around for the first time to glance at this guy. In sync with the turn of my head, he upturned his face and took a closer look at the train’s ventilation system. It fascinated him. He’d never noticed before how intricate yet practical its design is…at least his expression said as much.
He was your typical salaryman, dark suit, striped tie, a little shabbily groomed but decent enough, 50-ish. He had a briefcase in his right hand and nothing in the left. Could he be a pickpocket? I couldn’t even imagine that if he were he would mark me as a target.
I turned and faced forward as the train pulled away from the station. I could feel his breath on my neck. It’s a very unusual feeling here, for me, to be breathed on. It smelled like this morning’s Nattoo, Miso soup, rice and fish…and I counted my blessings that I’m spared this torture most mornings (thank God for xenophobia…)
The school girl beside me suddenly almost dropped her cellphone. She caught it, glanced at me kind of coyly, brushed the hair out of her eyes, and went back to thumbing her message. Which reminded me I need to send a text to my student to confirm our lesson that night.Then, suddenly she jerked, slightly, like she’d been pricked with a needle she’d been expecting. She sort of half glanced behind her, like if she were checking the shoulder of her blue jacket for lint.
Suddenly it all fell into place. His position behind me, slightly to my left, and his resistance against being moved from the position he’d coveted. I had a pretty good idea what he was up to now. At least I thought I did.
At the next station, a good number of people got off. Some from my left headed by me for the door to my right. I watched peripherally as the breacher made way for them, actually exiting the car and standing on the platform. After the last departing passenger had exited, he let a few new comers board before him. Without him there within the perimeter attesting to my civility, the first few people of the new swarm hesitated then fled to available spaces as far from the perimeter as possible. Once he re-boarded and headed back to his position behind / beside me, attesting to the safety of the area within the perimeter, the swarm behind him closed in. Again he grabbed the strap over my shoulder and let the swarm push its way by him, like a man holding a tree branch just before the edge of a cascading water fall.
That was enough confirmation for me. He was Chikan…definitely.
The high school girl was still thumbing away apparently oblivious to the efforts this Chikan was making. I had actually been pushed closer to her so that now, involuntarily, I was up against her too. My left hand, which held my briefcase, was against her thigh. Once the train started moving again, I tried to switch my briefcase to my other hand so as not to be mistaken for the one enjoying this ride too much, but it was tightly wedged against her…as was his. Judging from his height and hers, his hand had to be wedged in the crack of her ass. And with the shortness of her skirt he was probably wedged under it. How convenient for him.
I glanced down but all I could see was her navy blue skirt…then, when the train jolted a little I caught a glimpse of her white lacy underwear and a yellow hand on or in them. I couldn’t tell which it was so quick.
I had to make a decision. How much did I want to be a good Samaritan? (It has become an issue since I’ve been living here and treated in a manner that makes me actually pause and question whether I should get involved or syougannai it and mind my business…)
The train braked hard and I thought to use this opportunity to switch my briefcase to my other hand…but before I could another idea just popped into my head. I decided to get involved.
Pretending to be thrown off-balance I thrust my briefcase between the guy and the school girl, knocking his hand away from its position. Then I grabbed the strap above the school girl and held on as tightly as he had. I could feel his effort to get me to shift back to my previous position so that he could do the same and resume, but I held fast. A few moments later the train jolted again and I felt a strong, sharp, determined elbow against my ribcage telling me, “move motherfucker, this is my catch of the day!” There was nothing passive about this guy.
The train was pulling into the station at that point so I relinquished my grip on the strap. As it slowed, sharply, the elbow that was against my ribs thrust into me…purposely, I suspect, but it could arguably have been an accident. It hurt, though! Hurt like it had been done by someone familiar with how to disable people with a blow. I turned around to face him but,as I did, he realized he hadn’t finished studying the ventilation system yet.
I took a strap again, urgently, like I’d lost my balance, only this time it was a strap on the other side of him, and in doing so I just missed elbowing him in the back of the head by inches. He’d ducked when I reached across him.
The doors opened and I watched him get off. I turned to check on the school girl, but she had queued to get off the train through another door. By the time I got to the platform the Chikan was nowhere in sight.
I see these guys maybe two or three times a week, here. It’s a plague on the trains. And, if I’m in the vicinity I usually intervene.
But sometimes if I’m feeling especially dehumanized, or so disgusted with the Japanese men on the train who are pretending to be unaware that the girl standing beside them is being flagrantly groped or molested, but ultra aware that they’ve maintained minimum safe distance from me…shit like that makes me wanna leave the Japanese to their own devices (Women-Only cars and Cameras on the trains…) which amount to mere stop-gap measures.
I think my cure works better! If these guys knew that any random commuter, male or female, Japanese or not, might make this day one they’ll regret, they might think twice.
Who is this guy, Loco, anyway? Click here!
PS: This is a re-post!