04 October 2011 ~ 43 Comments

The Cure for the Plague Of Japanese Perverts on the Trains

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.

Motherfucker!

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.

Fuck!

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.

Loco

Who is this guy, Loco, anyway? Click here!

PS: This is a re-post!

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43 Responses to “The Cure for the Plague Of Japanese Perverts on the Trains”

  1. Bill E. J. 4 October 2011 at 8:36 pm Permalink

    Thanks for writing about this. It’s a plague and nobody seems willing to talk about it. Shine a spotlight on it for the world to see. These guys are cockroaches and will scurry back into the safety of darkness.

    • Locohama 4 October 2011 at 8:42 pm Permalink

      You’re welcome! And thank you for the shout! Yeah, I’m sure more people must see this kind of thing all the time…I’m really surprised that there isn’t more on the English Japan blogosphere. Maybe this will get more people talking about this pervasive and under-addressed issue! (Though there is no shortage of posts about Ramen, shrines and Penis festivals…go figure) lol Guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

  2. Jen 4 October 2011 at 8:40 pm Permalink

    You have to be kidding me with this stuff. I would LOSE my mind if I was accosted in this way (either in your position or hers). So so creepy.

    I wonder if getting verbal vs. physical would be more effective and embarrassing for the creep. If in a loud voice (but not yelling) you essentially asked WTF is going on?

    Ugh. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this crap. I’ve only been in Tokyo for 6 months and have yet to be exposed to this but the stories are so common. :(

    • Locohama 4 October 2011 at 8:56 pm Permalink

      Thanks for the shout Jen!
      Yeah…losing my mind is not an option. I’m Loco as it is. (-; Probably verbal would be as effective, I would think. My point is however people get involved, they need to do something besides syougannai it. At least the Japanese government is trying to deal with it, in their way. And maybe there has been a reduction. I really don’t know the numbers. All I know is the number of occurrences I come across have not budged.

  3. Scroozle 4 October 2011 at 8:42 pm Permalink

    I don’t know if it’s a big problem here in Korea, since I don’t take the subways often enough. If I do see it happen in front of me though, I’m breaking the perp’s wrist.

    I admire your restraint.

    • Locohama 4 October 2011 at 8:51 pm Permalink

      Thanks Scrozzle! Yeah I don’t know much about the situation in Korea. But i do know that if I had broken his wrist odds are I would be the one doing time and not him. The legal system here is a laugh, Due process is definitely a Western Idea, Miranda means nothing…so i ain’t about to get into serious fisticuffs with the natives unless I have to…Thus I tried to clean his clock on the “oops, please forgive my elbow…it does that sometimes” tip. (-; Chances are someone would have recorded it on their celly and uploaded it to Youtube with the title “Wild Racist Black Guy assaults helpless friendly Japanese Man on crowded train for standing too close to him!” lol Damn I shouldn’t be so cynical…but It’s real up in here!

    • kathryn 5 October 2011 at 9:13 am Permalink

      We were discussing chikan at my language school and a lot of the Korean girls said it’s as common in Korea as it is in Japan.

  4. Noelle 4 October 2011 at 9:48 pm Permalink

    I just happened to “stumble upon” your post. I’m glad I don’t have to go through what that girl went through. Ugh. I don’t understand why she didn’t say anything or scream or kick or whatever. I’m not there. I’m in the US and if that happened to me, you can be sure I wouldn’t be quiet about it.

    • Locohama 5 October 2011 at 12:46 pm Permalink

      She was probably scared…too scared to do anything.
      Thanks for the shout Noelle!

  5. kp 4 October 2011 at 9:52 pm Permalink

    Well, done. I’ve not been in a situation where I had to decide whether or not to intervene. I’ve been in plenty of ultra jam packed trains where I made sure both my hands were holding overhead rails in plain sight just in case somebody in the area went groping.
    The ‘standing’ Gaijin Perimeter dosn’t exist on a crowded Tokaido line car…at least not that I’ve experienced. Definitely, the ‘seated’ Gaijin Perimeter does exist as the seat next to me will inevitably be the last one in the car to be occupied.

    • Locohama 5 October 2011 at 12:49 pm Permalink

      Thanks KP! yeah that standing perimeter is a tricky one to maintain…Usually someone breaches it and then the whole thing collapses.
      Thanks for the shout!!

  6. Kaley 4 October 2011 at 9:55 pm Permalink

    The moment I am fondled on a train is the moment someone is losing a finger. I’m not even joking. I am not above grabbing that hand and shouting at them in the middle of a crowded train. I stand out enough as it is.

    You are freaking amazing for doing what you did. Because the Japanese are definitely of the mindset of “ignore it and it doesn’t exist anymore because it doesn’t effect me.”

    • Locohama 5 October 2011 at 12:52 pm Permalink

      Thanks Kaley! you should teach a Chikan Self-Defense class here. (-; You could charge more than English private lessons and it’ll arguably do more good! Show japanese women how to do the Kaley Break A pervert’s Finger Style!

  7. Erica @ Expatriababy 4 October 2011 at 10:17 pm Permalink

    Oh, how awful. I’m frequently disturbed by the unwillingness to help others that is all too often displayed by some people here.

    I live in a smallish city in the south, and trains are never crowed enough for this to be a big problem here, so i have no experience with this problem (Though i have been gropped numerous times in other countries). I’m just curious, why wouldn’t someone in that situation just say something, quietly and calmly like, “hey, I see you touching that girl, you dirty old man”. Wouldn’t that be enough to embarrass him into better behavior?

    • Locohama 4 October 2011 at 11:49 pm Permalink

      Hey Erica! Thanks for the shout! Yeah, you’re probably right…a little embarrassment would probably shame him away.
      yeah, groping is definitely not unique to Japan…

  8. Cedric D 4 October 2011 at 11:26 pm Permalink

    Can you take a picture of the guy or a vid and take it to the po-po?
    If you have no proof and you get in an altercation with the chikan it’s his word vs yours.

    • Locohama 4 October 2011 at 11:37 pm Permalink

      Again, what I wouldn’t do for a second take on that one. But, recently, I’ve been keeping my iPhone handy (for photos and such)so before long who knows what i may catch and record. Taking it to the police? I wonder if I’m that guy…probably, but it remains to be seen. I’ve never done anything like that before here. The rules of the game are a bit different than in the US where it would be cut and dry…or you could get a lawyer and make sure it is. here, in Topsy-turvy Asia with some strange notions running through their heads? I dunno…maybe i got trust issues with people who would flee from me like I got a gun yet endure a chikan probing their underpants without budging…call me crazy.

  9. TheOctopus 4 October 2011 at 11:35 pm Permalink

    I can’t say I ride the trains at peak hours enough to have come across this kind of thing myself, but on quite a few occasions I’ve found myself being the only person between a swaying mass of (in)humanity and a tiny (or not so tiny) lass squeezed against a hard place, and call me old-fashioned but if I have to stem myself against the swaying massess to prevent her being crushed, I can’t help but do it (it’s not all that difficult, really). Once I’m sure I got some non-verbal vibes of gratitude, which is enough for me.

    • Locohama 4 October 2011 at 11:45 pm Permalink

      Well, good for you! What’s so old fashioned about saving a child from being crushed??? Man, I know times are tough and people are cynical but geez…the new fashioned folks don’t care about kids??? Or are you talking specifically about Japanese? saying their new fashioned thinking doesn’t prioritize the life of children?..
      Cool Moniker, btw…

  10. Joe 5 October 2011 at 1:23 am Permalink

    I feel like I’m not paying enough attention that I’ve lived here for over a year now and have never noticed this

    • Locohama 5 October 2011 at 12:54 pm Permalink

      It’s not on every train…and count your blessings you don’t have to see it. But if you do want to see it, just take the Saikyo Line any morning from Akebane to Shinjuku. Guaranteed you’ll see at least one (unless the recent crackdowns have worked…there was a police sweep in Ikebukuro last uear)
      Thanks for the shout

  11. Korin 5 October 2011 at 1:43 am Permalink

    You are amazing! When I was in Japan, I lived off of the Keio line in Tokyo. Those people had no problem shoving up next to the gaijin! There were a few instances where I thought I was being chikan’d, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. Had it been, my other gaijin friend and I had a plan. I would maneuver my hand to smack said chikan as hard as possible in the balls. Then, my friend would proceed to attempt a punch at his face. Haha. Knowing how crowded the Keio got every morning, we knew that this was improbable of working but we would have fought back.

    I highly admire you for stepping in.

    • Locohama 5 October 2011 at 12:56 pm Permalink

      LOL! That would have been cool though…
      keio is a hotbed of chikan activity i hear tell. in fact they were the first line to install cameras, right? anyway, thanks for the shout!

      • Korin 7 October 2011 at 12:59 am Permalink

        I’m not sure about cameras actually! Now you have me wondering lol. There was a Korean girl who lived next to me at that time and she got groped on the Keio. But the Keio also had abundant women only cars…

  12. Tornadoes28 5 October 2011 at 4:52 am Permalink

    You showed good restraint. I maybe would have popped him in the face. That sick fucker.

    • Locohama 5 October 2011 at 1:00 pm Permalink

      Hey jon! Hisashiburi dane! Yeah, the elbow was meant to let him know his elbow wasn’t appreciated. I think I was kinda in shock that I had actually been handled so aggressively. It’s so rare. But probably for the best that I hadn’t connected. Who knows where that could have gone.
      Thanks for the shout!

  13. kathryn 5 October 2011 at 9:20 am Permalink

    Your cure is much less violent than the one I’d imagined ;)

    I really can’t imagine the type of mentality that makes it okay in your own mind to grope someone. I’ve never been groped on the train but did get to the stage where I felt uncomfortable catching the train at night because of all the leering from gross old men.

    It would be hard to know what to do and think you handled it wisely.

    Btw I hear a lot about the gaijin perimeter but I think it would be more correct to call it the gaijin male perimeter because it never seems to happen that much to women. I’d have liked a bit of personal space at times.

    • Locohama 5 October 2011 at 1:03 pm Permalink

      Hey Kathryn…yeah the perimeter has gender and racial ramifications as well I suspect. I guess we’ll never know for sure. As for a chikan’s mentality, who knows. Just another in a long list of fetishes that involve innocent people.
      Thanks for the shout!

  14. Stacey 5 October 2011 at 9:38 pm Permalink

    Good move Loco! I’m glad to see there are guys like you out there!!

  15. Ann 5 October 2011 at 11:31 pm Permalink

    I’ve seen it, even experienced it. (Went to high school in Japan, had a uniform, go figure.) Once when I did not have my uniform on, almost the same thing as in this post happened to this girl who was just beside me. I tried to stand between them (I was taller than the guy..) But wow, they’re persistant! He gave up in the end though…

  16. Leon 25 July 2012 at 6:44 am Permalink

    just came across your blog and this post – awesome job man! I am married to a Japanese girl here in the states and have been fantasizing about moving to Japan…

    This stuff is pretty scary, kind of anxious in the moment action… good reaction on your part! way to think on your feet, save the girl, and not cause a fight.

    I could be off base here, but it seems that he was positioning himself in such a way so as to blame YOU if he was called out… be careful with creeps entering your Gaijin perimiter… lest you be called out as the perp instead of the actual dude who’s heading for the exit…

  17. JQ 5 August 2012 at 8:02 am Permalink

    Yo Loco!
    I can’t believe this is really as big a problem as it is.. I guess the Japanese downplay all cultural issues within their own country, so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising, but man!.. I’ll be sure to keep my higasa close in hand when I go back to Japan and hop on the railway. I don’t care if it’s me or some other girl.. especially if it’s a girl younger than me, I’ll be the first one to call someone out on crap like that and stick that higasa somewhere unpleasant! >.< Ohhhhhh!!!! Gets me riled. In another country or not, it's just unacceptable. I'll be a good little hakujin until something like that happens!

    But I gotta say, I am impressed but what a smooth move you pulled to get your briefcase in the way and use the movement of the train to make an excuse to scooch over and block his path. High five on that, mah man!

  18. RayRay 22 August 2012 at 12:55 pm Permalink

    You are my hero. It’s good to hear a guy who’s been through so much bullshit can still stick up for the same people who judge him. I might just even get your book.

    • Locohama 8 July 2013 at 4:30 pm Permalink

      Hope you do / did! If so, what did you think?

  19. Sarahthehuman 3 June 2013 at 4:11 am Permalink

    My question is why didn’t the school girl do anything like scream for help? Is it normal for girls in japan to act like that (calm) when they are being touched like that? It’s my first time hearing about this pervert thing, so I’m curious.

    • Locohama 7 June 2013 at 5:23 pm Permalink

      She was probably scared

  20. B. 8 July 2013 at 11:38 am Permalink

    Wait… if this is taking place, obviously, in Japan, why do you feel the need to consistently point out the man is Japanese? The the perverts on the trains are specifically Japanese? You’re pointing out a valid issue,as well as your own experience, but this article reeks of faint racism.

    • Locohama 8 July 2013 at 1:16 pm Permalink

      Did you happen to notice the name of the book I wrote? You seem “perceptive” so how did you miss that?

    • Rayray 8 July 2013 at 3:18 pm Permalink

      His name is Loco.. and he is a racist

  21. Dem 6 August 2013 at 10:34 am Permalink

    ah… creeps on crouded trains! I’ve seen the reverse of that on vietnamese trains, all is calm and boring until some lady spins around and yells some vertiation of ‘you creep’ into the person behind her faces and every male in a three foot radious hastily shuffles away from any women in the cabin

  22. Jodohgue 8 January 2014 at 1:08 am Permalink

    Thanks for a good post. It is very informative. I am leaving to Tokyo next week.


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