Evil Perverted Chickens on the Train? (NSFW)
Is this the face of evil incarnate?
He’s one seriously devilish-looking dude, the main character on a recent attention-grabbing poster displayed at stations around Tokyo:
The guy is a groper, a molester – in Japanese 痴漢 (“chikan”).
These chikan, or perverts, are a relatively rare but regular part of the peak-hour crowded train experience.
For years the menace of chikan on Japanese trains has been an ongoing concern. With people squeezed into the carriages and unable to move, it’s remarkably easy for a hand to stray well beyond where it should be, and for the owner of that hand to remain completely anonymous.
More than 50% of cases occur during the peak morning commute between 7am and 9am. We’re talking about situations where people are so tightly crammed together it’s impossible to turn around yet alone locate the hand and trace it back to an owner.
An often-quoted survey from 2001 suggests that an almost unbelievable 70% of female commuters had been targeted at some time by the chikan. Disturbingly, those numbers included not only grown women but High School and Junior High School students.
If there are so many cases you might wonder why more of these perverts aren’t caught. Well one reason seems to be that in a country where one’s public face is so important, many victims fail to call out an offender despite the experience being degrading and humiliating, either through shame, fear or embarrassment.
It’s not just a simple situation of a bunch of gropers and their victims. It’s a multi-faceted issue and various methods of dealing with it have been adopted, each with its own logic.
A: campaigns, publicity and penalties
High-profile campaigns and publicity through posters and media regularly appear and have raised public awareness to a great extent.
(click images to enlarge)
The penalties for groping are harsh. Serious offenders face fines of up to ¥1,000,000 or 10 years imprisonment. And the courts have a 99.9% conviction rate.
Even more substantial than these direct penalties can be the peripheral and residual suffering. The incredible social shame and loss of face brought on by conviction can be long-lasting, not only for an offender but also their family. It also reflects badly on the company they work for.
But one problem leads to another
It comes as no surprise that there have been a number of cases where women have taken full advantage of the threat of these extreme penalties. Men have been framed, wrongfully arrested and convicted.
Such is the fear among men now that most would willingly pay off an accuser (even a false accuser) a substantial amount rather than risk being taken to court and found guilty. Such extortion seems an easy option for a woman without conscience, and were it not for Japanese integrity there might well be far more cases than have been documented.
The multi award-winning film Soredemo Boku Wa Yattenai (“I just didn’t do it”) is highly recommended viewing for anyone interested in seeing how such situations can play out.
Since 2005, when women-only train carriages were introduced, the rate of reported incidents has fallen considerably. But the presence of such carriages has created new problems too and has drawn a great deal of protest.
Firstly, although resigned to the situation, many men have felt unfairly discriminated against and insulted, the implication being that all men have now been labelled as potential perverts.
Secondly, these women-only cars are often relatively empty in comparison to other carriages, so women may travel in relaxed comfort while men remain crushed together in the sardine-cans of regular carriages.
Thirdly, and perhaps most relevantly, many have made the case that the availability of women-only cars doesn’t take any steps to eliminate the existence of gropers in any way at all. In fact it means that any women travelling in the regular cars are now in an even greater minority than before and therefore proportionally even greater targets.
To overcome the inability of visually identifying whose hand might be doing the unwelcome deed, one way might be to carry a concealed weapon with which to inflict extreme pain to the guilty party. However, as justified as one might feel in adopting such an approach, it could obviously generate negative repercussions.
A less extreme alternative is these Pervert Repellant Seals:
One simply stamps an indelible logo on the hand that gropes, providing easy identification once one has alerted those around that a pervert is in their midst. The downside is that it’s clearly only effective if a bare hand is being used. If the molestation takes the form of a body being pressed by another body, these seals wouldn’t be very much use.
Without a doubt, these babies are far more effective:
If one accepts that the impulses of chikan cannot or will not be eliminated, then providing a sufficiently appealing alternative outlet for said impulses could be the best solution to the problem.
There is, fortunately, an incredible abundance of such diversions.
I will now describe some of these alternatives, in increasing order of realism.
Level 4: chikan reading material
In the land of manga, a number of chikan-themed titles are written especially for dedicated groping enthusiasts.
Given that an enormous number of people read manga on the trains (men often reading erotic manga in full view), it’s interesting to consider that perverts might be reading Chikan Manga on the trains rather than actually imposing themselves on real passengers.
Level 3: films for chikan
“In a crowded train, strangers are likely to end up being too close for comfort. But for some people, being too close is a comfort.”
So reads a promotion for the Chikan Densha (or “Groper train”) series of films, of which over 30 titles have been produced since the early 1980s.
And if you thought for one moment that this kind of film would only be made by a sicko freak, think again.
The primary director of over 15 such features was Takita Yojiro, later the Academy Award-winning director of 2008’s deep and emotionally engaging Okuribito (“Departures”).
Level 2: virtual groping
For those for whom watching a DVD isn’t enough, one can step up a level with any of a number of interactive eroge (“erotic games”). Simply choose a target and grope to your heart’s content via your PC or game controller.
Check out the main menu of the latest (2010) edition. Absolutely priceless.
A comprehensive review can be found here and makes for genuinely fascinating reading.
A brief rundown:
“There are nine winnable heroines in Saishuu Chikan Densha 3: five innocent virginal maidens, three sexually frustrated MILF’s, and a pair of identical twins that’s fifty percent trapped. Each enjoys at least two (most three) molestation events averaging fifteen minutes in length…”
“Yuri is the sheltered daughter of wealthy parents, living a life of high culture and attending the most prestigious of academia. She is forthright and inquisitive, though perhaps too innocent and naïve of the real world.”
Such titles have the obvious spin-offs, and Saishuu Chikan Densha now has its own related animated DVD series.
Of course for some, even virtual interaction is not enough. And for these, there is yet another level of diversion…
Level 1: it’s the real thing (but legal)
A review of one service available at the adult-themed Shibuya Pink Girl’s Club:
“The connoisseur picks out from the menu the girl of his choice, dressed either as a schoolgirl or office receptionist. This girl then beckons him through the window of a mock-up train carriage, which not only broadcasts station announcements, but even shakes and rattles. For the next 45 minutes the connoisseur is under no risk of arrest as he gropes to gay abandon—before joining the slumberers on one of the last real trains home.”
Yes. Real-life chikan densha services exist.
Wow. Just wow.
Another similar spot was the members-only Train Cafe at Ikebukuro.
With a ¥5,000 (US$50) membership fee, one could join the ranks of the legal groper. For just ¥3,600 a time you could then buy a ticket for the simulated train ride where you could grope away freely for 20 minutes.
The room design was based on a Yamanote Line carriage, and a number of female staff stood at points inside the carriage just like normal passengers.
For true authenticity it played recordings of Yamanote train announcements and outside the “windows” were screens showing actual video of the real journey between Ikebukuro and Meguro. It even made stops at the stations, where the doors would open and girls could get on and off.
“We have a crime reducing effect,” the operator said.
Although the Train Cafe club is no more (fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view), there is still apparently a genuine demand for such services as the chikan problem shows no sign of disappearing.
The complex question
The issue of chikan continues to stir debate and raise many different opinions. From arguments about its source to contradicting ideas on methods of solving it.
Obviously the actions of these perverts are unacceptable in any civilized society, but the question of how to deal with the inevitable existence of such people is a complex one.
How best to approach the problem? Stronger deterrents? Harsher punishments? Further segregation? More effective alternatives and diversions?
What would you suggest? Please leave comments below.