I hate Chikan.
It’s one of the things I can’t stand about Japan (it’s a very short list, I swear). For those of you who don’t know, Chikan are perverts. Or, more specifically:
Chikan (noun, Japanese): A person who commits continual public acts of molestation, such as groping on a crowded Japanese train.
Entire books have been written on perverts in Japan – the best and most extensive being: Chikan: Bizarre true accounts of train and street groping in Tokyo, Japan
For information on what to do if you are molested by a chikan on a train in Japan, click here. It goes though the emotional, physical, and legal steps you should take after a run-in with a chikan.
Why I don’t understand Chikan:
Well, first of all, I’m a woman. It’s second nature to hate perverts – especially the special Japanese brand of perverts who do things like crawl into and lie face up in gutters near all-women universities so they can peek up women’s skirts (it’s real, check it out). Japanese perverts are special. They are everywhere, giving women cause to worry on crowded trains and flock together in women-only trains during the early morning commutes.
And yet, for some reason, nothing is done.
Yes, signs are put up. They’ve run several campaigns – one of the most successful trying to promote a group mentality “together we can stop Chikans / perverts” (just like the “Only you can prevent Wildfires” campaign);
But time and time again, I see articles about children who catch perverts on the train (you know they are perverts, because they are caught in mid-grab). I hear of friends who get groped on a crowded train, but are too mortified to say or do anything.
[For more, check out: What to do if you are targeted by a Chikan (pervert) on a Japanese train]
Why I really don’t understand Chikan:
Japan is one of the safest countries I have ever lived in. I don’t feel scared walking home at night, and never worry about being robbed or worse. Doing things like leaving your wallet on the desk in the library or computer in the cafeteria while I go grab another bite to eat is fine.
One time my friend accidentally dropped her wallet when she was walking in downtown Tokyo. An hour later, when she realized her mistake, she ran back, retracing her steps. She found her wallet on a sidewalk with a note “you forgot this.” All of her money was still inside. That is safe.
So why is Japan so dangerous for women?
An interesting book written on Chikan, Upskirting, and other perverted acts towards women, Chikan: Bizarre true accounts of train and street groping in Tokyo, Japan
Written by Mico Keplar’s, this book goes into much more detail than I possibly could in this article.
Chikan make Japan no longer safe. They make women fear to wear short skirts, scared to ride in crowded subways, and nervous when placed in a situation when they are viewed as a sexual object.
According to a recent survey, between 50% and 70% of young Japanese women have experienced a Chikan attack on a Japanese train. Several of my friends have reported to being touched once or twice.
It doesn’t stop on trains.
I think I hit an all-time low when I saw this sign by a playground near my house. It says “Beware of Chikan/Perverts.” It was on a playground. A playground. Where little children go to play. Often alone.
This isn’t the first time I had seen a sign like that; it wasn’t the last. And each time it makes me feel sick to my stomach.
To put a sign there, someone must have decided that the children were in enough danger to warrant a sign. And that makes me sad.
I love a lot of things about Japan. I dislike quite a few other things. Chikan are one of the only things I can’t stand about Japan.
As long as Chikan exist in Japan, I will never feel truly safe.
If you’re interested in reading more on Chikan, I recommend Mico Keplar’s book, Chikan: Bizarre true accounts of train and street groping in Tokyo, Japan.
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