Be aware of CHIKAN in Japan!

Oct 12, 2017

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‘Chikan’ crime is a big issue in Japan, there are many women (and occasionally men too) who have suffered from it. The crime is often committed in public transportations, it prone to occur especially during morning and evening rush hours in the train.

What is ‘Chikan’

‘Chikan’ is the Japanese term for molestation and molesters who sexually harass women (or men or both) in the public places by touching the victim’s body or showing their private parts against victim’s will or other sexual assaults.

In Japan, it often happens in the busy trains in rush hour or sometimes in bicycle lots, quiet parks and paths etc. commonly in the evening or at night. In this article, I’m going to write about ‘chikan’ in the train.

Sexual harassment by ‘Chikan’ molesters in the train


Trains and the stations in big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa, Saitama, and Kobe are well known for being over-crowded in rush hour, ‘Chikan’ molestation is mostly committed on trains in these cities. For example, the Saikyo line in Saitama is famous for highest ‘chikan’ molestation crime rate in Japan.

According to the train companies’ survey, trains in rush hour in Tokyo are filled to 150% of their maximum capacity, and in Osaka and Kobe 120-130%. The train cars are packed with absolutely full of people. Commuters push each other to squeeze into the train compartment, station staff with iconic white gloves at the platform push passengers into the car to help close the doors of the car too. As passengers have no room to move around at all, such crowded environment is the perfect opportunity for ‘chikan’ molesters to grope their targets! But how they do it?

According to Osaka police website, one of the most important things for ‘chikan’ molester to succeed is their positioning in the train. They know the best position in the train.

Firstly, one of the best places to carry out ‘chikan’ molestation is to find a target who is standing at the corner nearest the entrance doors because in that spot the target can’t easily escape to their right, left or back so fundamentally they are completely trapped. And the extra bonus point of this corner is that the victim is hidden from other passengers, so no-one can see the ‘chikan’ molester’s acts. So, that is the best place for molesting. The middle part of the car ends is also a good spot for ‘chikan’ molesters for the same reason.

Osaka police suggest on their website that the safest place to avoid ‘chikan’ is standing in front of the passenger seats. People can see if the ‘chikan’ molester is attempting to grope. So, if you don’t want to be harassed by ‘chikan’ molesters in the busy train, this might be the best spot to stand in.

What might ‘chikan’ molesters do to you then?

Here is a list of common ‘chikan’ actions:
1. They might touch your body.
2. They might grab your hand and pull it and force you to touch their genitals.
3. They might take pictures up your skirt with their device like a mobile phone or camera.
4. They might take a seat next to you and pretend to be sleeping while molesting you.
5. They might whisper obscene words or show you some obscene picture.
6. They might undo your shirt’s buttons or bra hook.
7. They might cut your clothes with scissors.

These kinds of molestation are just examples often happening in the train. They might harass you in a different way. So be careful!

You may wonder why these molesting acts are so common in the train in Japanese society. The main reason is Japanese women (or men) often feel embarrassed to be known by neighbor passengers by pointing at the criminal act and expressing their discomfort toward the molester or saying even a word to him/her to stop molesting. Some victims (especially young girls) are very scared of the molesters so that they can’t ask for help, they often just put up with the harassment and keep quiet until it ends, which indulges the ‘Chikan’ acts.

How ‘Chikan’ molesters find target and commit crime

Often, they find their targets on the platform in the station first while waiting for a train to come. Once they have found a target, they creep up to right next to the target and follow them quietly when getting on the train.

Once the ‘Chikan’ and the victim are in the same train car near to each other, as one example of ‘Chikan’ acts, the ‘Chikan’ starts touching his target’s body.

‘Chikan’ on the train

‘Chikans’ often look for someone who looks quiet, because they are unlikely to express themselves, so the ‘chikan’ is less likely to be caught. Elementary and junior high school students are often seen as an easy target, as they commute to their school on their own and many of them take trains. Those young commuters are too young to understand what is happening to them, too scared to seek help from other passengers or to report the incident to parents or guardians.

‘Chikans’ often go back to the same victims, because they know that their victims are not courageous enough to speak up. Because of the victim’s reaction, ‘chikan’ even think that the victims like to be touched by them, which is not usually true.

Train companies’ action
As the chikan problem became a big social issue in Japan, in 2002, the first women-only compartment service has started. Some trains in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba offer women-only passenger compartment in the morning and evening rush hours. In the Kansai area, including Osaka and Kobe, the train companies run woman only cars for the whole day on weekdays. They also put posters on the walls of station facilities warning against ‘chikan’ molesting with a message stating that ‘chikan’ is a crime.

What to do when getting harassed

The best way to stop a ‘chikan’ is to say loudly ‘Stop touching my body’ or try to attract the attention of other passengers or call for help.

However, if you don’t feel confident to speak up, here are some suggestions from the Osaka police website to avoid becoming a victim of a ‘chikan’:

1. Use the woman-only passenger cars if possible.
2. Avoid wearing thin clothes which show your skin or tight clothes which reveal the outline of your body.
3. Avoid commuting on the same route every day at a certain time.
4. Carry a security buzzer and keep it handy.
5. Hold a newspaper or book in your hand.
6. Ring the mobile call noise when you are being molested to attract an attention from other passengers.

I hope this article will help to reduce ‘chikan’ victims in all kinds of ways.

Writer: Miwa/Japan

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