Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Whose hand was that anyway?

April 15, 2009

Unless being crushed in carriage full of strangers is your idea of fun, Tokyo’s train lines are best avoided at rush hour. But what is a stressful and unpleasant experience for all commuters can be positively frightening for young women, who face the threat of being targeted by gropers.

After many years of keeping quiet about the loutish or sometimes downright vindictive behaviour of some male passengers, Japanese women have finally begun to conquer their shame and speak out.  Rail operators are also taking the issue seriously — in some cases providing the welcome haven of women-only carriages during the most crowded hours, while police are now less inclined to laugh off alleged molestation.


But the new tendency to presume that the accuser is always right in groping incidents has led to false accusations and cases of mistaken identity, with sometimes tragic results. One such case inspired a 2006 Japanese film, “I Just Didn’t Do It,” in which the young protagonist battles a baffling court system.

On Tuesday, Japan’s Supreme Court overturned a guilty verdict against a college professor accused of groping a teenage girl on a Tokyo train.  The judges pointed out the need for extra care in reaching verdicts concerning molestation on crowded trains, where the accuser may be the only source of evidence, media said.

Fear of false accusation has made many men just as nervous as women about crowded trains. A number of websites advise people on how to avoid misunderstandings, for example by gripping an overhead strap with both hands, or warning other passengers before moving bags and other belongings.

But the stress has even led to calls for men-only train carriages, where men can escape the threat of false accusations entirely.

“Who is worse off, the victim who is left to cry herself to sleep, or the man who has been falsely accused?” one website asks. Preventing both types of heartache is proving a near-impossible task for Japan’s justice system.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon


Using public transport in Japan is like being in a cattle truck, but with less space. I live here for quite some time now but still don’t like it, unfortunately here in Tokyo it’s the fastest way to get to your destination.


I lived in Japan 12 years ago, for 5 years. took the subway every morning, packed in like inhuman cattle. Tokyo is a sick place. Get out whiloe you can, oh ye who gathter there. as for the chikan, they are real.

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