Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
A carriage too far
What are the odds, but on the morning after a few Seibu shareholders asked the transport firm to offer male-only rail cars to avoid the stress of possible train groping allegations, I mistakenly walked into the women-only car in Shibuya during the crowded rush hour.
Whoops, I suddenly realized - no blue suits and ties, discarded racing newspapers and pornographic manga, or slumped-over passengers letting neighbours support their weight, and it smelled decidedly better. Something was dreadfully wrong.
In that millisecond it takes to sense your toe in boiling bath water, I implemented immediate retreat operations, trying to moonwalk out of the carriage without creating an international incident.
I had seen Masayuki Suo’s movie “I Just Didn’t Do It” and interviewed the director, who researched cases of false groping accusations, and I knew Japan’s legal system wasn’t where I wanted to take my chances with “innocent until proven guilty”, particularly in a car where I was already persona non grata.
While Yojiro Takita, the Japanese director who won the Academy Award for best foreign film earlier this year, may have made a pre-Oscar franchise of adult movies involving molesters on trains, public opinion on this serious issue is loud and clear: Rail travel in Japan is horrific enough without roaming hands.
But do men really need a safety zone from these potential streetcars of framed desire, as the concerned Seibu parties contend?
I’ll let the court of public opinion decide, but in that brief embarrassing moment not a single female passenger said a word, pointed a stern finger or even launched a kick, allowing me to exit with a modicum of grace and minimum of opprobrium. The conductor also appeared to grant an uncustomary few extra seconds to enable me to pack myself into the overflowing car next door, bound for glory with a full load of humanity.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Kiyoshi Ota