In the last week, there have been 3 major chikan cases to hit the news related to upskirt photos and upskirt videos here in Japan. The Ex-IBM Japan president, an Osaka assistant-judge, and a Tokyo Metro employee.
In answer to your question: Yes. Japanese men are perverts. And while I would have loved to include the word “some” in that sentence, the more I look into this issue and reflect on my own experiences, the harder it is to consider including that word.
The really scary part is that a) Upskirt Chikan is a common issue/news story in Japan, and b) The Japanese man in question (a.k.a. the “chikan” or pervert) usually shows little-to-no regret. In fact, unless their company goes under scrutiny for it, they usually act like taking pictures up women’s skirts is as natural as asking for her phone number…
When I sit down to write things like this, it’s really difficult to figure out where to start…
The Japanese upskirt issue is one of great magnitude and so I will humbly offer little more than the basic facts along with my thoughts and experiences.
Let’s start simply with only the cases within the last week.
Ex-IBM Japan President Turned Chikan
Takuya Otoshi, the ex-president of IBM Japan used an iPod as his camera of choice when filming an upskirt video of a Japanese woman on an escalator in Tokyo station. And while Tokyo police, in all their useful glory, have (at this point) refused to confirm any allegations, the man’s statement that he was interested in voyeurism, pretty much speaks for itself.
Osaka Assistant Judge Takes His Pervert Oath
When Toshiki Hanai (who even as an assistant judge is surprisingly only 27-years-young) was arrested for squatting and attempting to get upskirt photos with his cellphone, he told police that he was wondering what kind of underwear the woman was wearing. Examination of his cellphone found that he was a curious little chikan judge who seemed to wonder what MANY women’s underwear looked like!
Perverted Tokyo Metro Employee Wants In On The Fun
This one doesn’t really surprise me. Have you ever met a Tokyo Metro Employee? They often remind me of the seedy looking stock-boys that you might find working through the night at a discount super market.
This particular winner was a 38-year-old electrician who fancied long walks on the beach and upskirt photography in Shibuya crossing. And surprise, surprise…. An investigation quickly uncovered more photos and videos taken at various stations and within various train cars.
And keep in mind, this has all just been in the last week…
Welcome to chikan.
…oops.. Sorry. Misspelled that.
I mean, Welcome to Japan.
The lines are starting to get fuzzy and it’s getting hard to differentiate. In the same way that many Japanese believe that the word 和 “wa” or “Harmony” means Japan, I am beginning to feel that the word “Chikan” means Japan.
The case of the IBM president doesn’t really surprise or concern me all that much. Middle-aged Japanese salary man with more money than common sense looking for a little excitement in his daily life. Seems unfortunately standard. If anything it reminds me of an upskirt chikan case from a while back that actually made me laugh.
Back in September of 2011, a Hosei University student in his early 20′s was arrested for taking an upskirt video of an 18-year-old girl on an escalator. His weapon of choice: An iPod Nano tied to his shoe.
I remember sitting and watching the news the night that this story broke loose. The school-aged chikan had apparently thought it a good idea to simply work the iPod Nano into his shoelaces. When the newscast showed a picture of his shoe with the iPod tied into it, it was so incredibly obvious that I couldn’t help but break into laughter at the half-assed approach of this up-and-coming pervert.
The police report said that when they searched his home computer, they found over 250 videos, of up to 200 different girls.
Let’s take a moment to analyze that last statement: they found over 250 videos, of up to 200 different girls.
So do you mean to tell me that they actually watched through more than 250 upskirt videos and attempted to identify how many of these were different girls? Is that really a necessary point of information?! Or did these police simply want to create a seemingly legitimate reason to watch over 250 upskirt chikan videos?
Kinda sounds like a cop taking away weed, and going back to the station to smoke it and test if it is really medical or not…
And if you are doubting for a single second that this is the case, don’t allow yourself to be fooled into a false sense of security. It is not uncommon whatsoever for even the police in Japan to be caught taking upskirt videos. Almost yearly there are stories on the news of this. And if we do not conservatively assume that the police manage to successfully hide even half of these police chikan cases, the number of stories still too daunting.
In 2011 the National Police Agency reported a 23% rise in Japanese police misconduct leading to disciplinary action. And unfortunately, police misconduct in Japan doesn’t stop at upskirt photography or chikan. Japanese police have been known to start fights on trains while off-duty, or even go as far as rape.
Once again, I wish I could say that all of these were rare cases.
It’s just so incredibly common. And is may be happening around us at any given time.
A year or so ago, I was on the Chiyoda Line in Tokyo and was watching a Japanese man fall asleep on the train bench across from the one on which I was sitting. It was winter at the time and he had his jacket draped over his shoulders like a blanket. And as he fell asleep, he leaned lower and lower to the right. I couldn’t help but watch, as there was no-one beside him and I was sure he was just going to end up laying out flat on the bench.
And if I hadn’t watched him with the enthusiasm and intensity that I did, I might have missed it.
Something was odd. Although he seemed to be nodding off, his face seemed to have an unusual amount of focus in it. And that’s when I noticed that his eyelids were partially open and his eyes were moving. Not 2 seconds after, I noticed a little red light from inside his jacket. He was filming with his cellphone. I looked a few seats away from me and there was a girl in a school uniform who couldn’t have been older than 15.
I was surprised at first, and the surprise quickly turned to anger. And before I knew it, I was furious. I got out of my seat and stood right in front of him, blocking his view and the view of the camera. As the train was nearly empty, this action stood out. He “woke up” right away and I re-positioned myself in-between him and the girl again. This upset him.
He tried to move seats, but I once again, very directly positioned myself between him and the girl. He looked up and yelled at me in Japanese, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!?!” to which I could only reply “What the hell is wrong with YOU?!?”
He started at me shocked and irritated.
I unloaded on him (verbally) and he tried to get off at the next station. All I could do was follow him. And I did so… With volume. When I threatened to drag him to the koban, he finally gave in and said “FINE. I’ll delete the video“, to which I said “Ok. But I am going to stand here and watch you do it.”
He opened up his keitai and went to the videos section. The idiot pervert opens up the file to show me that it is the one he is deleting, and I take my chance. I grab the phone (which was attached to a lanyard around his neck) and scream out to a nearby Tokyo Metro station staff, who in all his glory sauntered over as if he was on his way to the bathroom. The entire time the man beside me was struggling to get back his phone.
I disconnected the phone from the lanyard, handed it to the staff and told him that the first video in it had just been taken by this man on the train. As he opened up the video, his face was that of pure shock and horror. By this time a security guard who had been alerted to the ruckus I had caused, had made his way over and the man was taken to the police. Luckily for me, the idiot Tokyo Metro staff didn’t have the sense to keep me around and he let me go.
The part of this that really made me think was the fact that the train wasn’t even crowded. It was near empty and this amateur upskirt videographer still had the nerve to try and get a shot.
Which begs the question, how common is this really?
I have searched and searched and not been able to find any solid, useable statistics.
But the simple fact that many trains have (time-designated) “Woman Only” cars, many stations and trains are constantly adding more and more cameras, and the fact that there are actual, specially trained under-cover chikan/upskirt video searching officers in many stations around Tokyo, should tell you that this is an alarmingly common issue.
So much that it can cause problems that don’t even exist. Some women end up becoming so incredibly paranoid and sensitive due to the sheer volume and presence of chikan that it is not uncommon for a woman to think that a perverted act has taken place even when it hasn’t. And while it’s easy to say that some of these Japanese women might just enjoy crying wolf, it’s also just as easy to see how the lines of sexual harassment and reality can be blurred when you are constantly surrounded by it.
And unfortunately, from time to time innocent men become the victims of these misunderstandings and some suffer greatly.
I remember being on the Yamanote line and watching two Japanese men in their 40′s facing each other, talking near the door. They seemed like friendly guys, and their conversation was one of quality. They were talking about their children and praising each others’ wives for the hard work they do.
I was enjoying some casual eavesdropping when a woman who had litterally just stepped off the train, turned around and in a move that she could only have learned in a billy blanks tae bo exercise video, swung at one of the men who not seconds before had been laughing while telling a story of something his child had done.
She screamed frantically for some reason accusing him of grabbing her ass. He looked terrified. Both him and his co-worker tried to reason with her and explain that no such event had taken place, but she wouldn’t hear anything of it. she grabbed the mans dress shirt by the button area and started trying to pull him off the train. As she pulled, his shirt ripped. More and more.
The entire time she was screaming for someone to help her. Within seconds, 2 guys stood up, grabbed the man and forced him off the train along with her. The station staff were already nearby on the platform, and his co-worker rushed out of the train with a very concerned look in his eyes. The door closed.
It all happened so incredibly fast. As the train pulled away, I had barely processed the events of the last 10-30 seconds and felt confused, scared, worried, and so many other things…
He hadn’t done anything. I know because I was standing right there. Listening and staring as if I were a Japanese person looking at a foreigner. But even knowing first-hand that he was innocent, after watching this woman’s reaction and the whole situation, I began to feel doubt for him. A completely illogical doubt. But she had been convincing. She genuinely seemed to believe that he had touched her on the train…
As I said, reality starts to blur, and it becomes tough to tell what has actually happened when these occurrences are so common.
A Japanese friend later told me that if this man was convicted of chikan, then he was basically finished. His life would be essentially over. That night, I hoped for this mans safe return to his wife and child.
It scared me to think that this simple family-man on his way home, could potentially have his life ruined by a misunderstanding caused by fear and clouded lines of reality.
This type of situation is something that many Japanese men fear. In my first couple weeks in Tokyo, I was on the train with a Japanese friend. One of my hands was on the handle and the other hand was by my side. He suddenly reached down, grabbed my wrist and held it up.
“Both hands up on trains. Imagine a gun is pointed at you. Both hands up or both hands busy”
These were the words of wisdom he passed on to me that day. He pointed out all of the other men around us, and to my surprise, almost every man standing, had both hands up in some form. Whether it be handle and book, handle and keitai, or just both hands up on handles and bars, almost every man (especially those standing near women) had 2 hands up.
I learned something valuable that day.
So really, these perverts taking upskirt pictures and videos or feeling chicks up on the train are making things harder for everyone. These chikan are a poison to Japan, and if you read my piece about the 14-year-old pervert, you will be able to see that things are only getting worse.
Why do these people think they can get away with chikan? Because they think nobody is looking. And I hate to say it, but most of the time they are right…
So Japan… It’s time to open your eyes. It’s time to reclaim Japan from the perverts.
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For more reading on the Japanese Chikan situation please check out this document.