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Japan's Groping Problem

In Japan, more than 4000 men are arrested each year for groping on trains. This is about five times the number in 1992.

In 2001, a survey of two private high-schools in Tokyo revealed that more than 70% had been groped on the train.

A recent survey of Japanese companies suggested that at least 17% of Japanese women have been groped.

Police crackdown

The mid-1990s brought a nationwide police crackdown on train gropers. Plain-clothes police officers were assigned to the worst affected trains during rushhour. Advertising campaigns gave advice to women who thought they were being molested: to thrust the offending hand in the air and yell "chikan" (groper).

Unfortunately, this hasn't emboldened many Japanese women. Surrounded by strangers, most women would rather pretend nothing unusual is happening than create a scene. Gropers exploit this, and pick their victims carefully.

Some of the "victims" aren't so innocent, and false accusations of groping are increasing. The shame associated with chikan makes it possible for especially enterprising young women to blackmail fellow train users.

Faced with a hysterically shrieking woman, most men are willing to be led to the nearest ATM and part with large sums of money (US$3000 isn't uncommon).

Women Only Carriages

An obvious solution to the problem is to introduce a "Gropers Only" carriage, and then the randy little tykes might fondle each other to death. Controversially, this was rejected.

Instead, "Women Only" carriages have been introduced at peak times on the most crowded lines. A guard is usually present to enforce this, politely telling any man who fails to read the pink sign to get in a different carriage with all the other perverts.

Generally, this has alleviated the problem, but there has been an unexpected side- effect. Any woman who finds herself outside the rosy sanctum of the “Women Only” car is viewed as fair game. After all, if she didn’t want her intimate parts mauled, she wouldn’t be there!

The behaviour of women in the safe zone has also drawn complaints. Momentarily freed from the rigid sexist expectations of Japanese society, a carriage of OLs can adjust their make-up and prattle away on their phones as much as they like, drawing complaints from other passengers.

The Groper's Brotherhood

Meanwhile, what of the gropers? Who’s thinking about the degenerates? All they ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being. On the buttocks, or maybe on the breasts. Is that a crime?

Fortunately, help is at hand. You need look no further than Shigeru Oohori: “elite salariman”, loving husband/father, and head of "Chikan Tomo-No-Kai" ("The Groper’s Brotherhood"). He has assembled a 40-strong group of deviants from all walks of life, including teachers, government officials and a Buddhist priest (Buddhism seems to have an ambiguous attitude to molesting strangers in public places). Not just any horny freak can join though: a black belt 5th dan groper is expected to cop 100 sleazy feels a month.

According to Oohori, gropers come in two main categories. "Orthodox" gropers, about 80% of the fondling population, get their kicks from the girl’s look of disgust and embarrassment. The "Technician" is a rarer and far more admirable breed. With practiced technique, they subtly titillate their gropees into a state of subconscious arousal.

This chikan elite meet once a month in a Tokyo café to touch base and play with some new ideas. Over the internet, they warn each other of police crack-downs on certain train-lines. They even run practical mauling workshops, hiring girls to be bothered by them on crowded commuter trains, and offering criticism and tips.

There are special " image clubs" (imekura) catering for chikan, with tailor-made rooms built to look like subway carriages, and prostitutes paid extra to act like unsuspecting commuters.

In the words of their sensei: "Groping was once a solitary activity, but now thanks to the Internet it's become easy to link up with people who share the same kind of sexual interests."

Chikan Links


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