How Common Is Chikan (Unwanted Touching) on Trains in Japan?

Chikan is a crime in Japan that tends to be a rather big problem. It’s unwanted touching, groping, and sexual assault. Many unsuspecting girls and women, and some men, easily become victims if they aren’t aware of the practice.

It most frequently occurs during morning and evening train rush hours. But it can also happen in parks, paths, and other private, quiet areas. This is a serious crime and it happens more often than it should. Part of this is because most victims don’t speak out.

What is Chikan And Where Does It Occur?

The word “Chikan” refers to the act of molestation and the offenders. A chikan offender sexually harasses people in public by touching them or showing their genitals without permission from the victim. And this can be very devastating.

Common in Bigger Cities

This is a problem more often found in larger cities like Kobe, Osaka, and Tokyo, where everyone packs into train cars during rush hours.

It’s easy for offenders to grab, touch or grope unsuspecting victims without getting caught. The highest chikan molestation crime rate in Japan is on the Saikyo line in Saitama.

 Omiya Station is Saitama

In Tokyo, the evening rush fills to more than 150% of max capacity while in places like Kobe and Osaka it’s 120% to 130%.

Passengers are shoved into each other so everyone can fit and train staff also pushes passengers in to help the doors close. There’s no room to move at all, so it breeds the perfect environment for chikan molesters to act.

How Do Chikans Strike And What Do They Do?

According to Osaka police, the method in which chikan molesters succeed with their perversion is how they position themselves on the train. One of the best places to do this is to locate a target standing near the doors of the train.

Because the potential victim can’t escape easily, they are entirely locked in and hidden from other passengers point of view. This is what gives chikan molesters their edge and no one can see the crime in progress on an extremely crowded train.

These offenders will commit several various actions against their victims. These include things like:

  • Touching anywhere on a victim’s body
  • Grabbing someone’s hand and putting it against their genitals
  • Taking pictures up school girl’s skirts
  • Pretending to sleep while sitting next to the victim as they molest them
  • Whispering obscenities and saying very inappropriate things  
  • Presenting pornographic photos and other kinds of images
  • Undoing shirt buttons
  • Unhooking bras
  • Cutting clothes with scissors

Why Is Chikan So Frequent in Japan?

There are other things they will do as well, but these are the most common offenses. Part of the reason why this happens so much is because of the norms of social interaction in Japanese culture and resistance to confront the perpetrator.

Victims Don’t Speak Up

Japanese women are traditionally not confrontational and it is not polite to embarrass others in public settings. So, they won’t even tell their offenders to stop or point it out while in progress.

If that wasn’t bad enough, because the victims don’t speak up, the chikan molester actually believes their targets like this treatment.

In the case of young girls, they end up frozen with fear when this occurs. They tend to be so frightened so much they’re unable to ask for help or say anything.

Plus, in their horror and terror, they allow it to happen with the hope it ends soon. This emboldens chikan molesters.

How Do Chikans Target Their Victims?

Offenders will locate their target when on the platform while waiting for the train. They attempt to find someone that looks quiet, weak, and vulnerable.

This is because they’re less likely to become angry and express themselves during the act. In the case of younger girls, they don’t often report their experience to police, parents, or teachers out of embarrassment.

Girls Are Common Victims

Ergo, school girls are a common target because they’re vulnerable, small, and too young to understand what’s happening. This is true for elementary and middle school children than it is for teenagers.

What’s more, chikan molesters will return to the same target victims because they don’t speak up.

Once they set their sights on someone, they creep up right next to their intended victim. The offender follows them closely and quietly as they board the train. The chikan begins once the offender has a secure place and the train is in motion.

What Actions Does the Train Company and Police Take?

In an effort to combat chikan molestations, the train system implemented a women-only compartment that began in 2002. Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa offer rush-hour compartments just for women.

However, in Kobe and Osaka, they run women-only compartments all day long on weekdays.

The train company also puts up posters and other literature on the train and around each station informing the public about how chikan is a crime. They also advise children what to do if this happens.

What Can People Do When a Chikan Assault Is in Progress?

In the event it happens, the best prevention is to either yell at the chikan or attract the attention of other passengers. It’s advisable for people to stand in front of passenger seats or with their back against a wall. Also, people should remain observant and keep their eye out for sinister characters or unusual behavior.

Practical Advice

Of course, women should always board a women-only car whenever they are available. But, they should also avoid wearing paper-thin, light-colored, or tight-fitting clothing. The idea is to remove the temptation from potential offenders. 

Women Only Car In Osaka

Police suggest carrying something like a book or a newspaper. People can use it to thwack an offender or as a flag to call for help. Plus, it removes the chikan’s ability to grab hands.

Also, if possible, people shouldn’t take the same train at the same time every day.

Carrying a security whistle and having it on hand at all times will also be beneficial. Anything that can make noise to attract attention will help. Using something like the ringer on a cell phone is ideal.

A Further Look Into Chikan On Japanese Public Transportation

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.