日本FLASHBACK: Keep Your Hands Off My Butt!

17.10.12 ShaSha LaPerf 5 Comments

So I was bored at shit at work yesterday and thankfully I have a job that doesn't censor YouTube. Anyway, I came across a video of a young lady who's living in Japan and discussed the topic of being touched on the trains:

By the way students looking to study abroad in Japan should look in into her blog, she has some scholarship info.

Anyway, when it comes to this blog, I often try to get to the good things and not-so good things about Japan. And in this case, I wanted to talk about a not-so good thing. Japan has a big issue with being...touchy feely. And it wasn't always in a sexual manner. I'm not much of a touchy feely person myself. In fact, I had a job where it was okay to give people hugs and I was weirded out by the idea at first because I wasn't used to it. And I was completely thrown off when Shen's mom first hugged me since we hadn't been dating that while. Japan apparently isn't big on being touchy feely, but I met several men and women that didn't seem to mind and openly engaged in it. Some guys I dated wanted to be very open with PDA and some women didn't have a problem with initiating hugs with me or walking arm in arm. Then again these people were in their early to mid-20s like me, so maybe it's a generational thing? Anyway, I was somewhat uncomfortable with those situations simply because I wasn't used to them. And they were totally tame compared to some of the other issues I had.

Although the issues of women being touched on trains by chikan (perverts) isn't new, the discussion about it was started to heat up while I was living there. It was such a common place thing that I didn't blink when I saw an incident of a woman getting touched by some random dude in anime/manga or a TV drama. There was even a movie titled Sore wa Yatte Nai which means "I Didn't Do It." The film is about a man who is accused of touching a woman even though he claims to be innocent. And that bring up another issue as there were also reports of women who were extorting money from men they claimed to have been touched by. To deal with both of these issues, women only train cars were introduced. During the busiest times of the day, the last car of some trains were desginated for women only. I didn't get to ride these trains because the times they were in effect were often before I went to work.

While I was riding the train, I have to say that this wasn't an issue. I did have to get on some crowded trains, especially when it was the last train of the night. I don't think I had a single incident. The trains were still crowded and people brushed against me, but never in a way that I felt was in appropriate. There were cases of people falling asleep on me which was annoying, but other than that I didn't have problems. The majority of the issues I had were on in the classroom, or while I was out hanging out around Tokyo.

So one of the first 日本FLASHBACKs I wrote was about a guy I met at a club that kissed me only after knowing me for about an hour. But that was actually the third incident I'd had while I was out. The first time I ever when clubbing alone some random dude I was dancing with starting licking my neck. Ew. And this was a feat since I was wearing a fucking turtleneck. LOL yes I know it's lame that I was wearing a turtleneck, it wasn't until later on that I learned about wearing layers and shoving them all into a locker. But back to the story. I gave dude a hard shove and made my way to the other side of the club. He didn't follow. About a year later a friend and I danced with a guy who thought it was okay to have a boob squeeze or two.

However it wasn't just men that wanted to get touchy feeling. Girls also liked to latch on to me. No they weren't tried to grab at my lady parts--though I have heard cases of women doing this. But one night while I was out at an izakaya with a group of coworkers, and were were headed out the door. A young drunk Japanese girl came over to us and said she was excited to meet a foreigner. She asked me to kiss her, pursed her lips and got in my face. The situtation was even more WTF because her friend was asking me about my hair. I was trying to process what was happening when my coworkers pulled me away from them. There was another case of a woman who was standing next to me while we watched a dance performance at a club suddenly took hold of my arm. That didn't bother me, LOL I guess it's because she wasn't in my face or going for other body parts.

Students also seemed to get a kick out of touching me here and there. No, not my middle school or high school kids. I had a few seven and eight-year-olds (boys and girls) that thought this was okay. One kid actually played my ass like a drum. Another student would purposely aim for my boobs when I went to high-five her. I mentioned the inicdents to my manager who just laughed if off with a, "yeah, kids do that" type of reply. Unfortunately I didn't know enough Japanese to explain to the kids why it was wrong to touch me in certain areas, so when the body parts lessons came up, I told my students to only touch me on certain body parts--my hands. And I made "No no" movements if they tried to touch other places. Getting the other students invovled seemed to deter the original touchy feely kids.

And it wasn't even Japanese people that got all touchy feely. My friends and I were hanging out in Shinjuku when we passed a group of German men. One of them called out to us. We politely turned them down and kept walking. That's when one of the men grabbed my arm and dragged me towards him. My friends took my other arm, and I was in the middle of a tug-o-war with me being the rope. Eventually I yanked my arm away, cursed him out, and my friends (who still had my other arm), pulled in the opposite direction.

Despite all of these incidents, I didn't really report anything to anyone. I'm not sure why. I guess part of the reason is that I never felt like I was in any real danger. None of the people that came at me were physically threatening. LOL not because they were Japanese, but because I'm a woman who's six foot tall and even though I was a size 4/6 the, I was considered "big." The German guy had more height and weight than me, but my friends were with me, ladies who would go into total hood mode if anything serious actually went down. When I get upset, I get upset...like throwing objects upset. I feared that side would come out of me and I would end up a foreigner in a Japanese jail for beating the shit outta someone. And Japan doesn't have a very good track record when it comes to sexual harassment either. I was wary of the police anyway since I'd been stopped by them several times and asked to show my alien registration card (twice by the same damn cop). So I figured the cops wouldn't believe me anyway. So I just let these things go. But it is frustrating to hear that these type of things are still prevalent as I watched that above posted video.

So I don't want to deter anyone interested in going to Japan because of this, but I just wanted folks to be mindful that these things happen. Even though these things happened to me, I didn't let myself get paranoid, or stopped going out an having fun. These incidents were over the course of me living in Japan for three years. And these experiences are my experiences. My friends lived in Japan for some time and didn't mentioned getting groped. Some people can go longer without being bothered at all, some people never encounter this stuff, and unfortunately some people are messed with much earlier or in worse situations.

When it comes to the trains, chikan can go after any woman, so don't assume you're safe because you are a foreigner and don't assume you will get touched because you are one. The information here is a little old, but I think it has some good advice when it comes to dealing with chikan on the trains. Of course it may be a bit more difficult when it's on the streets or in the classroom. And unfortunately I don't have a lot of good ways to deal with that. LOL just don't slap the shit out of your students. For other time I would say consider not only that you feel uncomfortable but why. Sometimes a small move away from the person or a glare can get people to lay off and other times you may have to give a hard shove. Although Japan is relatively safe compared to say, the DC area, you still have to remember to keep your eyes open and don't let that idea of "safeness" cloud your judgement with things. Just remember to pay attention to whose around you and who's talking to you.


  1. Great post as usual. :) I have actually been lucky enough not to deal with that when I was in Japan or Korea, but I had that similar situations happen in my home country here in Canada when I first moved to the 'big city'. I was pretty shy so I had no idea how to deal with these situations other than to just try and move away. Certainly a lot more confident now, and I think they know better not to mess with girls who have their bitchface on. ;)

    Kids seem to think grabbing butts and boobs is pretty funny. I think it's because media (East and West) make them such a funny thing. At least they tend to stop after you let them know it's not okay. I embarrassingly must admit that when my nephew was on a plane with his Dad when he was 3, he apparently looked over to the woman they were sitting with and said "You have big boobies. Just like my mommy!" and tried to grab them. He thankfully does not do that anymore, but certainly snickers if you say 'Boobs' or 'Bum'.

    That being said, although none of this stuff is 'dangerous' per say, it certainly doesn't make it okay for people to think that they can touch others like this and I consider myself pretty touchy feely (I'm pretty big on hugs). Hopefully, this will change in the future and there will be less stranger groping/grabbing all around.

  2. Poor woman,going day in ,day out probably wondering who will be the next person on the prowl to pinch her? Ironically, my cuz and brother was talking about planning trips to Japan and England soon. Far as Japan my cuz biggest concern is about speaking Japanese.I guess she better put booty pinching on the list as well. I didn't like the of guys doing it before sexual harassment became a household name and I dont think I will like it after the fact.

  3. I've had this happen to me here in New York. I was on a crowded train and this guy was standing behind me pressing into me (I had a dress on) and I could feel his hard-on. It gets really crazy on the trains here when its crowded, especially during rush hour.

  4. Yeah we're not the greatest at dealing with harassment issues here either. For the most part I'm not riding the trains through DC like I used to, but I've dealt with some other crazy stuff here. Unfortunately I have to say I'm more scared to deal with situations here because I've heard too many stories of that harassment becoming much more brutal, and I'm definitely not intimidating to anyone here. It's frustrating that the laws are still so loose when it comes to harassment (we're still being told it's "our fault" if some guy messes with us) and women have to deal with these things.

  5. Wow, I'm glad you wrote about these incidents, as it sheds light on what life can be like in other places. I've lived in different places and traveled a lot and have never experienced any of this before.