Wait...is that his hand down- what?!?
Oh, shit. This is real life.
Being half asleep coming back from an exhausting job in Shibuya and on my way to a photoshoot, I wasn’t sure if this was me being half-delusional on behalf of lack of sleep or verifiable reality.
Nope. It’s definitely real life.
Being half-asleep on a train in Japan is nothing out of the ordinary. Actually, most people catch up on their much needed REM cycles in transit and then magically wake up when they arrive at their stop. It’s like an Asian superpower that I have somehow been able to adapt to in my gaijin way. It's no wonder every time I go back to the States, everyone wonders why I fall asleep in a car. My body just goes into Asian work-power mode. Sleep on the train, get up when your subconscious hears that magical intercom announce your approaching stop in its monotone yet elegant way, and then go, go, go. You can sleep on the train ride back home. My body is trained to sleep in transit. I don’t think at this point it will ever adapt otherwise.
Anyways, so there I was--half-asleep, listening to my iPod on shuffle, on my second home in Japan also known as the train system, and I awoke to something disturbing, confusing, and alarming.
First off, I was stationed in the women-only train car, so something like this has obviously happened before if there is already a car catering specifically to women. They were even so sweet as to make sure that the platform directions for the women-only car is done in pink. How thoughtful. My favorite fucking color. My vagina was very pleased that they paid so much attention to her needs because, as a woman, I definitely need directions written to me in a “feminine” color in order for me to understand them.
Secondly, everyone that rides the trains here on a regular basis knows that no one pays attention to these rules. Especially during rush hour. It’s a whole new breed of the Hunger Games, my friends. If you get a seat during rush hour, especially as a foreigner, you are going to be in the sequel. So you better believe I will take advantage of those “Women Only” cars, despite the condescending pink directions that are put in place to “help” us. You know what helps me? My brain, my boobs, and my taser.
So, it was no surprise to see a man sitting in the women-only car. It was, however, alarming to wake up to see his hand down a woman’s shirt grabbing her breast while she was crying. These were obviously not tears of sexual ecstasy.
It took me about a full thirty seconds to actually take in what was happening. I was so confused because it’s disorienting waking up at all on a train, let alone to a man sexually assaulting a woman right in front of you. Here was what was most confusing to me and why I had to make sure I was in reality and not still half-dreaming while listening to Lana Del Rey on my iPod--
Nothing was actually happening around what was actually happening. Everyone around me would casually glance up and then go back to their phones to play the latest update of their game app where they collect gems and icecream cones or some shit. Then there was the man reading his book standing up right next to the woman who had this sleazy guy’s hand down her shirt while she was crying. Then there were the two friends quietly discussing (in English) what they had shopped for that day with their bags at their feet sitting right next to this guy. I had no words or thoughts to process what was going on in those few seconds, which for me, is saying a lot in itself.
You know why they say Japan is so safe? It’s because they give everyone so many goddamn distractions that it makes them inhuman. If someone is actually getting hurt, raped, molested, robbed, beaten, etc., they are programmed to guiltlessly ignore it because everyone else is doing the same thing (so it can’t be wrong, right?). Either that or the people that actually care don’t know what to do because no one else does anything about it.
There is simply no precedent set for these sorts of crimes. If you had hooked any of the people surrounding this woman up to a lie detector, they would have easily been able to say that there was no crime being committed and would have passed. It’s the scariest fucking game of poker I have ever seen. Genius--but terrifying, and proof that there is power in numbers, coupled with its sinister cousin "diffusion of responsibility."
Well, my friends, that is not me.
I took out my outdated iPhone from the States, what I previously referred to as my iPod because now that’s what it is, and shot video of what was happening. I still have the footage. It’s illegal in Japan to not have a sound when you are recording or taking a picture on your phone, so God bless America and my phone sans the warning sounds.
I waited until we were approaching the next stop, took out my taser, and told them very harshly to get up and follow me. I never had to use the taser. Actually, if anything, they were both very cordial while I led them to the nearest police station. To be honest, police stations here are just glorified information booths, which this situation proved. Interestingly the man just seemed confused the whole time. I don’t think it ever occurred to him that he had done anything wrong. The woman (they were both Japanese) knew English, but I didn’t know that until after we had left the police station and exchanged contact information. I think when people are traumatized or shocked, they are always going to speak in their native tongue--similar to how we normally dream in our native tongue, no matter how many languages we master. Situations that shock you, especially trauma, tend to flash you back to your primal roots. Hopefully, that’s so we can all sprout up again stronger than before. I have to have faith in that.
The entire time we were at the police station was so bizarre to me. They took my bag (Michael Kors, obviously) away, and I wasn’t able to get to my phone to tell my photographer I was going to miss the photoshoot we had booked. I didn’t know until after I had talked to him later that the police in Japan aren’t actually allowed to take your bag from you if you are only a witness. I know now if something like this happens again, which I hope never does, that it is my right to keep my belongings if I am only a witness. He was very kind and understanding about the situation which I was and am still grateful for. I certainly won’t be charging him for our next shoot if we can reschedule when he’s in the city again.
The police were obviously trying to help when I explained what had happened, but the woman was so upset that she couldn’t calm down for at least an hour. The man sat in a daze most of the time from where I could see him. I don’t think the authorities quite knew what to do, as if they had never been confronted with this sort of crime before. Even in the turmoil and chaos of this situation, I was still able to see that the man honestly didn’t know that he was violating another person. I don’t think that there was any thought behind it. Once the woman had calmed down, she was able to talk about what had happened in Japanese to the officers. I talked to her in English after we exited the police station a few hours later. It should be noted that the police didn’t take protective measures, such as ensuring she left long before him or offering to escort her home. If he really wanted to, which I thankfully did not sense, he could have easily followed her.
When the woman approached me as we were exiting the station, she asked where I was going. I was shocked to know that she spoke English. I honestly had no idea until that point. I told her I was heading back home, and that I was sorry if I had made the situation more traumatizing. She said it hadn’t, and that she was grateful someone cared enough to actually try to intervene. She said she felt that if no one had, she never would have shared the experience she went through with anyone. I asked if she thought the police were going to do anything about it. She said no, but that the fact we went in there, especially with a foreigner as a witness, was a good start. We exchanged numbers and that was that.
I tried to call her multiple times to see if it would be alright to use some of the footage from the train, with her face and identity blurred, to add to this article. I never heard back from her. I completely understand. I thought I would ask, but if I was her, I would never want that footage shown, identity hidden or not. That is certainly not something that helps rise back from the roots stronger and braver. Out of respect for her, that will never be shown, blurred or not, without her permission.
Hopefully, we at least planted some seeds at the police station we went to. I suppose that is how everything grows. I just hope that the same awareness and initiative of the sighted sowers is someday reaped in the hearts of the blind.
When Cait isn’t busy “going rogue” with her English Language Consulting business, she works as a model and actress in Tokyo. Being a natural Ginger, people tend to shy away from her for fear of their soul being devoured, so her ideal night is a horror movie marathon on the couch with her cats and a framed picture of John Cusack.