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Japan Sees Reemergence of Groping on Commuter Trains

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Japan Sees a Reemergence of Gropers on Commuter Trains

Tokyo Japan has seen a resurgence of crowds on the commuter networks which has seen meant the return of chikan, train gropers who typically target females.

Their return comes as Tokyo’s streets and transport system are filling up again as Japan slowly embraces a post-pandemic norm, with workers returning to offices and students back in the classroom.

With the support of train operators in and around Tokyo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department on June 1, launched the Chikan Eradication Campaign.

In order to deter gropers, there will be a stronger police presence, a poster campaign instructing victims how they should respond to an attack, and a Digi Police app will be promoted.

Since its release in 2016, the app has been downloaded over 470,000 times.

Women in Japan are generally reluctant to report themselves as victims of chikans. Recent research suggests that only 10 percent of women report attacks, mostly out of embarrassment.

Chikcan cases have declined in recent years, from around 3,440 arrests nationwide in 2014 to 1,920 arrests in 2020, the most recent year for which figures are available. An arrest such as this is made in accordance with Japan’s Anti-Public Nuisance Ordinance.

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Some critics believe that 2020’s sharp decline was partly caused by low ridership on public transport due to the pandemic, and fear that the next set of statistics might show a rebound. In addition, they point out that it is virtually impossible to eradicate the problem.

According to Shinichi Ishizuka, law professor and director of Ryukoku University’s Criminology Research Centre, it is a very difficult problem to solve.

While other efforts have been made over the past 20 years, he said, “the number of cases has declined, but it’s not close to zero and I don’t think it will ever be,” he said.

Molesting women is considered a ‘sport’ or a ‘hobby’ for these people, Ishizuka said. Clearly, things have improved since 20 years ago when the authorities first set out to tackle the problem, but there is still so much to be done.