Location: California, United States

There are no random acts. We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind. (the five people you meet in heaven)

Thursday, February 16, 2006


This is dedicated to PF. I will always think of you saying “chick car.”

There are so many things about Japan that are different, noticeable, even shocking from a Western standpoint, and some even more so by US standards. While blatant sexual harassment is one thing, there are differences in each country as to what is acceptable and where the line that defines sexual harassment lies.

When I was in graduate school, I wrote my thesis on Japanese women and included a section on sexual harassment incorporating a bit on chikan. I cannot remember exactly what I said at this point, but this is an interesting phenomenon that takes place in Japan. If I look up the word “chikan” in my electronic Japanese-English dictionary, it says “a molester; a pervert.” The Japanese definition (女性にみだらないたずらをしかける男) translates as “a male who plays lewd (indecent) mischief on a female.” Nowadays, this commonly refers to men who reach up under women’s (or girls’) skirts on the train to grab them in inappropriate places. I find it quite amusing that there is a specific word in Japanese that defines this activity and person.

This is actually a serious subject matter: getting felt-up in a crowded train is not really what anyone wants to experience. This has been going on for years in Japan; however, in the recent past, Japanese society has begun to address this issue. One of the most innovative things that has occurred is the implementation in major cities of a “women only” car on the train during rush hour.

I love the fact that someone working for the railway company thought of this and am delighted that employee(s) fought to have it implemented. When these “special cars” first appeared, the railway was not sure how popular they would be. Not surprisingly (from a woman’s perspective), there was such a demand for these “special cars” that they had to add more to each train. There are now places on train platforms in the major stations to report instances of chikan.

Last night I was reminded of something that I learned long ago. The Japanese word for okay or alright is daijoubu (大丈夫). A very good friend of mine who grew up in Singapore told me that she was shocked when she learned what the kanji (Chinese characters in the Japanese language) for daijoubu was. Why? Because in Chinese大丈夫 (the characters for daijoubu) mean dirty old man. Maybe I am carrying this too far, but it’s interesting to see how different words are interpreted and what is culturally tolerated in each country. Posted by Picasa


Blogger agiawb said...

S.: Getting felt-up in a crowded train is not really what anyone wants to experience, but neither is getting felt-up by female teenage teeny-boppers at Kelly's....

2:17 PM  

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