Train Fear

The other day I ended up on one of those trains you always see on telly programmes about Japan. You know the ones; the ones where passengers are crammed in so tightly that they are forced to breathe each other’s hair. It wasn’t pleasant. I was forced to rub crotches with an oily-faced businessman who  found himself resting his head upon my shoulder. We were, in effect, sharing an armless hug. I was relieved when he managed to somehow negotiate his way off the train, but then became alarmed as his place was taken by a schoolgirl in uniform. Strange as it may seem, having a schoolgirl next to you on a crowded train is worse than having a salaryman with a penchant for kimuchi-nattou breakfasts. For when you are forced against your will to press upon a schoolgirl in a train, you find yourself desperately hoping that all other passengers can see your hands way up there on the hand straps, fingers wiggling to attract attention. ‘I am not a groper,’ you hope they convey. ‘All frottage is entirely unwanted and unintentional.’ Nevertheless, I found myself terrified that someone else, someone nearby, might be a groper and the girl might mistake his hand for mine. She looked scared enough as it was, but more so when she caught my eye and I attempted a reassuring smile. ‘Shit, I’ve creeped her out,’ I thought. But there was nothing I could do. You can’t lean into someone on a crowded train and whisper, ‘It’s okay, I’m definitely not a molester.’ Not without arousing deep suspicion that you almost certainly are. So we struggled along, she bracing herself for the worst, I doing elaborate finger dances and squirming with every awkward carriage shunt. My stop arrived and I pushed my way off the train. I was red-faced and sweating and the picture of innocent guilt. I wished there had been a ladies-only carriage. They are doubly good, I realized. Primarily, of course, they protect the women from unwanted hands. But as a bonus they take away the fear that can accompany a regular man just trying to get from A to B.

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9 Responses to Train Fear

  1. mreuroguy says:

    I chuckled at first but then I pictured myself in your shoes.. Good thing everyone on the train knew you aren’t a groper 🙂

  2. sendaiben says:

    I know what you mean. Luckily I can escape the crowded train by cycling 27km a day to get to work and back 😉

  3. Billy says:

    Know exactly what you mean; I’m down to one rush-hour Tokyo train trip a week, but still have to deal with the worry… They really do need to arrange for special transportation for schoolkids here.

  4. yamabrett says:

    Your blog is really, really good. I’d like to ask you some questions via private email, if that’s ok?

  5. Usman Makhdoom says:

    Yeah man. The stupid fear false groper accusations plant in one as a male on a crowded train, such a hassle. Women-only carriages don’t do away with the problem, either.

    I knew someone who once told me she has dealt with this living in rurual Japan outside Kobe and that it was not at all an urban-only problem. She said she would happily stay in mixed hostels when traveling in other countries but would never, ever trust being in a room with a Japanese man.
    There go all the good Japanese men slandered by these scum-of-the-earth.

    I believe and know it is endemic, this groping, but it’s all males who have been made to feel guilty without offense in the whole mess.

    Gropers and kiddy fiddlers devastate the existence of millions of children and women, and make life harder for the millions of non-pervert men. You cannot so much as look at a woman by accident, or smile at a child looking at you in a queue at the supermarket (what the hell else is one supposed to do? Ignore a smiling, cute baby? Bloody hell…)

    They should just bloody die.

  6. Olivia says:

    That’s one of the reasons why I hate taking the train, especially during rush hour. I’m lucky enough that I can cycle to my university but when the weather isn’t so great I sometimes take the train. It’s so uncomfortable when you’re squished up but sometimes you have no choice especially if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere.

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