Many people come to Japan seeking greener pastures. While the grass may be somewhat greener on this side, it is also full of venomous snakes. Japan’s many creeps lurk in the shadows, waiting to sink their teeth into unsuspecting victims. Like you.
Every society has its own domestic breed of creeps. Japan boasts a unique ecosystem of wackjobs that is compromised of the mentally challenged, emotionally repressed and socially awkward.
If you are a foreigner, research suggests that your chance of encountering a Japanese creep is exactly 100%. If you’re a foreign woman, 150%. And we all know that numbers don’t lie.
The Panty Thief
Some people collect stamps—others collect used underwear. Specifically women’s underwear. Panty thieves are so common in Japan that there is an actual term for them: shitagidorobou. Mouthful, I know. Some success stories include this guy, who managed to collect 730 pieces before he was caught, and this guy who got up to 1100. Panty thieves are typically lonely, sexually deprived men whose weird fantasies are undoubtedly very, very NSFW.
They hunt solo, targeting unsuspecting washing lines of single women. Laundromats are also one of their main hunting grounds, and if you are 5 min late to pick up your stuff, you may very well find that your favourite bra is missing.
Sometimes these guys evolve into downright stalkers, so it is highly advisable to never hang your underwear outside. To the Panty Thief, there is nothing more alluring than your washed out UNIQLO knickers and the fantasy that comes with them.
Chikan is a Japanese term for “groper” and yes, they too are as common as rain. They lurk in crowded trains and touch people up with grabby and grubby hands. Because of their prevalence, a majority of Japanese trains have women-only cars where the female population can travel un-groped.
Most cities have posters explaining how to deal with chikans. This involves snatching the offending hand and shouting “chikan” at the top of your lungs. The logical conclusion is that the poster creators must have been smoking something, because the likelihood of anyone speaking up in Japan is about nil.
While high school girls are especially sought after by the Chikan, no one is immune. That includes your foreign ass.
The Photo Creep
This specimen has been around since the advent of the cellphone camera. Taking unsolicited photos under high schoolers skirts in escalators and on trains is the bread and butter of The Photo Creep.
This became such a huge problem that Japanese phones now always emit a loud shutter sound when a photo is taken—you simply cannot disable it. But of course, recording a video would eliminate this problem, and thus the risk of getting caught red-handed. If you are on a train and it looks like someone is filming you, they probably are.
Why? Because Photo Creeps also are avid fans of Everything Foreign. If you have ever lived in Japan, you can be sure that someone at some point has taken a photo of you without your consent. You see, it doesn’t matter if you were just commuting to work or picking out carrots in the local supermarket. You remain an exotic animal in an otherwise homogeneous habitat. A real photo op.
These guys are drawn to foreigners like mosquitos are drawn to blood. They buzz around gaijins, striking up conversations on the street in broken English (“Haro!” or “Yu look like moderu!”). Some of them forgo words and just wave like madmen. Others take it a step further and get physical, maybe touching your hair. You know, just to make sure you are real.
The Mosquito is also the kind of weirdo that would sit way too close on the train and stare at you mercilessly for the remaining 39 min of your ride home. Anything to make you as uncomfortable as possible, really.
Ignoring the buzzing will not make them go away. They will just do their thing until you a) smash their face in or b) escape.
The Aggressive Bumper
Recent years has seen the emergence of a new kind of creep: The Aggressive Bumper (or butsukariya in Japanese). The term is used for men who purposely crash into women when walking through Japan’s crowded stations. Forget the stealthy gropers and photo takers—these guys are angry and not afraid to show it.
Due to plausible deniability, Aggressive Bumpers usually tend to fly under the radar. That is, of course, unless they are unlucky enough to bump into pro-wrestlers. Ouch.
Sometimes, pissed off social media vigilantes also manage to catch their self-righteous bumping sprees on camera. It really is something.
The Unhappy Stabber
The tell-tale sign of this exceptionally scary kind of creep is that there is none. The Unhappy Stabber usually targets random strangers in random places. While there is no real telling where they’ll strike, trains are very common.
These knife-wielding attackers are typically mentally unstable individuals who want to take revenge on society for the most staggering reasons.
Like this guy who stabbed 10 women on a train for “looking too happy”. Or this guy who stabbed a fellow passenger for using a priority seat meant for the elderly and disabled. Or this guy, who knifed people outside of Tokyo University because he could not become a doctor and wanted to die.
The list is long, and there are even Wikipedia pages outlining the worst of Japan’s stabbing incidents, like the Sagamihara stabbings and the Osaka school massacre. Not pleasant reading. Consider yourself warned.
No, that is most certainly not it (although I feel like the teenage idol pedos should get an honorary mention). There are many kinds of volatile individuals walking the streets of Japan like ticking bombs. The real question, though, is why.
Now, I don’t claim to be a sociologist. Nor am I a shrink. But I think it’s safe to say that repressed emotions and desires seldom lead to good things.
In a pressure cooker society like Japan where anyone daring to open the lid will get smothered by societal expectations, there are bound to be cracks.