The Truth Behind Tokyo Train Groping

Regarding sexual harassment on a global scale, it is inarguable that women are in a more dangerous position than men. The extent and means of harassment may be different considering demographics such as location, age, ethnicity, culture and society. While abroad, it is particularly important to do research into how to avoid potential dangers. For example, while you may not get cat-called in Tokyo, groping is a wide-spread concern.

Where and the Numbers.

Tokyo Train Groping crimeJapan is generally considered host to one of the politest and well-mannered cultures. However, this does not mean that women are any less victims to sexual harassment and assault. The most common locations of assault, particularly groping, are on public transportation and at the work place.

The Japanese labor ministry released a 2016 report which found that of approximately 10,000 female workers between the ages of 25 to 44, about one-third stated that they had been sexually harassed at work. Even more disturbing, it is extremely common for middle and high school girls to be sexually assaulted while commuting to and from school, predominantly on trains. The exact number is difficult to pinpoint due to the social pressures preventing girls from speaking out.


Many females who are sexually abused on public transportation are school girls. Japanese society has deemed schoolgirls docile and virginal, which is reinforced in widely read manga. Thus, they are easy targets. To predatory men, girls in school uniforms display the ideal of who should be conquered. While sexual pleasure does have an important role in this, what should also be considered is the simple gratification perpetrators get from controlling and dominating young women.

Groping on public transportation is often attributed to the oversexualizing of school girls. Within the red-light districts of Tokyo, particularly Akihabara and Ikebukuro, “JK cafes” are common. At these locations, young women and teenage girls dress in school uniforms and are paid to serve men.

Tokyo Train Groping anime

While many seemingly innocent (but still creepy) services are often listed outside the shops, what is willing to be performed varies on the inside. This can include but is not limited to: serving food, chatting, fortune-telling, “walking dates,” and even sex. Some cafes are designed to look like subway trains where the customers can choose whether they would like to grope a young women dressed as a schoolgirl or as an office worker.

While some find that these types of cafes can deter men from such behavior in public, many disagree. By perpetuating the idea that women are objects to be harassed, men will continue to do so in public.

Similarly, actions such as the sexual abuse of schoolgirls is further endorsed by pornographic manga (comics) which is widely available. Child pornographic photos only became illegal in 2014. However, to illustrate child porn or images that have women being sexually abused is not against the law.

The Public and Private.

Tokyo Train Groping women cartsJapanese society, both public and private, have long ignored the problematic amount of sexual harassment. Issues lie within both sectors. Largely in prevention, but also in the conducting of investigations after the event.

The Japanese government has placed serious penalties against those convicted of sexual harassment. However, the amount of those convicted is severely low. How Japanese society as a whole treat not the perpetrators, but the victims, is key in the disparity in crime versus those persecuted.

Many young women who are victims of groping do not report the incident due to social pressure to remain silent. The media often focuses not on legitimate cases, but those which are false accusations. In doing so, the public effectively discourages women from coming forward about being violated.

“Women’s Only” train cars do exist on the major subway lines but only during specified times of the day. Also, while the train cars are helpful in allowing for a safe space for women, in reality it does little to discourage groping. Society is effectively telling women to change their schedule as opposed to trying to prevent men from abusing women.

In the private sectors, many families simply do not talk about the dangers of harassment. This not only affects their female children, but also their male children as well. By not directly stating the problem exists, it allows children to believe that being groped, or groping, on the train is something that “happens to everyone.”

Not Just Japanese Women

Tokyo Train Groping sexual assaultWhile victims of groping are usually Japanese women, that is not to say foreigners are not also sexually harassed while in Japan. For example, while I had been cat-called in my home country of America, I had never been sexually harassed physically by a stranger until my time in Tokyo.

While it may seem that this is a direct criticism of Japan, I only mean to disseminate more information about the subjects that foreigners may be unaware of. Abuse of women is a global concern, not something specific to any area of the world. When considering Japan, this is only a snapshot of what women face every day.


Profile photo of Sam Schommer


Sam Schommer

Sam is an International Affairs student at Northern Arizona University. Currently, she is studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan at Waseda University for the duration of her third undergrad year. As an international affairs major, she feels it her duty to be up to date about culture (particularly memes), politics, and social issues both in her home and abroad. An Arizona native, Sam has lived in America her whole life and her year in Japan is the first time she has been out of the country more than a few days. To see what she’s been up to in Japan as well as some other interesting places, check out her Instagram and Twitter!


  1. So enlightening. This sentence says it all, “Society is effectively telling women to change their schedule as opposed to trying to prevent men from abusing women.” The problem is never going to be fixed by putting it o the victims.

  2. This is not good. I hope the women would fight back or shout or whatever. I mean, I am sure there may be men who frown on this disrespect for women. I think if women join together to fight this, then maybe this would stop.

  3. There is abuse everywhere it seems, even in a country with a good reputation such as Japan. You’d think that everyone is kind and welcoming until you hear or read stories like this. It’s disappointing and heartbreaking. There’s no safe place for women in the world, apparently.

  4. I hope that the victims can fight back more and that the problems can go away. I think I would probably punch someone if they did that to me, lol. Hope I never have to find out.

  5. Oh my, this is really something that needs to be addressed ASAP! I’d have to bring pepper sprays or needles if ever I’d ride their trains!

  6. Sad that you can’t be safe on transportation. Anything this severe needs to be addressed as soon as possible and try to find a solution!

  7. This was quite shocking and disturbing to read. I would never have expected such a high level of sexual harassment in Japan. For it to go so long not being publicly addressed is just disgusting. I hope it changes soon and that those affected will feel able to speak out about their experiences.

Leave a Reply