Her attackers were many, and her helpers were few.

Men who grope women on crowded trains, known as chikan in Japanese, are a serious problem. There have been a variety of strategies taken to help protect against chikan, from women-only trains to stickers of shame that are impossible to wash off, which women can stamp on their attacker’s hand.

Kumi Sasaki is on such victim of chikan, who recently published a book chronicling her traumatizing experiences. From the age of 12 to 18, she was groped nearly daily on her commute to and from school, for six years straight.

▼ Sasaki currently lives in Paris and the book was
published in France under the title Tchikan.

The book was released in November last year, and has been growing in popularity since. Sasaki describes the incidents that took place throughout middle and high school for her, all of them chilling and gripping.

Sasaki recalls her first chikan incident, when she was on Tokyo’s Yamanote Line. She felt a man’s hand rub against her, and at first she just through it was from the train moving abruptly. But then, it didn’t stop. She writes:

“The fingers of his unfamiliar hand went inside the collar of my blouse. Then he touched my back, he touched my legs, my waist, even my butt. He placed his hand directly under the cheeks, quietly raising up my skirt by just moving his fingers, and he touched my left thigh under my skirt.”

Being so young, Sasaki had no idea what was happening and simply went into shock.

But it didn’t end there. Almost every day for the next six years, she continued to be assaulted on the train during her commute. The perpetrators varied from men in their late teens to older men in their seventies and everything in between. She was even followed home by a married man in his fifties after he groped her, with him telling her that he wanted her to have his babies.

The endless cycle tortured Sasaki, who turned to self-harm and attempted suicide, only saved thanks to a supportive friend. Now in her mid-thirties, Sasaki lives outside of Japan, understandably still terrified of both men and riding on trains.

▼ An illustration from her book.
Left: “What people saw on the outside.” “I’m here!”
Right: “What happened on the inside.”

Sasaki wrote Tchikan in order to spread the word about how chikan are more dangerous than people realize. She says that many Japanese people think it’s just a small thing, not a big deal, and with misguided illustrations like “women who attract chikan and women who don’t,” she definitely has a point.

The way in which chikan incidents are treated trivially in Japan left Sasaki isolated and unable to seek help to escape her pain. By writing this book, she wants to show how deep the wounds are that chikan can cut.

▼ Hopefully Sasaki’s words will help give a voice to
those going through the same traumatic experience.


Tchikan is currently only available in French, but if you’re interested you can order it on Amazon France.

The reasons chikan exist in Japan are many, and it will take a lot of cultural changes before they are no longer an issue. But until then, this book is a necessary first step, and Sasaki is extremely brave for being the one to take it.

Source: COURRiER Japan via Itai News
Top image: Pakutaso