For those times when the train is too crowded to keep your hands where everyone can see them.
Chikan, men who grope unsuspecting women on trains, do indeed exist in Japan. Thankfully, the despicable individuals make up only a very small portion of the total number of rail passengers. However, everyone who works or goes to school in Tokyo has touched a stranger’s body on the train at some point in their life.
So what’s the reason for these seemingly contradictory figures? Well, commuter trains in urban Japan, especially in the Tokyo area, are incredibly crowded at rush hour. With millions of people heading into downtown all at the same time, odds are you’re going to be pressed up against your fellow passengers on all sides.
Sometimes, the conditions are so tight it’s almost hard to breathe, and at each stop the mass of humanity shifts and writhes as people slide out the doors and others jam themselves into the carriage. As you’re jostled around, you might find your arm pinned to your side by the people standing next to you, and on unlucky occasions, your hand can end up lying against a stranger’s body, with no chance of moving it until some of the people around you exit the train. And on especially unlucky occasions, that stranger might think you put your hand there on purpose, accuse you of being a chikan, and call the police.
This scenario has led insurance provider Japan Shogaku Tanki Hoken, which specializes in short-term and low-priced coverage, to create what appears to be Japan’s first chikan false accusation insurance package. Company president Naoshi Sugimoto says the plan, officially called Legal Consultation Fee Insurance with False Chikan Accusation Hotline, has been a brisk seller since its introduction on September 10. Priced at 590 yen (US$4.90) a month, or 6,400 for a year of coverage, Sugimoto says demand has been especially strong in the greater Tokyo area.
▼ The plan is endorsed by company spokescharacter Kumamon, who, given the subject matter, sort of look like he just slapped someone on the butt.
The idea of false chikan accusation insurance may seem odd, but Sugimoto explains it in a matter-of-fact manner. Insurance, he points out, is a service designed to mitigate the risks people face in society, and he asserts that men who commute on Japan’s crowded rail lines face some measure of risk of being mistaken for a chikan every day.
To reiterate, the insurance is designed to aid those who are falsely accused of being a chikan, not those who actually do the crime, and doesn’t cover the cost of any damages or punishment stemming from a chikan conviction. Instead, the policy’s selling point is the possibility of clearing up false accusations before having to go to trial.
Policy holders register their smartphone number with the company, and, should they be unjustly accused of being a chikan, can send a distress email at the press of a single button. Once the message is sent, a lawyer will contact the policy holder, and advise him on how to deal with the situation without unwittingly and incorrectly incriminating himself.
▼ Then the client and lawyer celebrate with a handshake, and possibly compliment each other’s ties, as diagramed on the Japan Shogaku Tanki Hoken website.
The insurance covers all of the attorney’s consolation fees for a period of 48 hours following the incident, which is also the amount of time that usually elapses before criminal charges are officially filed with the public prosecutor’s office. Incidentally, the policy also covers legal consultation within a 48-hour period for those who are the victim of a train groping.
One final note: The distress signal hotline service can only be used once during the policy period. So if you find yourself being taken into custody for falsely being called a chikan multiple times, you might want to consider biking to work instead.