Japanese train stations get the self-proclaimed “vigilante” heroes they neither need, nor want.
While most SoraNews24 readers will obviously be getting their daily fix of the weird and wonderful from Asia while sitting in the refined comfort of high-backed armchairs at PC desks in your drawing rooms, there may be a handful of you reading this very article on your phones. While it goes without saying that looking at your phone while driving, operating industrial machinery or supervising children with scissors can be hazardous, even using your phone while walking can be risky. For example, since the advent of the mobile phone how many lampposts have born the brunt of brutal facial attacks?
And if you need another reason not to stare at your smartphone while walking, consider that there have been a number of physical attacks on phone users in Japanese train stations.
Earlier this month a local Kobe newspaper reported that a Japanese man in his sixties was arrested at the city’s Sannomiya JR train station after deliberately bashing into a passenger who was using her phone as she walked. The phone user, a young woman, was knocked over, hit her head and was rendered temporarily unconscious. Despite the severity of the injury caused, the attacker is said to have claimed that the woman was in the wrong since she had been looking at her phone rather than where she was going. It later came to light that this same man had been involved in a number of similar incidents where he intentionally targeted those walking and using their phones at the same station.
The Internet response was mixed, with some suggesting that using phones while walking, especially at a train station, was inherently dangerous, and others expressing their dismay that people like the man involved in this incident exist.
▼ JR and other railway lines have put a lot of effort into warning of the dangers of “arukisumaho” (walking while looking at your phone screen). Posters have even been produced in a number of different languages to warn visitors to Japan as well.
There have been documented cases of similar attacks in other parts of Japan, with one woman from the northwestern Hokuriku region of Japan claiming that, on a business trip to Tokyo, she too was deliberately bumped into for using her phone while walking. After exiting the Shinkansen bullet train ticket gate, she stopped to check the map on her phone when a man came directly at her and knocked her off her feet. According to her story, the man said nothing and just continued walking without so much as a backward glance so all that she saw was his back as she suddenly found herself on the floor. This despite her having chosen somewhere slightly out of the way of the crowds so she wouldn’t be in the way as she checked her phone.
While women might be seen as less likely to react aggressively to such an attack, they aren’t the only ones being targeted. A man in his forties suffered a similar assault where another man, slightly older than himself, crashed into him. By the way he then walked off in a highly unnatural manner it was clear it had been no accidental collision. The victim speculated that he had been chosen over the other phone users in the vicinity because of his slim build and because he didn’t look like the type of person who might retaliate.
Some other people agree with the idea that the attackers are choosing their targets carefully. According to one female university student living in Tokyo, there are often older men clearly picking which phone users to bump into. They almost always choose lone females, particularly females who aren’t wearing bright or garish clothing which might suggest they are more confident and more likely to respond or draw attention to the attacker. In the student’s case, as she was waiting for friends an older man veered towards her and knocked her over. Her friends saw the incident and began screaming and shouting at the man who quickly escaped into the crowds.
While these are isolated cases and still incredibly rare, the incidents seem to have started about a year ago with the popularity of the Pokémon Go mobile game. At around the same time, anonymous accounts on a number of Internet sites started crowing about faking accidentally bumping into phone users, with many proudly claiming that by doing so they were helping to warn people of the dangers of not paying attention as they walk. Even if they truly think they are doing a public service, which is highly questionable, there is no excuse to attack other people, particularly at places as potentially dangerous as train stations.