Continued backlash against “arukisumaho” seen in social media users’ responses.
Despite the number of posters plastered all over train stations and other public places warning of the dangers of using mobile phones while walking (known in Japanese as arukisumaho), the trend of people marching blithely forward with noses buried in their phones continues. Last month saw evidence of a backlash as news of attacks on phone users came to light, including the case of a man being arrested at Kobe station for knocking a woman over. This month, the backlash seems to be continuing, although this time by an opportunist using it as a pretext to extort money from his victims.
According to NHK, a 39-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted extortion connected to a series of incidents in Sumida Park in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. The suspect is described as being unemployed and of no fixed abode.
Police allege that at around 10 p.m. on August 25, the suspect walked up to, but not actually into, another man who was walking in the park while looking at his phone, at which point he threatened the phone user with these words:
“Bump into a yakuza and you don’t even apologise? How much have you got on you?”
At which point, the victim ran to the nearest police box and called for help. According to police, the suspect confessed to the crime, admitting that he hadn’t even bumped into the other man before threatening him. He told police:
“With no job, I was in money trouble… I thought that if I used the word “yakuza” they’d just hand over the money.”
Since February of this year, in the same area police have recorded four more similar cases where phone users had been threatened and told to give over their cash, with the criminal, or criminals, making off with around 200,000 yen (US$8,141) in total. Police are pursuing the possibility that the man arrested last week was also responsible for those incidents.
▼ Sumida Park, the site of the incidents
Japanese social media, just as they were last month with the news of people intentionally crashing into phone users at train stations, were seemingly less than sympathetic to the victims of this story, and had the following to say:
“Stuff like extorting money is obviously out of the question, but the guy walking using his phone was also at fault.”
“That’s a new business model alright.”
“I don’t really feel like defending the phone user, but it has nothing to do with [the suspect’s] money problems.”
“Isn’t walking while looking at your phone a crime? He wasn’t looking where he was going, right?”
“I hope this trend continues, maybe then people will be forced to think about what they’re doing.”
Like the train station incidents, the phone use and the crimes have a fairly tenuous link. Both seem to be the work of opportunists, whether seeking to indulge violent urges or to try to force money from someone, either way as a victim you might not get a lot of sympathy from netizens if you were on your phone at the time.