Inability of foreign resident to perceive rejection cited as key factor in ruling.
On the night of June 26, 2016, a 23-year-old Japanese woman was sitting on a train travelling from Aichi Prefecture’s Chitahanda Station to Kanayama Station, in the prefectural capital of Nagoya. At some point, the 44-year-old man sitting next to her, a Brazilian national living in Nagoya, introduced himself.
He asked the woman her name, what kind of work she did, and eventually asked her for her phone number, which she gave. As they continued talking, he took hold of her right hand, kissed her three times, and, according to the woman, began touching her lower body from outside her clothing.
The woman did not appreciate these overtures, and after filing a complaint with the police the man was arrested in March of this year, before being arraigned in April ahead of being placed on trial in Nagoya district court for the incident. Prosecutors sought a sentence of two years in prison, but on September 5 the trial ended with the defendant being cleared of all charges.
Presiding judge Mihoko Tanabe, a woman herself, accepted the man’s claim that he did what he did only because he felt that the woman welcomed the physical contact (though he denies touching her lower body).
Tanabe’s decision was prompted by a number of factors. “This was different from a situation in which a chikan [groper] suddenly gropes a woman, and we cannot dismiss the possibility that the defendant believed he had the plaintiff’s consent.” the judge commented, acknowledging that the two had been engaged in a conversation before the man’s physical advances. In addition, the plaintiff neither appealed to other passengers for help nor moved to a different car of the train, and while Tanabe recognized the woman’s inner objection to what the man was doing, as evidenced by her police complaint, she ultimately felt that the lack of overt protestations also made it possible for the defendant to think what he was doing was acceptable. “Particularly as the defendant is a foreigner, he was unable to understand the defendant’s sentiment of rejection, and believed she was merely bashfully shy. We cannot deny the possibility that the defendant thought his feelings were reciprocated.”
Following the verdict, Nagoya Deputy Public Prosecutor Yukinobu Hayakawa said he is discussing what options remain regarding appeals to higher authorities. Meanwhile, defense lawyer Tatsu Morikawa said that he found the judgement reasonable and fair.
Having never ridden public transport or played the singles game in Brazil, I can’t comment on how reasonable the scenario is of chatting up a woman more than 20 years younger than you on a short train ride (it’s only a half hour from Chitahanda to Kanayama), and doing it so charmingly that she just has to make out with you then and there. And granted, it’s not like May-December romances, chance encounters leading to meaningful relationships, or love/lust-at-first sight never happen in Japan.
Still, the chances of all those love story cliches lining up at once are extremely slim, and while the man in this trial walked away free, he could have avoided the whole mess if he’d simply stopped to consider that maybe, just maybe, his pickup game wasn’t that strong.