Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chikan, Yakuza, and the Obsession with Bicycles

Many expats (gaijin) living in Tokyo have never actually witnessed this disgusting phenomenon, but it happens every day. Over-crowded trains are a reality, and in these masses of sweaty, overworked people, the Chikan lurks. These men, usually the stereotyped "Salaryman," stands very close to a girl with a short skirt (usually a school-aged girl), and cop a feel. The sickest part is that most of them seem to GET AWAY WITH IT. Which of course, has created an epidemic of these DOUCHEBAGS to grope their way from Kanagawa to Saitama. No one says anything, not even the girls being molested. Japanese people are hardwired to be non-confrontational, and this is a crime that is difficult to prove.

One of the bigger problems with catching these men in the act, is that no one can usually see them doing it, since everyone is wedged into a moving train like cattle; you can't even turn your head, let alone your body. The authorities have posted signs telling girls to scream, cry, call attention to themselves, anything to help catch the perv in the act. But in the request, lies a problem. YOU HAVE TO CALL ATTENTION TO YOURSELF. You have to submit to thousands of stranger's eyes glaring at you in your weak moment. You have to publicly admit to being humiliated, in front of 500+ people. So most girls just try to ignore what's happening to them, which is a F*CKING SHAME.

The Tokyo transit system, in all its over-bloated glory mentions installing cameras to deter the Chikans, but the likelihood of getting caught is so minimal, that it would be millions spent and little done. But I can tell you this; if some dirty little suit-clad gremlin ever tried to touch me inappropriately in a moving vehicle, I would not stay silent. Let's just say, my voice would be the least of his problems.

Fat-fingered douchebags aside, I will be moving back to Tokyo in the new year. I miss the city! It's like I'm living next door to a really, really, REALLY great party and I've got homework to do. Utsunomiya is beautiful, and I've had my fun here, but let's face it; IT'S FREAKING TOKYO. So I've found some nice apartment options (within a reasonable price range) and I will be headed there soon.

But on the topic of Utsunomiya, I'd like to mention something I've noticed about where I live. There seems to be a few choice apartment complexes in my area that don't quite fit in. Cue the "one of these things is not like the other..." Sesame Street song. There's one building in particular that stands out just a little bit. The building itself is pretty boring, with some (seemingly) closed businesses on the first floor. But then there's the Lamborghinis and Porches always pulling up. And the older men that sometimes hang around, dressed in $10,000 suits. And the gold plated lettering on the signs. A friend of mine explained that gold is the Yakuza's colour, and most of their buildings have the signs painted accordingly. There's also the occasional 3 story mansion, complete with surrounding wall, spattered in with the rest of the medium-to-low-income housing.

What I'm trying to say is that I'm pretty sure that Utsunomiya is home to the Yakuza. No one talks about it outright, but it's implied CONSTANTLY. Utsunomiya is also home to an UNBELIEVABLY low crime rate, which seems very much like Tampa, Florida, in the States. The mafia (allegedly) raised their families there, and the "don't sh*t where you eat" rule applies. Since I have no beef with the crime syndicates, I have no problem with them being here. But Japan, as a national government REALLY DOES have a problem with them. There has been a push to eradicate them from society completely, which is not an easy task. The government has now made it illegal to do business with them, going as far as banning printing companies from producing their business cards. There are mixed feelings among the Japanese people as to whether or not this is actually a good thing. If you remove the organized crime, who or what will replace them? The Devil you know...

On a completely unrelated note, I made a pleasant trip to Yokohama the other week, to see the sights of the southern point of the city. It actually reminded me a great deal of my home in Toronto, with the beaches and tidy apartment buildings squished up against the hustle and bustle. Please observe;

 If you look very carefully, you can see mount fuji against the skyline.

We found the ferris wheel just in time for the sunset, which made the whole sight breathtaking. Definitely worth the hours spent on the train getting there. Fun Fact: this is also the largest CLOCK in the world.

We also visited a ramen museum, where you can choose from 9 different restaurants, set in a realistic-looking underground recreation of 1900's Tokyo. It was pretty cool to see the little ramen shops and obviously taste the food;

They had painted the ceiling to look like an evening sky, which really added to the effect. The 1950's billboards and hanging laundry were also nice touches.

We also made a stop in Chinatown, where we didn't eat much, but we really should have. The food looked AMAZING. At least, the plastic models of the food in the windows did;

 Plastic food.
 This is NOT plastic food. Vegetarians, avert your delicate eyes. Everyone else, view the classic duck-hanging-in-a-Chinese-restaurant picture.
 Heh, heh. Fat.
 Terrifying robot panda that sings happy birthday while it walks in circles. There was an alleyway full of these little monsters, and their metallic squeals echoed off the walls. It was the most emotionally uncomfortable window shopping I have ever experienced.
 Wooden carvings of food!
 More plastic food in windows. This place was ridiculously expensive. 980 for veggies in meat sauce??!? 
 The beautiful passage way to Chinatown.
 Creepy statue #17

 Creepy (but cute) statue #18
 So that's that. The trip was well worth the time and money. My friend left to go home to Canada a couple days ago, but not before taking this picture;

If the backstreet boys could get any whiter, this would be it. Notice how they're all wearing the same outfit and everything. In the second picture, it looks like he's touching himself off camera, and everyone else is watching. True homo-erotic backstreet boy style.
There were also these moments; I'll never scrub them from my mind;
 That's my boss. He dressed up as the creepiest "Dr. Horse" character ever. He walked around little children wearing that rubber horse head all day. He pulled Halloween candy from the horses mouth, and never spoke a word the whole time. I have a new-found respect for this man.
This is the latest brand of cigarettes in Japan, named "Viv Pianissimo Menthol." Marketed as "hard-core girly." I don't know if I want to applaud or puke on this one.
 My co-workers, and their (somewhat misguided) interpretation of what Halloween should look like.
 A Peruvian panflute band! The gerbils are coming!!! (For those of you who don't get the joke, watch southpark).
And finally, Japanese Santa. Because all white men look the same.

Konbawa de Gambatte!

P.s. there are still flowers blooming here. It's the middle of November. :)

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