JIN-320 -- Women Riding the Rails With Women -- Kanto railways introduce female-only cars

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T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
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Issue No. 320
Wednesday May 11, 2005 TOKYO

+++ VIEWPOINT Women Riding the Rails With Women --
Kanto railways introduce female-only cars
1. Nearly a Century-Long History
2. Groping in Kansai Railways Plummets
3. Mixed Responses from Women
4. Discrimination on Wheels?

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+++ VIEWPOINT Women Riding the Rails With Women --
Kanto railways introduce female-only cars
1. Nearly a Century-Long History

Much of the action of the best-selling novel "Train Man" takes
place in commuter trains in the vicinity of Tokyo. The woman
whom the protagonist has taken a fancy to is bothered by a
drunkard on a train at night and molested by a pervert on a
train in the morning.

Indeed groping is rife in packed rail cars in Japan. A new
initiative by metropolitan railways won't eliminate the problem,
but gives women the option of staying out of gropers' reach.

The Saikyo Line of Japan Railways (JR), notorious for gropers,
with the highest number of arrests amongst railways in Tokyo,
established in April a women-only car during the morning rush hour;
men are barred from the first car of ten-car trains. Women in this
gender-exclusive car tap out text messages on cell phones, flip
the pages of magazines, do their faces. Men squeezed into
contortionist poses in the next car look with envy on the
non-strap-hanging sorority.

Distaff railway cars have nearly a century-long history. The
women-exclusive railway car debuted on the Chuo Line, running
through central Tokyo, at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Co-eds were being handed love letters on packed morning and
evening rush hour trains. Female-only cars were meant to keep
would-be beaus, and potential gropers, at a distance. In the
immediate postwar years women-and-children-exclusive cars
protected their passengers from the murderous crowding.

From the mid-1960s priority seats, so-called silver seats, were
introduced on trains, and women-exclusive cars vanished. They
were brought back five years ago, in response to a rise in
incidents of molestation on trains.

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2. Groping in Kansai Railways Plummets

The Osaka-centered Kansai Region witnessed a drop in incidence
of molestation on all lines after the introduction of exclusive
cars. And the Saikyo Line's women-only cars have generally been
welcomed.

Which was not lost on other railways in the Kanto region. On May 9
seven railways and two subways in the Tokyo metropolitan region
introduced cars exclusively for women (exceptions are made for
physically challenged men and their helpers, and boys of
grade-school age and younger).

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3. Mixed Responses from Women

The "Asahi Shimbun," a national daily, asked Saikyo Line riders
their feelings about the women-only cars. I made a similiar survey
of women in the J@pan Inc office.

Many women told the "Asahi" they had been groped on the train.
A 17-year-old student said she always rode in the female-only car
for the freedom from molesters. A 37-year-old company employee gave
a different reason "She was glad not to have to smell the bad
breath of drunkards and heavy smokers."

Her response was echoed by Naomi (25), office manager of J@pan Inc.
"I think the introduction of female-only cars is great. I feel
secure. There's the fragrance of perfume instead of the smell of
tobacco smoke and alcohol."

But the Saikyo Line's exclusive trains have not been universally
welcomed. One woman told the newspaper she did not board them.
"Aren't women being overly conscious of men?" she wondered.
"It's troublesome to go all the way to the exclusive car,"
she added.

Erica, another staffer in this writer's office, also felt the
exclusive trains were a bit much. "I won't use them. I've never
been molested. It's not worth walking to an exclusive car."

Added Mio, who rides to Shibuya the Tokyu-Toyoko line, which
has no exclusive cars, "Announcement of anti-groper patrols
on trains is sufficient."

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4. Discrimination on Wheels?

Naoki Ito, head of the "Network to Help Men Falsely Accused of
Molestation," remarked that to the extent anyone is vulnerable
to false accusations, conditions inviting misunderstanding should
be eliminated." The introduction [of exclusive cars] was, if
anything, late."

There have also been voices in opposition. At the end of April five
twenty-something men gathered in Tokyo to establish the Kanto
Chapter of the "Association Opposed to Women-Only Cars." The
chapter is now canvassing soul-mates via a Website. The association
was founded in Kansai in 2003. "The women-only car is discrimination
against men," says the 24-year-old man who heads the Kanto Chapter.

Exclusivity is inequality, but proximity of the sexes on packed
commuter trains invites untoward incidents in which women are
victims.

The "Asahi article," as is the wont of Japanese newspapers, closes
with a "sensei's" opinion, here Professor Chizuko Ueno, of the graduate
school of Tokyo University: "The exclusive car will probably increase
to a degree awareness [of molestation as a crime]. However, to the
extent men's attitude doesn't change, women will be kept in seclusion."

-- Burritt Sabin

========================================================
Information Management Network

6th Annual Summit on Japanese Securitization, Real Estate &
Finance - May 18-19, 2005 * Tokyo
This event targets the industry's leading firms and senior
level players, to provide an educational forum of the
highest quality coupled with outstanding networking
opportunities. This year the topics will cover SME CLOs,
Credit Derivatives, J-REITs, and RMBS. In addition, the
agenda will allow participants to hear the latest
developments in legal and regulatory approaches,
accounting, rating agency methodologies, as well as case
studies about major deals in the market.

For more information, go to www.imn.org/esb739/jie
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EDITOR
Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

(C) Copyright 2005 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.

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