Groper Street: Japan’s Dark Side for Female Travellers
As I’ve travelled, I’ve given streets names of my own to help me navigate: coffee street, food street, bar street, temple street, etc. Unfortunately in Japan, I’ve had to add an extra name to a couple of the smaller towns: Groper Street.
You see, as my friend and I were walking from the train to our hostel one evening, we were followed by a local man. He then pretended to want a photo, and went in for a quick squeeze of my boob before running off.
This incident took me completely by surprise. Coming from Vietnam and Myanmar where this wasn’t an issue, I just didn’t see it coming.
After the first incident, I raised my awareness a bit and have since had 2 more incidents of being followed by men… both in smaller towns. This time I was prepared and gave one a good kick when he leaned in for a grab. It’s never been more than that, so I haven’t felt in danger, but it has made me extremely uncomfortable and unable to relax when walking around.
It’s a shame that this is a reality in Japan. I guess I should have realised, since it’s become necessary to have “Womens only” lines and train carriages. It’s changed the way I travel, particularly when I find myself solo (day or night). I usually like exploring back laneways during the day so I can see a neighbourhood. But with so few people on the street, I’ve had to change to main roads.
It’s certainly something I would consider if choosing to travel solo in Japan again. And whilst there was a couple of incidents when I had a female friend around, it wasn’t until I was solo that I felt more vulnerable. The couples I’ve talked to have had no issues though, so maybe just the presence of a man is enough to stop it. I certainly found that I had no issues in Tokyo when we had male friends around.
So… to female travellers who are thinking of going to Japan, particularly solo, just be aware of this issue and take extra precautions.
– Walk on main roads instead of back streets.
– Research the location of your accommodation carefully (not in quiet back streets, and has places nearby to eat in the evening).
– Plan carefully where you need to go at night so that you can get back to your accommodation safely.
– Be aware of your surroundings (day or night).
– Consider taking some self defence classes to help you react if you find yourself in a situation.
Japan is still an incredible country and absolutely worth visiting. You may just need to alter a few things if you’re used to being more relaxed like I was.