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Riding in an All Women Train Car in Japan

Not Fancy, But Peaceful

By Jessica RifflePublished 5 years ago 4 min read

During my time living in Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan I’ve had on occasion to use the women only cars on trains, only a few times; usually when I or my wife felt threatened by drunk men at weird hours, or when the crush of people was such that groping was sure to happen. That being said I’ve found that many people are interested in the experience so I’ll share a bit about it. It should be noted that my experiences are for the local trains, and that I haven’t taken a women’s only car cross country in Japan, however the differences according to friends are very minimal.

It's Kind of Boring

Western media makes it seem like the cars are specially outfitted, somehow fancier, or even just more roomy, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. While a few of the cars that I rode in did have a decal on the floor declaring them to be women's only cars, the majority only mentioned it on the doors. Some even had hours listed, after and before which time it was fair game for anyone of any gender to enter. There weren't special seats, the car wasn't bigger, and it didn't smell special or anything. While this might seem a bit weird that I was expecting more, Japan does tend to go a bit over the top with women's only things. Like the oh so lovely flushing sound makers and music players in toilets so no-one can hear you pee.

It's Not Heavily Policed, But The Occupants Will Raise A Fuss

I think in all the times I've been on trains, I've only seen someone actually check the women's only car one or two times. However, I have seen women call over transit police to remove someone who didn't belong. I've also seen someone get on the car and have 40 women shout "women only" at them in Japanese. Their response? To bow and say sorry.

This is just another example of how things don't really need to be heavily policed in Japan. The government relies upon people to do the right thing, and for the most part they do. It's a system that's worked for thousands of years. Hopefully when the Olympics comes there won't need to be a change for this as one would hope most tourists would respect the law of the land.

Most Women Are Wearing Skirts

In a country where the split between skirts and pants is about 70/30, this shouldn't be so surprising. However, on these cars I would say it is more like 99/1, with most women wearing knee length or slightly shorter skirts. Most of these women are wearing the standard corporate apparel—nylons, skirts, white blouses, and heels. When you look around the stations the reason for this trend is very apparent. Signs warn of "chikan" or perverts who will stick their cameras under women's skirts in the crush of the train to take pictures or videos. These images are then sold, distributed in chat rooms, or just kept for personal use. Another reason is that groping is much easier when you are wearing a skirt. Many women have felt hands creep up their legs, down the bands of their clothing, or even along their backs in the press of everyone around them. Is it any wonder than that a car where this isn't going to happen is much more appealing to these women?

It's Actually Pretty Crowded

Most people seem to picture these cars as somehow less crowded, having a lot more room, or being more peaceful. The opposite couldn't be more true in this case. By the time the first few stops have been completed on any of the commuter trains they are already nearly full. There have been several times where I was interested in sitting in the women's car, only to find that there wasn't any room.

It also seems that it's mostly the same people day after day. Like any form of mass transit, you can begin to see patterns if you ride long enough. Usually it is women in their 20s to 50s, but there are sometimes younger women as well.

It Might Be The Quietest Car On The Train

While it's still pretty crowded, there seems to be an unwritten rule to be quiet when you are in the car. It's not full of the normal talking sounds, and often you barely hear people moving as well. It seems that when people are looking for a more serene experience they are willing to help provide one for those around them as well.


About the Creator

Jessica Riffle

33, First Nation's in diaspora from home. Mother of cats. Prone to random relocation and mood changes.Business inquiries; [email protected]

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