Thursday, July 7, 2011

Flashing Season

Apparently it's that time of year.

With the changing of spring into summer, the rainy season is over, the chance of frost is over, the days are (relatively) long, and the sun is out.  It's the perfect time for a run outside on a warm and sunny Saturday.  It's a time when you don't have to wear a jacket at night.  It's also prime weather for creepy perverts to flash their little man parts at unsuspecting women. 

Within a matter of three days, I have had two experiences with this.  Let me give you a little background:

Case 1: The Adulterated Saturday Run 

When: Saturday, July 2nd, around 4:00pm
Where: Along the Tokoro River 
What: A man parked his little k-car on the road next to the jogging path.  He got out, pulled down his pants, and started yelling to get my attention.  Once I noticed him, he didn't get afraid, duck away, or try  not to be seen.  He stood his ground, yelling, shaking his junk and didn't get into his car to leave until I started getting someone's attention to help me. 
Who: A pudgy Japanese man who was driving a white k-car with license plate #14-56 (not full number though)
Current Status: Unresolved

Case 2: Drugstore Indecency

When: Monday, July 4th around 8:30pm
Where: Sapporo Drug Store 
What: After working out at the gym, I stopped to pick up a few last things for dinner.  I was in the frozen foods section when I noticed a man starting at me and following me.  When I walked to a different side of the frozen foods section, he followed, even after I made it a point to walk in circles.  I made eye-contact with him but he didn’t look away and just kept staring at me.  Eventually he left, I finished shopping, and checked out.  As I walked outside I noticed him off to my left in the dark area of the parking lot next to his white SUV waiting for me.  He had his fly undone and a hand down his pants.
Luckily I had parked almost right in front of the drugstore in a brightly lit section of the parking lot and had locked my car. I got the impression that he might have approached me if I had been further away from the storefront, or if there wasn't a woman and her young son walking into the store at the same time from my right. I was freaked out, so I quickly got into my car, locked it, and left. He didn't walk back around to get inside of his car until he noticed that other people were in the parking lot. I drove around a bit before going home to make sure that I wasn't being followed.  
Who:An older Japanese man, probably 35-48 years of age. Seemed to be a 3-8cm taller than me.  Average Japanese build.  Had a full head of hair, no glasses, pants and a light-colored shirt that seemed appropriate for cool biz
Current Status: Unresolved

As soon as possible, I notified my coworkers regarding these developments.  They took it seriously and are helping me prepare police reports on this.  A few of my neighbors have been notified so that they can be alert for suspicious activity around my home.  Police have been notified to increase patrols in my neighborhood, and there is a real earnest to try to find these guys. The principal of my school even met with the police to explain it to them.  Although he has a rough and gruff exterior, he seems genuinely concerned about me. 

Contrary to what I expected after my Google searches of what happened in other cases, the police department are taking it very seriously.  No less than five people met with me today.  A female English-speaking detective worked with me to get every last detail out.  They had a sketch artist. They asked more questions than necessary (including a few that were both uncomfortable and not relevant). They took me to the scene and set up the positioning. They took tons of photos of the area. I'm not sure if it was because of something my principal said, or if it's because I had part of a license plate, but they really seem to be dedicated to getting the guys. 

Personally, I would have turned these flashers in regardless of whether or not I thought I was the only victim.  However, it is almost guaranteed that these men have done it before.  Flashing is so well-known in Japanese culture that one women described this time of year as the season for it (hence my blog title). Even the female detective admitted that it's quite common in this season.  There have been instances of everyone from schoolchildren to young women to groups of women to old women falling victim to the flashing.  Sometimes - when the flashing no longer gives those men the adrenaline rush and satisfaction that they so desire - the incidences escalate from long-distance flashing to more obtrusive acts.  

In an interesting cultural difference, the detective told me that I'm not considered a victim, I'm considered a witness.  The crime is indecent exposure, and I'm a "very important witness" to this crime.  If I'm just a witness, why do I feel victimized?  Does that statement in fact undercut legitimate feelings? I believe that's a big reason that contributes to the under-reporting of such crime.  If you are a victim of theft, or a victim of physical abuse, you have a greater stake in catching the bad guy than if you were the witness of the theft or abuse.  People are kind here, but they tend to mind their own business.  There's not as much of the "Good Samaritan" concept here while there is a strong "Shoganai*" culture. 

I hope these men are caught.  I hope that if they have prior instances of perverted behavior - which my principal and co-workers have described as criminal - that the punishment reflect their inability to learn from the consequences.  

So, hopefully this will be a score for Team Women and Team Gaijin** in Japan.  Wish me luck! 

*Shoganai is the idea that nothing can be done; that the person is unable to change the circumstances
**Gaijin - the short word to refer to all foreigners in Japan. Some find it offensive, I do not. 

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