The mid-1990s brought a nationwide police crackdown on train gropers. Plain-clothes police officers were assigned to the worst affected trains during rushhour. Advertising campaigns gave advice to women who thought they were being molested: to thrust the offending hand in the air and yell “Chikan!” (“Groper!”).
Unfortunately, this hasn’t emboldened many Japanese women. Surrounded by strangers, most women would rather pretend nothing unusual is happening than create a scene. Gropers exploit this, and pick their victims carefully.
Some of the “victims” aren’t so innocent, and false accusations of groping are increasing. The shame associated with chikan makes it possible for especially enterprising young women to blackmail fellow train users.
Faced with a hysterically shrieking woman, most men are willing to be led to the nearest ATM and part with large sums of money (US$3000 isn’t uncommon).