Safety in Japan for Foreign Girls

January 31st, 2013By Category: Culture

Moving to Japan as a single foreign girl is quite safe, but there are some things you should be aware of if you’re considering living here. Foreign girls attract a lot of attention in Japan, mostly because there aren’t too many of us, and we stand out. We are extremely conspicuous, and this can turn into a problem.

women Japan

Over my three years living all over Japan, I can recall numerous (!!) incidents involving a stalker, or a chikan (groper) on crowded trains or empty streets. Those Japanese men are usually curious or obsessed with foreign women, they’re mentally unstable, and the experience is terrifying and unsettling. It also happens to Japanese girls on a regular basis, especially in crowded trains. Many foreign girls leave Japan after a few months or a year due to those kinds of incidents. The vast majority of my foreign friends in Japan are boys, so they’re not exposed to the same kinds of dangers.

I never talked much about it, at least not publicly, but after exchanging with fellow foreign women here in Japan, I found out that ALL of them had been victims of a form of harassment or stalking. Instances of flashing and other public sexual acts seemed like a common thread, sadly. It’s important to file police reports if it happens, even if in most cases, the police won’t do much about it, but at least they have it on file.

It’s also fundamental to not put yourself in situations that could potentially be dangerous: walking alone at night in sketchy areas, taking dark roads/streets, not locking the door, or going inside the house of someone you barely know. NEVER, EVER do that. If you give private English lessons, NEVER go to their house, only meet in a crowded cafe. It’s a given, but sometimes people forget and think they feel safe, but they may not be and it can end tragically.

Japan trains

If you’re being stalked or harassed, it’s best to tell the police, your employer, and your friends. Have many emergency numbers on hand and let people know you don’t feel safe. Avoid any situation or place where he might try to approach you. Take the women-only car in the train at rush hour, even though lurkers sometimes find their way in. Most importantly, live in a safe neighbourhood and building, know your neighbours, and always be aware of your surroundings.

women only

This post sounds quite dramatic compared to my usual lighthearted tone, but I think it’s major to shed light onto this issue. Even knowing this, I’d still move to Japan, and I’m not trying to discourage anyone who’s considering a move here. It really is a SAFE country, but this is a significant hazard and you must be aware.

women in train

Feel free to share any other tips or stories in the comments.

Photos by mrhayata, xmacex, cogdogblog and Klardrommar via Flickr Creative Commons

Author of this article

Vivian Morelli

Vivian Morelli hails from Canada and is a journalist based in Tokyo, where she writes about culture, fashion, food and music. You can read her Japan musings at

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