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Scary Japan

Last night was terrifying.

I’m going through a break-up, so I took a 20 minute train ride into Tokyo to stay at a friend’s apartment. I helped her cook dinner, then had hamburgers with my friend and her husband. We watched some of a movie, talked a lot, and then suddenly I realized it was after ten. Having work in the morning, I hurried on my way.

The train home was fairly uneventful. An older guy kept nodding off and falling sideways toward me, but that’s standard in Japan. I just rolled my eyes and scooted over when I had the chance.

My apartment is maybe 15 minutes from the main train station. It was getting toward 11pm as I was walking home, but I wasn’t overly concerned. It’s Japan! I was, however, acutely aware that I was walking home by myself when normally I would have my boyfriend with me (what a depressing thought that was).

Between being a hopeless sap, trying to come up with really nice things I could do for said recent boyfriend to try to make things better (or at least make myself feel better), I considered my route home. At one point, I can take a road that goes almost straight to my apartment or a road that runs parallel, but I have to turn right on it to hit the first road and reach my apartment.

The latter road is brightly lit with lots of people on it even late at night. It also has two convenience stores that are super bright and open 24/7. I needed to pay my internet bill at the convenience store, so I took the bright, safe road. I congratulated myself on playing it safe and not going down the straight road just to save on a little time.

I was also proud of myself for not wallowing in sadness completely and responsibly paying my internet bill.

I stepped into the first convenience store, paid my bill, arranged everything back into my bag before leaving, and continued on my way.

Shortly after leaving the convenience store, a Japanese guy around my age suddenly started walking uncomfortably close to me. There were other people around me, so I wasn’t too concerned, but the thought of dealing with a creeper in my current state of mind wasn’t appealing.

He asked me in Japanese if I was going home. I started to worry that I would need to duck into the second convenience store to lose the guy so he wouldn’t follow me home. I replied in Japanese that I didn’t understand Japanese at all. And sped up. He sped up, too.

He said something I couldn’t quite catch, but I heard the word for “I like you” in the middle, then he thew an arm around my shoulder and put his hand on my other shoulder, trapping me. Between the two convenience stores is an alley that goes to the dark road. He said something that sounded in Japanese like, “Let’s go this way,” and tried to pull me into the alley.

I yelled, “CHOTTO!” Basically: “HEY!” I threw my arms straight up to knock his grip loose, then ran for the 7-11. I hid in there for a few minutes, noting before I stepped inside that he vanished down the alley. I tried to call some people, but no one answered. Eventually, I decided (stupidly) to go home. Forgetting for a moment that the alley leads to my road, too.

I took the right turn to go toward my road, but before I made it very far, the guy appeared, cutting me off. He said in English, “I want to talk.” But I was already sprinting back the way I came.

I hid in 7-11. Again. I had the clerks call the police, then gave a statement at the station. The police told me they would send out a patrol, then they took me home.

Every time I repeat the story, I feel a little better. But it’s still scary. I’ll be buying pepper spray this weekend. It was brightly lit, there were people around (who ignored me while it was happening), and it still wasn’t safe.

Time to step up my security measures.

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