I know Japan is considerably safe, but I still tend to snicker whenever I hear someone say it's the safest country in the world. Some years ago, I spent some time working in Alaska as a night shift manager, so I always had my share of weirdos approaching me for a date or waiting for me when I got off work at 1 am. However, there had always been someone there who saw how uncomfortable I was--someone who always helped me out.
One morning, I was walking to Hibarigaoka station, on my way to Ikebukuro.
Students walked down the roads and shops opened. It was a noisy morning just like any other. A black van drove next to me, slowly, keeping pace with me. I assumed that it was going that slow because of all the people on the roads, and so, I simply ignored it and kept walking. Together, the van and I rounded a corner together, and a man in his late twenties, early thirties spoke to me from the van. "You're pretty," he told me, to which I pressed my lips together, looked the other way and kept walking. I figured he'd leave me alone if he assumed I didn't speak Japanese. Rounding another corner, he continued "Where are you from?" Once again, I ignored him.
He continued driving next to me, trying to make conversation as I walked. We got closer to the station and were forced to stop at a train crossing to let a train pass. "Do you understand Japanese?" He asked me from the car, "Do you know what I'm saying? Where are you from? Do you want a ride to the station? I'll give you a ride. Come on."
At this point, I was looking around, feeling eyes on me. People were glancing and yet no one said anything, not even the police officer that was standing just outside the police box next to where we were, so I continued to ignore him. The train passed and I hurried across, taking advantage of the fact that he had to drive slower because of the crowd of people crossing. I turned the corner and entered a convenience store. Even though I waited there for 5 minutes, when I exited, the car was driving around just outside! I was able to just duck in to the station and catch my train.
However, it still sticks in my head that no one said or did anything when I was obviously uncomfortable.
I wasn't expecting anyone to swoop in and save me. It's just not the Japanese way. However, I can't say that Japan is the safest place because of this experience. When strangers approach me in the US, I feel far safer than when strangers approach me in Japan.
So what brought this on? A friend of mine invited me to go to the Poconos in December, but because I'll be back in Japan by then, I had to decline the offer. When I told her this, she made a comment about how I was lucky to be going back to the greatest place in the world. I expressed my happiness over going home, but also expressed my dislike about staying in Ikebukuro again while visiting Tokyo before heading back to Osaka. She nagged at me for being spoiled, and so I told her this story to explain why I felt the way I did.
I guess my story was wasted on her though, because all she said in reply was: Well, you were probably wearing something that said you wanted him to follow you.
Anyway, as I told her, I'll be staying in Ikebukuro again until I head back to Osaka. I'm not sure if I'll be staying in Hibarakigaoka again though. My friend made it clear that I'm always welcomed, but I don't like the idea of staying alone with guys anymore. We'll see. I don't want to do anything that, you know, makes someone think I'm leading them on.