My good deed for today

I’m supposed to blog when something interesting happens to me, right?

This morning as I was passing through Shinjuku Station, I saw a woman take a dive down a short flight of slippery stairs and lie crumpled on the wet ground with a quickly expanding pool of blood under her head. (That freaked me out.) I’ve lived here long enough to know that you can’t assume someone else is going to help so I rushed down her, tore off my headphones (and my glasses–oops), grabbed a towel from someone who pulled one out, knelt down and held the towel to her head while resting her neck on my thigh.

She was talking, which was a relief. She was saying, “Don’t worry about me, if you need to get to work, please go because I don’t want to make you late.” I told her to just relax and asked her if she was hurt anywhere else. She said she hurt her leg a little, but it didn’t look broken, although I wasn’t about to let my hand off her head to check. Man, she was really gushing blood. It looked like someone had slaughtered a dog on the sidewalk.

I got blood all over my jeans. Not a good pair, but these days none of my jeans are a “good pair.” I can’t buy my size in Japan, so I only have a few old pairs left that are still wearable. In other words, I trashed about 20% of my wardrobe right there.

Someone else called an ambulance on their mobile phone. It was nice that so many people stopped to ask if someone had called one. I like to see people care about total strangers, but day to day I don’t see it often enough. Either people don’t want to get involved or they just stand there dumbfounded.

There was another women there who vaguely knew her because they work at the same company, so she stayed with her to wait for the ambulance and I left to get washed up. She kept saying that she didn’t want to make anyone late, and by that time she was sitting up and not bleeding as much so I figured it was OK to leave. But it’s never easy to know if it’s really OK to leave in a situation like that. She wanted me to, so I left.

And now I have to spend the rest of today wearing blood-stained jeans. I don’t mind, really. It doesn’t look like I’ve been through a massacre, but the stain is definitely noticeable so I’m a bit self-conscious.

Update: When I got home tonight my wife gave me a ziplock baggie full of some magical blue powder to put on the stain. The jeans just came out of the washer and much to my surprise the blood washed off completely without a trace. I told the story to both of my kids. Tony (the older one) wanted to know every last detail of the ordeal. Andy wanted to know why the heck would I volunteer to help a complete stranger.

Rich Pav

Richard has been living in Japan since 1990 with his wife and two teenage sons, Tony and Andy.

10 thoughts to “My good deed for today”

  1. Nice one Rich, I hope I wopuld do the same! It amazes me that even when injured Japanese people are so polite!!

  2. Yeah, her politeness wasn’t lost on me either. I kind of wanted to say, “Oh shut up and just lie there and quietly bleed till the ambulance arrives. Don’t worry about me, you deserve to have a little attention thrown your way right now.”

  3. I found this blog by accident while searching for information on the “female only” trains. I just showed up in Japan yesterday and thought I should go around familiarizing myself with the train systems, but now I’m not so sure I don’t want to wait until after peak hours, where this won’t be a problem…hopefully…

    I mean this in the most complimentary way when I say it is good–surprising, sadly–to see a Western male over here genuinely upset about the profundity and laxness of upset over chikan practices. This probably has much to do with the just-out-of-college age set I’m coming from, but in my Japanese classes there were many males who freely expressed there desire to go to Japan simply for all the free ass they expected to be allowed. And for all the rage that fills me with, I can’t honestly be sure that, today or tomorrow or next week, if I were to receive the unwanted attentions of some chikan on the way to Shibuya, I’d say anything. It’s depressing, especially for a would-be feminist like myself to admit, but part of the cultural assimilation training we receive in the sociology of Japan classes almost trains us (us meaning women, I mean) to “be prepared” to deal with it…and most often being prepared just means trying not to react. That was what our professors told us. Which initially grates on my feminist nerves, but then I remind myself that I experienced that kind of situation before, on a two-hour bus ride through southern Spain, and the shame was too much for me to say anything. Oh, afterward I ranted and raged, safe in my own country, about the indecency of the debacle. But I was too ashamed to say anything at the time, and here I can’t imagine I would fare any better, acutely aware as I’d be of my coming off as just another upstart Western female who can’t keep her mouth shut when “boys just want to be boys.”

    …The upshot of which is, it’s good to know someone somewhere in this city whose genitals different than man gives a damn when girls get treated like crap.

  4. part of the cultural assimilation training we receive in the sociology of Japan classes almost trains us (us meaning women, I mean) to “be prepared” to deal with it…and most often being prepared just means trying not to react.

    BULLSHIT. Your professor is full of shit. Groping is a crime, and once you start becoming aware of your surroundings you’ll notice all the signs on trains and in stations that say so. There’s absolutely nothing wrong about not standing for it. If it happens to you, think about stopping the groper so there won’t be another woman who has to be his victim. From experience I can guarantee you nobody will look down on you, and if you make a stand there’s a very, very good chance somebody else on the train will help you.

    Grab his hand, raise it up in the air and yell “chikan” over and over. Find a witness. Take his picture with your cell phone. Get a really good look at what he’s wearing–color of his tie, suit, pants, shoes, glasses, hair, eyes. Drag him off the train at the next stop and make sure the conductors on the platform get a hold of him before he gets away. They’ll take you to separate rooms to wait for the police, you’ll go to the station in separate police cars and they’ll take a statement. Cops hate these scum, but they have to be very careful not to falsely arrest someone. Even if they don’t press charges for some reason, the incident will still be on his record. I’ve been through the experience twice so far and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. The hardest part is resisting the urge to punch the guy in the face.

    Having said that, I’ve been commuting between the boondocks of Ibaraki and Tokyo for 15 or so years now, and I often watch out for the women on the train. I’d guess 99% of men will respect your space. Just stay away from drunks and trains that are so crowded that you have to smoosh your way in. Stand next to women only if possible. That’s what I do–these days I only stand next to men to avoid getting falsely accused.

  5. It always makes me feel a little better about the people I’m living next to in America when someone drops their bag and a bunch of people help pick things up, or at least offer. The fact that you’d even have to question if someone will help a person like that out is horrific.

    I wonder how native Japanese look at foreigners like us who jump to help out people in need like that. Does it shame them? Do they think there is something wrong, or just weird about us? Or is it a trait of our culture that they wish they might like to adopt? I find that a big chunk of the pieces of American culture appall me these days, but things like that make it better. In my Japanese class this week, the Professor wanted us each to talk about what it means to be American, using some grammar point. I said that it meant calling something out when it is wrong and standing up for what you believe in. Never being ashamed to do what you think is right. I’m sure this is something you will pass on to your children with relish.

  6. i almost wanted to flame you because the first blog i read was your bashing of tokyocooney’s comedy club. BUT then i read this,
    and i saw that even after what you said tykyosam and cooney still like your blogs so

    i guess you are not so bad if you would do that for someone.

    props for the comback.

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