Japanese Anti-Groping Device Sells Out in a Single Hour

A new device intended to identify subway gropers in Japan sold out after a single day.

On Tuesday Japanese manufacturer Shachihata launched a UV stamp housed in a yellow cylinder not much larger than a tube of lipstick. The pad's colorless ink can be stamped on the hand of a chikan, or sexual harasser, then revealed later under ultraviolet light.

Japanese Anti Train Groping Stamp
Shachihata's UV stamp is designed to be used on "chikan" or subway gropers. Shachihata, Inc

Each tube costs 2500 yen, or about $23.50, and the initial run of 500 units sold out within an hour, according to Shachihata.

Sexual harassment and assault is an ongoing problem on Japanese subways, where as much of 70 percent of young women say they've been fondled. Many commuter stations have signs proclaiming, "Chikan is a crime" and "Beware of chikan," and being convicted of subway fondling is punishable by fines of up to 500,000 yen (about $4,500) and six months in prison.

Some train lines have introduced women-only cars, but groups of men have been boarding them in protest, claiming gender discrimination. And critics say few women press charges—some because of societal pushback, others because they don't want to be late for work. Some just assume finding a chikan fleeingin a crowded subway station is nearly impossible.

Executives at Shachihata say they were inspired to create the stamp after reading complaints about subway touching on Twitter.

After one woman posted that she was told to jab a chikan "with a safety pin," the company said it decided to come up with less violent countermeasures. "This is serious and not a joke."

Although the ink can be washed off, the product itself is intended to be a deterrent—it can be attached to a bag with a visible strap to warn chikan that the wearer has a way to identify them.

Yayoi Matsunaga, the director of the Groping Prevention Activities Center in Osaka, told The Japan Times that the stamp's introduction was "very meaningful." "It should have a big impact on society," Matsunaga added, "which could lead to deterrence."

Other products have been introduced to address the chikan crisis, including Digi Police, an app that shouts "Stop it!" and projects a warning to other passengers that there is a molester on the train.

According to The Guardian, Digi Police has been downloaded more than 237,000 times since it was launched in May.