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Safety in Kyoto

Toronto, Canada
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Safety in Kyoto

My husband and I just arrived in Japan last night--we're starting the trip in Kyoto. We're staying in a machiya just north of Gion. This morning I went out to buy some groceries, and on the way back stopped at a soft drink vending machine. A middle-aged Japanese man in a suit, presumably drunk (I could smell the alcohol), came over holding out two 10000 Y bills and started talking to me in Japanese. I only know a little, so couldn't really follow, but it became clear after a minute (he added a few English words in) that he wanted to pay me to sleep with him. I told him no firmly and loudly in both Japanese and English, and motioned for him to leave, but he just stepped back and stood there watching me buy my drinks, continuing to repeat "No? No?" as if he thought I might change my mind. He didn't follow when I moved on, but I'm a little shaken up still.

I'm pretty surprised by this--it's our second time in Japan and in Kyoto, and I went around plenty of times on my own the last trip and never had anyone behave anything like that toward me. It wasn't that early in the morning (about 8:30am), and I was carrying a big bag of groceries and dressed modesty so I can't imagine I looked like someone likely to be hiring themselves out. I didn't think there were any particularly "bad" neighborhoods in Kyoto where I'd need to be extra cautious.

Was this a total fluke, unlikely to ever happen again? Or is it somewhat usual for this neighborhood and maybe I should have my husband with me if I go on any more morning grocery runs?

And just so I know, is there a better way to get someone like that to completely back off here? I would have really started yelling if he'd gotten more aggressive, but that felt like overkill given that he did back off a little. I would have expected the loud refusals to embarrass him enough to get him to leave, but obviously not. :(

Toronto
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for Tokyo
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1. Re: Safety in Kyoto

He's drunk. Just move on.

What would you do in Toronto anyway? Call the cops? Call the bouncer?

London, United...
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2. Re: Safety in Kyoto

Just ignore. Anywhere in the world, you can find a guy like him. What you did was right, just deny categorically and leave. There is almost for sure that there is no physical danger.

Tokyo, Japan
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3. Re: Safety in Kyoto

There are all sorts of drunks and perverts in Japan. Also, Kyoto has its own rough quarters in the south and north-east side of Kyoto Station where locals consider them uncivil than usual (and you'd notice by the looks of the buildings and high proportion of land that gets no buyers), but it's related to complex social and racial discrimination.

It rarely gets that serious with drunk people, but as a guy I was approached in the suburbs of Nara once by an apparently homosexual male offering 10,000 yen for a quick support. The best thing is ignore such people, and go away, take shelter in a convenience store; if you are concerned that s/he could be a potential physical threat you can report to a nearest police box.

Toronto, Canada
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4. Re: Safety in Kyoto

Er, I feel like you're trying to tell me this shouldn't have bothered me. I'm sorry, but if a drunk person gets right in my face (he was literally less than a foot away from me most of this time; when he finally backed off it was all of two feet away), making inappropriate requests, and not taking repeated "no"s for an answer, I'm going to feel uncomfortable. Especially when it's a time of day and a place (there are no bars on this street) where I'm not expecting to run into anyone even normally drunk. And that's not normal drunk behavior--surely you're not going to say most drunk people go around propositioning random stangers on the street in broad daylight for sex and continuing to badger them? I've never had to do anything in Toronto because no one's ever done that to me in Toronto, but at least there we would have been speaking the same language so I'd have known how to make myself clearer--"Leave me alone! Go away!"--if need be.

I don't know the neighborhoods well here. I don't know the language or the culture well. All I was asking was whether this is something that is at all likely to be repeated in this area, and whether there are other steps I could take (phrases, gestures) if it does. Your reply was incredibly unhelpful and feels like it was designed to make *me* feel ashamed for having a problem with what happened and wanting advice.

Tokyo, Japan
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5. Re: Safety in Kyoto

>>All I was asking was whether this is something that is at all likely to be repeated in this area<<

No, but if the person is a homeless that keeps the neighborhood as a territory, then you might encounter him again.

The best advice is to ignore and walk away; if he seems to be threatening, report the police.

Edited: 23 June 2013, 02:41
Tokyo, Japan
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6. Re: Safety in Kyoto

Just say no and walk away. Harassing you could be entertaining to him, so don't chat with him.

Edited: 23 June 2013, 02:43
Toronto, Canada
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7. Re: Safety in Kyoto

Sorry, I tried to edit but wasn't fast enough. My reply above was directed solely at bibembob, which was the only comment here when I started writing it. Nomadroaming and Yobeekool, I appreciate the reassurance and the advice. Was just taken aback because it's the first time I've ever had to deal with a situation like that anywhere I've been, including Japan before.

Tokyo, Japan
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8. Re: Safety in Kyoto

It's shocking.

Gion has its bars, and sketchy institutions of which some of them operate probably underground. Women from East Europe were once quite common in bars area in the cities of Japan (not sure about Gion). There are drunk and insane people in any city, especially in bars area and around JRA horse racing ticket centers, and if unlucky you might stumble upon such a guy again. It's not your fault, and perhaps it's not particularly because you were a foreigner that he picked on you. A pity.

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9. Re: Safety in Kyoto

I don't read the responses above as being unhelpful nor designed to make you feel ashamed, on the contrary, I think people are trying to be pragmatic. You are perhaps seeking advice that a travel forum cannot provide.

It doesn't matter whether or not you had some set phrases in Japanese- he was drunk & probably wouldn't have listened to you.

No matter where you are in the world, men proposition women (& other men.) It's a fact. Drunks are not going to act rationally as their judgement is impaired. So, unfortunately it happens that people get drunk & do stupid things that they regret later. He's probably most ashamed of himself now that he's sobered up (or maybe not.) If he wasn't taking no for an answer you could have shouted at him - but it may or may not have had the desired effect of scaring him off. I don't think such a reaction would have been overkill - as the situation seems to have bothered you intensely.

Based on our life experiences we may react differently, I have had a very similar situation occur years ago when I was younger, single traveller. I remember getting quite indignant & angry with the guy at the time - but thought it quite hilarious later. My approach was to be philopshical about it: The bottom line is, 'drunk men act stupidly & make fools of themselves' ( and this can happen anywhere in the world.) At least he appeared drunk, not like the stone cold sober weirdos I've encountered in Munich, Amsterdam & Sydney.

If you are still very much concerned visit the local 'Koban' police box in the neighbourhood.

For support & someone to talk to contact Tokyo English Lifeline TELL Lifeline 03-5774-0992

New Zealand
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10. Re: Safety in Kyoto

It's scary. I had something similar happen in Austria, with a very drunk guy speaking a mixture of English and German. I pretended I didn't understand him and said loudly "I don't speak German" while picking up my stuff and getting away as fast as possible. I think pretending you don't understand the offer may discourage him.

Edited: 23 June 2013, 08:50