Companies cash in on women’s fear of stalkers

Kyodo

With the number of crimes involving stalking on the rise, a variety of new services and goods are targeting women who fear they might be attacked.

Tokyo Safe Guard, which holds self-defense classes combining martial arts with combat sports in the Akihabara district and other locations, introduced a class for women a year ago that offers students tips on how to escape when suddenly hugged from behind or grabbed by the arm.

When the school opened seven years ago, most of the students were male, but over time, the ratio of female students has gone up, instructor Maho Yoshino said.

“There is an increasing number of women who feel worried about their safety in daily life, as many stalking crimes have been reported lately,” she said.

Yoshino added that the school plans to increase the number of women-only classes because more women are interested in joining.

Sales of tear gas and other goods to help people fend off attackers are surging as well.

Online retailer Yahoo! Shopping says it saw sales of such goods jump 40 percent in November compared with the same month last year.

Rakuten, the nation’s biggest online retailer, said self-defense goods are selling briskly on its site as well.

Sohgo Security Services Co., better known as Alsok, has begun offering services specifically targeting women who want to defend themselves from stalkers.

Among these is a special mobile device that can be used to alert the company when danger looms. Alsok has security guards standing by at 2,400 locations nationwide who can track the device’s coordinates and rush to the scene. It also provides 24-hour telephone counseling.

An Alsok official said the company offers the service for a monthly fee of ¥5,250, which is considerably lower than what it charges for its mainstay home security services.

In June, Daiwa House Industry Co., a major homebuilder, started marketing three-story apartment buildings equipped with a small panic room. The 1.5-sq.-meter room is placed near the entrance and is normally used as an “air shower room,” to blow pollen and dust off the entering tenants. But in emergencies, residents can slip into the room to keep themselves out of physical danger, the company said.

Pushing the emergency button inside locks the door and calls a security guard.

The door to the panic room is made of tempered glass. The company hopes to sell 500 such properties per year.

According to the National Police Agency, the number of stalking-related cases has reached 20,000, the highest ever.

But Koichi Shiraishi, the owner of a self-defense goods shop in the city of Fukutsu, Fukuoka Prefecture, said there are limits to what products and lessons can do.

“Tear-gas sprays and self-defense skills are a highly effective way for people to protect themselves, but they also come with risks because they can provoke the perpetrators into becoming even more aggressive,” Shiraishi said. “People should be careful when dealing with others asking for a relationship, so as not to enrage them and turn them into stalkers.”