Regarding Barry Ward’s Jan. 24 letter, “Empathy, common sense lacking“: Blaming women for the chikan (groping) problem on trains is like blaming the victim of rape for wearing a short shirt. Placing the burden of society’s ills on the shoulders of mothers is not only sexist, but ignorant as well. Children learn their values not only from their mothers, but from their fathers, extended families and, most importantly, their community.

I have been pregnant, standing in Tokyo trains with no one offering me a seat — not even non-Japanese. If I really needed a seat, though, I would ask a person sitting in the seats reserved for those who need them and never received a rude response.

I think this perceived “rudeness” is more a symptom of life in crowded urban centers, where people shut out the needs of the people around them to get around their daily business. I have encountered similar rudeness in Europe on public transportation, but I don’t cast aspersions on all Europeans for it.

As for Ward’s smug suggestion that “looking after a 2DK (apartment) must be absolute hell,” I can assure you that it can indeed be so when one has two young children. The limited space and humidity means one cannot store things as one would in a larger North American or European home. Thus homemakers must do daily — not weekly — shopping, must regularly air out clothes and futons so that they don’t get moldy, as well as make sure the kids get enough time outdoors (a challenge in the rainy season!) so that they don’t go stir-crazy.

catherine munroe hotes