The Pink Bus of Tokyo

Girls walking around popular districts in Tokyo at night can now seek shelter in a pink bus. Dubbed “Tsubomi Café”, the bus offers protection for teenage girls from potential sexual harassment or assault. Often times, girls who wander around into the late hours of the night do not have a good living situation at home. Some are victims of abuse or neglect, or live in poverty.

Child abuse cases in Japan rose to a record high of over 30,000 cases just in the first half of 2017, according to the National Police Agency. Despite efforts to spread public awareness of the issue, the number of reported cases of child abuse rose by over 5,000. Unfortunately, emergency protection was only offered to 1,800 children, allowing the remaining thousands to go back to their abusive homes. 

There were also 1,200 reported child pornography cases, which increased by over 100 from the previous year. It is said that more girls are being tricked into sending nude selfies to strangers on the internet, who then post it online without consent. Girls who become victim to this kind of scam are exactly the kind of girls that Tsubomi Cafe are trying to help. Vulnerable girls are easy targets because of the lack of affection that they receive at home. 

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The pink bus offers free food and drinks, as well as a space to talk to staff who can offer advice to the girls. Representative of the parent group Colabo, Yumeno Nito, says they’d “like to establish relationships” as opposed to simply giving them living assistance. The bond and trust created between the staff and the girls is what will ultimately help them in the long run. 

This project has been recognized by the central government as a model for offering assistance to girls in vulnerable situations.

The bus makes a stop every Wednesday, alternating between Shinjuku and Harajuku: both popular spots for teenage girls.

I admire the efforts made by Colabo and its staff to lend a helping hand to an otherwise ignored group. I hope to see their work getting recognized and implemented more frequently in different parts of the city.