Japan is considered one of the safest countries in the world. But it's a different story behind closed doors.
Violence in Japanese homes is a serious — and apparently growing — problem.
Police logged a record 59,072 cases of domestic violence in 2014, up almost 20 percent from a year earlier. While it's not clear how many of the victims were women or if the double-digit increase was due to more acts of violence or more reporting, a government survey published in 2012 shows roughly one-third of married women experience abuse at home.
So the situation is bad and seems to be getting worse. But a Tokyo bar chain thinks it's found a way to help.
Given the well-established link between alcohol and violence, Yaocho Bar Group has launched a series of drink coasters called "The Violent Coasters," which it hopes will discourage drunk men from going home and beating their wives and girlfriends.
Each drink mat bears the image of a woman printed in thermochemical ink. When a cold beverage is placed on the coaster its ink activates and the portrait transforms to show the woman with cuts and bruises on her face.
A message at the bottom of the coaster reads: “Don’t let excessive drinking end in domestic violence.”
It's an interesting and seemingly well-intentioned idea, especially coming from a bar. But some think the campaign's strategy is flawed.
Yaocho hopes the sight of a beaten-up woman will "shock patrons into drinking responsibly," but the message on the coaster doesn’t actually say drink responsibly. It seems to condone excessive drinking — a serious problem among Japan's salarymen — so long as the night doesn't end in domestic abuse. Will a violent man who's drunk more than his fill remember that message when they get home? Probably not.
And what about domestic violence against men? The coasters only feature portraits of “typical” Japanese women — itself a cringe-worthy phrase — but official data show that men are also victims of domestic abuse.
There’s also the issue of blaming alcohol rather than the abuser for acts of domestic violence.
As Lucia Peters argues in Bustle: “Placing the blame for domestic violence on alcohol excuses the people who commit the crimes in the first place — which is classic abuser behavior. It’s a variation on 'Look what you made me do,' turning it instead into 'Look what the alcohol made me do.'"