TOKYO – The first women-only carriage on a morning commuter train in Tokyo went into service Monday as part of efforts to cut the incidence of sexual harassment.

Japan East Railway Co. introduced trains with the women-only cars on the JR Saikyo Line, known as a route with a high incidence of groping during the morning rush hours.

Ten private railways and subways in the Tokyo metropolitan area will follow suit from May 9.

Just after 8 a.m. Monday, women rushed from the first carriage of a Saikyo Line train arriving at JR Ikebukuro Station. On the windows of the carriage were pink stickers that read “For women only.”

On the platform, 10 station officials directed women to the special car. When a man wearing headphones that prevented him from hearing announcements about the special car tried to enter the carriage he was stopped by a station attendant.

A scent of perfume floated in the reserved carriage, in which passengers enjoyed relative comfort, dozing in their seats or tapping messages on their mobile phones.

Without men, the carriage appeared larger than usual and the colorful clothing worn by passengers created a lively atmosphere. In the second carriage, men looked curiously into the women-only carriage.

Women welcomed the special carriage, saying they were pleased to be free of sexual harassment.

“I’m relieved I don’t have to be close to men on the train,” said Asae Tanaka, a 24-year-old company employee from Kita Ward, Tokyo. “Until yesterday, my heart skipped a beat whenever men moved their hands or bags near my body.”

Tomoaki Abe, a 41-year-old public official from Sakura Ward, Saitama, also welcomed the new service.

“I always keep my hands up because I don’t want to be mistaken for a groper,” he said. “In that respect, the special carriage benefits men too.”

But, Makoto Nagata, a 32-year-old company employee from Toda, Saitama Prefecture, said, “Although the special car isn’t crowded, the other carriages are more crowded than usual.”

The first carriages on 35 trains that stop at JR Shinjuku Station from 7:30 a.m. to 9:40 a.m. on weekdays will be designated as women-only. Primary school and younger boys and handicapped men also can use the carriage.

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