TOKYO (TR) – Male fans of all-girl idol groups formed a nationwide network with hundreds of members who communicated through social-networking services (SNS) to enable the dodging of train fares in arriving at events, police revealed late last month, according to Jiji Press (Nov. 24).
On September 11, Kotaro Yamamoto, 35, allegedly sneaked past a Shinkansen bullet train gate at Tokyo Station to give tickets to a 22-year-old male company employee and one other person, both of whom arrived from JR Hiroshima Station. According to police, the dodged fares totaled 18,040 yen per person.
Yamamoto, who has been accused of fraud and trespassing, admits to the allegations. “I did it because I wanted to help my fellow idol groupies with their transport costs,” the suspects was quoted by police.
Known as kiseru, the fraud involves cheating on train fares by buying tickets only for the first and last parts of a ride. According to police, members of the group who picked up cohorts were paid up to 3,000 yen, a significant savings compared to bullet train fares, in commuting to idol events. To avoid ticket inspectors in the carriages, members hid in bathrooms.
Another member of the ring was Takafumi Yamashita, a 22-year-old male university student in the capital, who allegedly sneaked past the gates at Tokyo Station to provide a ticket to a 26-year-old male company employee who departed JR Okayama Station on September 17.
Yamashita, who is a fan of group HKT48, also admits to fraud and trespassing. His cohort saved 16,300 yen in the scam.
In making arrangements for a pick-up by a group member, requests were sent via SNS. According to police, the cohort of Yamashita asked via such a network, “It’s that time again, can you come pick me up on Sunday?” to which Yamashita replied, “I can, if I can be a little late.”
The ruse came unraveled after one of the perpetrators caused confusion at Tokyo Station when he attempted to insert his ticket and that of his partner into the ticket gate at the same time, which caught the attention of station personnel.
“No matter where you’re going”
The three persons assisted by Yamamoto and Yamashita have been sent to prosecutors on suspicion of violating the Railway Operation Act over fare-dodging.
Yamashita is believed to have repeated the scheme as many as 150 times over the past four years. “There are hundreds of people who can help out in various places, including Nagoya, Fukuoka and Osaka,” the suspect was quoted. “So they’ll help you no matter where you’re going.”