Well, we tried. I saw a post on couchsurfing with plans for a pantsless train ride, part of No Pants 2010 organized by Improv Everythingwhere. The consensus among some Japanese people I talked to the night before is that it would mostly be foreigners – the concept is a bit weird for Japanese.
The chosen train line was the Yamanote Line, which is probably Tokyo’s busiest train line. It runs in a big loop around central Tokyo – anything important is on the Yamanote Line, or one train connection away from it.
I showed up at Ikebukuro Station (1 station after the start), took off my pants in a washroom, and walked upstairs to the platform… there were a few security guards there who saw me but didn’t do anything except laugh. Then I got the word from a French participant on the platform: “put your pants on or they won’t let you on the train. We’ll take our pants off on the train.”
Sure enough, when the train arrived a few minutes later, the designated car was full of police officers and JR security guards. I got on the car next to it (which was my plan all along.) Word was that there were plainclothes officers in every car, and they were threatening to arrest anyone who participated. A few minutes after we boarded, two police officers came up to us and one of them asked us in English if we were part of the no pants ride… he told us “there’s no no pants ride. Keep your pants on or you will be arrested.”
So yeah. No no pants ride.
After the ride we headed to Yoyogi Park as planned. At least 2 people at the park had actually managed to board the train without pants, and in both cases they were detained and yelled at (but not arrested) by the police. They also kept several people off the car by simply blocking the doors when they saw someone on the platform without pants.
And that was that. Here’s a news article in English – it has links to an article in Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, and a blog, where commenters mostly thought that the police response was a complete waste of police overtime and public money.
We think that “honest man” on the Facebook event tipped off the police. From what I’ve heard, last halloween there was a party on the Yamanote Line where a bunch of Japanese people took the social convention of “anything goes when you’re drunk” a bit too far and smashed up the inside of the train car. So when the police heard of another weird event on the Yamanote, they reacted.
We may try again. This time it will be invite-only, details by email to people whom the organizers have met and checked out. And it won’t be on the Yamanote Line.