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Japan is regarded as a major international distribution point for child pornography. Child pornography is widely available at Japanese sex shops and border-line material is sold at supermarkets and convenience stores. Mangas (comic books) depicting brutal sex with children are also common.

There are several overlapping branches of child porn produced in Japan: “ lilicon “ prepubescent girls”, “shojo-ai” (girls seven to 20); “shotocom” ( little boys); and “pico” (little boys that look like girls). “Roricon” is short for “Lolita complex.” At convenience stores you can find porn magazines that boast “Our Cover Girl Is Our Youngest Yet: 14!” Teenage sex workers are visible in the Kabukicho entertainment district in Tokyo. There are stores there that specialize in selling underwear of teenage strippers.

Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in New York Times: “Japan, which has long been relatively tolerant of the open sale and consumption of sexually oriented material, lately has developed a brisk trade in works that in many other countries might be considered child pornography. In a widely available and popular DVD, a real-life Japanese model poses in a tiny white bikini. She makes popcorn in a maid’s costume. She plays with a beach ball while being hosed down with water. The model, Akari Iinuma, is 13 years old.[Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, February 9, 2011]

“I loved the white bikini,” Iinuma told the adult male fans who turned out at the Sofmap electronics store in Tokyo for an event to promote the release of her second DVD, “Developing Now.” It is a plotless 70 minutes of Ms. Iinuma in various costumes and poses. At the gathering, Tabuchi wrote, Ms. Iinuma performed a short dance, spoke about the video shoot, then posed as men approached her to snap photos, while her mother looked on from the back of the room.

“Provocative depictions of young girls — referred to as “junior idols” — is are prevalent in magazines, DVDs and Web videos,” Tabuchi wrote. “Junior idol photo books and DVDs are widely available on Web sites like Amazon’s site in Japan and in specialized bookstores. At least eight magazines are devoted to such photos, including Sho-Bo, which features girls of elementary school age. Models who pose in the pictures are paid about 200,000 yen ($2,400) a shoot, often dream of careers in acting or music, industry insiders say.”

In the 1990s Japan was regarded as the source of 80 percent of the world's child porn. Today it has the third most child porn sites afer the United States and Russia. A survey in 1999, found 3,000 Japan-based websites distributed pornography, 40 percent of them featuring children. One specializing in "lolitas," show naked schoolgirls who could be bound and gagged with click of a mouse. There are also sites with names like “Little Sister” that feature very young girls in scanty clothing or bikinis in suggestive poses, One that charges members ¥3,000 a month shows a 10-year-old girl changing into a bikini on a bed and 7-year-old girls jumping over a vaulting horse in school swim wear.

Japanese child pornography is widely disseminated and consumed not only in Japan but abroad. The yakuza is reportedly heavily involved in producing it. Many girls have been offered money to have sex or be photographed in the nude. In some districts of Tokyo male “scouts” prowl the streets trying to encourage young girls into clubs that advertise "Let's enjoy play with sexy girls." One 14-year-old girl told Time, "Usually I say no. But if he gives me 80,000 yen [$675] I'll do it."

Hiromasa Nakai, a spokesman for the Japan Committee for UNICEF, told the New York Times that the abundance of child pornography in Japan made it even easier for those who would normally not be considered as having clinical pedophilia, a psychiatric disorder characterized by a sexual obsession with young children, to develop a sexual interest in children. “To a degree, it has become socially accepted to lust over young girls in Japan,” Mr. Nakai said. “Condoning these works has meant more people have access to them and develop an interest in young girls.” [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, February 9, 2011]

Pornography and Subway Groping Pornography, Rape and Sex Crimes in Japan from the Pacific Center of Sex and Society at the University of Hawaii ; Wikipedia article on Pornography in Japan Wikipedia ; Economist Article on Child Pornography in Japan ; Time Magazine on Elder Porn in Japan ; Subway Groping Video ; Subway Groping


Laws and Campaigns Against Child Pornography in Japan

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Japan has been criticized by the international community for being a major production center for “child pornography” and having laws against child pornography are either weak, unenforced or non-existent. Some of the laws that exist have no punitive measures. Among the Group of Eight nations only Japan and Russia lack outright bans in child pornography.

A law addressing child prostitution and child pornography was not passed until 1999. Before then taking lewd photographs with naked children was permissible in Japan. Current laws do not prohibit the possession by individuals of pornographic images featuring children as long as they do not intend to distribute them. Under these laws it is difficult to prevent production of child porn. Laws that define child pornography as “the stimulation of sexual desire via the depiction of a naked or partially clothed child” are of little use because the “the stimulation of sexual desire” is difficult to prove and the penalties are minimal anyway. There has been some discussion of banning possession of child pornography and go after people who make child pornography websites using child welfare laws.

In a conference on child pornography a letter was read that written by a university student who was photographed having sex as a child. “My picture continues to appear in the Internet,” she wrote. “Even as I grow older, I can’t fall in love with anyone or get married, or have a long as the picture exists,”

Campaigns against pornography have been stymied by concerns about violations of freedom of expression and privacy rights and worries that it would waste the time of police who could be investigating more serious crimes. U.S. officials have repeatedly asked Japanese for their help in fighting child pornography but the Japanese police refuse to share information.

For major Japanese service providers — @nifty, OCN, Biglobe and Son-net, managed by subsidiaries of Fujitsu, NTT, NEC and Sony respectively’said they would stop providing fee-based service that allow customers to access websites featuring photographs of very young Japanese girls dressed in swimsuits and adopting sexually-suggestive poses.

In February 2010, the Japanese government formed a special team to fight child porn and eyed blocking Internet access to child pron sites and other measures.

Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times, “Legal experts say that Japan’s laws against child pornography are lax by international standards. Japan has banned the production or distribution of any sexually explicit, nude images of minors since 1999, when Parliament passed a law in response to international criticism of the wide availability of such works in the country. But even now, unlike the United States and most European countries, Japan does not ban the possession of child pornography.” [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, February 9, 2011]

“But at least the 1999 law helped stamp out a formerly popular genre of photo books depicting nude under-age girls. One of the genre’s best-selling books, published in 1991, featured nude photos of the actress Rie Miyazawa, who was not yet 18 at the time of the photo shoot. In recent years books and videos have emerged that sidestep the law by featuring girls, some as young as age 6, posing in swimsuits that stop short of full nudity.”

“There have been earlier moves to regulate pedophilic material in Japan, especially after the murders of four little girls in 1988-89 by a man police described as a pedophile. The case spurred local governments across Japan to adopt ordinances setting some limits to sales of pedophilic works, including a loose ratings system for explicit manga books imposed by the publishers themselves, and also set the stage for the 1999 anti-child pornography law. Already the Tokyo government checks for “unwholesome” manga publications and can order publishers to label them as for adults only. But supporters of more regulation say those efforts have been sporadic.”

“We believe that when the rights of adults or businesses violate children’s rights, children must come first,” Tamae Shintani, head of Tokyo’s parent-teacher association for elementary schools, told the New York Times. “But we also respect free speech, so the least we can ask is people keep their fetishes under wraps.”

Crackdowns on Child Pornography in Japan

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Child pornography is increasing being viewed as a serious problem in Japan. Shihoko Fujiwara, representative of Polaris Project Japan, a nonprofit organization that provides support to children and women who are victims of sexual abuse and trafficking, told the Yomiuri Shimbun, the of child pornography and child prostitution cases detected in Japan exceeds 5,000 annually, and the number is rising year by year. "One of the reasons for the increase,” she said, “is that a growing number of children have become involved in the business through the widespread use of the Internet.” [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, December 27, 2010]

Fujiwara described a 14-year-old second-year female middle school student who was forced to sell sexual services by her classmates and the scene was filmed by male customers. The student, who attended a public high school, sold a nude image of herself through an Internet message board to raise money to go to university, as she was unable to depend on her parents financially. She contacted Polaris after a man who purchased the image threatened to meet her in person and another demanded she send more images.

Fujiwara told the Yomiuri Shimbun, "Recent child pornography trends show a preference for more extreme depictions and lower ages to sell at high prices." She warned that today's Internet society has created an environment in which children can too easily meet their victimizers. "I'd like children and parents to be aware of the danger of cell phones, which have the potential of being used as a weapon," she said.

Kazuo Takeuchi, a teacher's consultant at the Neyagawa city board of education in Osaka Prefecture, told the Yomiuri Shimbun, it was easy for children to earn money from Internet porn and parents and teachers know very little about it. "There's a Web site on which female students can sell their nude photos taken with their own cell phones,” he said. “Pictures taken according to buyers' personalized requests are sold for higher prices."

The National Police Agency said it handled 676 child porn cases in 2008. Among the cases were 387 incidents of taking obscene photos of minors, 129 cases of providing images containing child porn and 97 cases of possessions of such images with intent to distribute them. Among the victims were 151 high school students, 134 middle school students ad 34 primary school students.

In November 2008, three men — company employees in their 20s and 30s — were arrested by police in Saitama Prefecture for spreading child porn on the Internet using file-sharing software. It was the first case of police in Japan making an arrest over child pornography using such methods. More than 2,000 child porn videos were found in the computers and other devices possessed by the men. The investigation that led to the arrests was launched after complaints were filed from Brazil of child porn images being transmitted from 20 locations in Japan.

Police investigated 935 cases of child pornography in 2009, more than five times the number in 2004. A survey by the National Police Agency also found the age of victims was getting younger, with about 16 percent of them being primary school age or younger. A total of 439 of the cases involved the production of child porn such as videos.

In January 2010, ten mothers, lured by promises of big money, were arrested or detained for selling naked photographs of their own daughters to pedophiles. One 21-year-old housewife from Miyagai Prefecture sold nude pictures of her one-year-old daughter through a broker she came in contact with when she tried to sell her used panties on a cell phone site.

In April 2010, four people, including three teenagers, were arrested for operating a site that sold DVDs of nude boys that earned million of yen a year. The boys featured in the DVDs were of primary to high school age, with some engaging in lewd acts.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: Police discovered 1,455 cases of child pornography in 2011, up 8.4 percent from the previous year and the highest number since statistics were first compiled in 2000, according to the National Police Agency. The number of children whose pornographic images were posted on the Internet came to a record 638. Of them, 105 children, or about 16 percent, were primary school students or younger. [Source: February 17, 2012]

Campaign Against Child Pornography in Japan

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In April 2011, major Internet service providers began blocking access to websites that offer child pornography. The blocking began after the government’s crime countermeasures conference concluded that "blocking access to child pornography can be done under the current law if certain conditions are met."

In May 2010, the Japanese government had asked Internet providers to block child porn sites. In July it announced a plan to introduce a system to block child porn sites. The plan included pleas to the public to report child porn to the police and measures to enable the government to block images from being distributed and viewed. The government is also working on early detection and support for child victims.

The group in charge with implementing the system has had trouble hammering out the details of how the program would work. Some want to block sites even if they have only one example of child porn. Others are worried more about privacy and freedom of expression issues.

Child Porn Continues to Thrive on the Internet in Japan Despite Efforts to Curb It

In June 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Websites selling child pornography DVDs continue to operate despite the launch in April last year of a content blocking system to fight them. The illicit sites have exploited a loophole in the system to give their customers easy access. Users can easily access a blocked site by simply typing the site's Internet protocol (IP) address, which usually consists of a series of numbers (such as instead of a URL (such as directly in the browser's address bar. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 28, 2012]

“Police recently discovered one such site that carries pictures of naked girls together with descriptions of their ages, such as "9 years old" and "11 years old." The site sells DVDs that appear to contain child pornography at 650 yen each, including "famous" titles that the police cracked down on nationwide in the past. The site boasts, "We have all the titles you want." According to police, the operator of this site is a group based in the Tokyo metropolitan area that has been selling illegal DVDs for several years. It established dozens of new sites after the launch of the site blocking system in 2011, seemingly undisturbed by the measure. These websites can be accessed because of a technical loophole--the direct typing of IP addresses.

“An IP address is allocated to every website on the Internet. However, URLs are more widely used as Internet users find them easier to work with. The Internet Content Safety Association, which decides sites to be targeted for the content blocking, only made a list of URLs, but not a list of IP addresses. The practice inadvertently allows easy access to the blocked sites by using IPs instead of URLs. Operators of illegal sites prepare websites carrying images such as models in swimsuits, which are not child pornography. After they receive accesses from potential clients, the operators send them the IP addresses of the illegal sites through means such as e-mail to lure them to the illicit pornography sites.

“Police plan to launch an intensive campaign to crack down on websites that sell illegal DVDs on suspicion of violating the law against activities relating to child prostitution and child pornography. Access blocking systems designed to prevent the proliferation of child pornography have been employed in European countries, such as Norway and Britain, since around 2004. The Japanese system was launched in April 2011. As of November, 170 URLs and 19 domains were registered as "illegal sites." However, lists of the corresponding IP addresses have not been compiled.

“According to a survey conducted from October to December last year by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, Norway introduced a blocking system similar to that of Japan, while Britain blocks questionable sites using both URLs and IP addresses. "We are aware that the direct typing of IP addresses is rampant, and we are trying to address the problem as soon as possible," said an official of Yahoo Japan, which serves as the secretariat of the ICSA.

Japanese Man Arrested in the U.S. over Child Porn

In July 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The U.S. Homeland Security Department has arrested a Japanese man who allegedly managed child porn sites in the United States on suspicion of violating a federal law that prohibits advertisement and possession of child pornography, according to investigative sources. The arrest of Kimihiko Makino, 38, a company executive from Toshima Ward, Tokyo, came after the Metropolitan Police Department arrested several members of a group that allegedly sold child porn DVDs on the websites it operates. The arrest in the United States was made based on information provided by Japanese investigation authorities; such collaboration is rare for arrests involving multiple members of the same group. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2012]

“According to information the MPD received from the United States, the Homeland Security Department arrested Makino in San Francisco on July 6 on suspicion of carrying Internet advertisements for child porn DVDs. Makino allegedly managed child porn websites, and many child porn images remained on the servers, sources said, adding that he has already been indicted. The MPD, during its initial investigations into the group, concluded that it was operating child porn websites using more than 10 rented servers in the United States. The MPD provided information to U.S. authorities through the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

“The MPD also learned that Makino, who travels between Japan and the United States several times a year, managed the websites. On July 2, police arrested six people, including Yoshiyuki Hayashi, 48, in Japan on suspicion of violating the law prohibiting child prostitution and child pornography, for counts including provision of child pornography. On the following day, two more members of the group were arrested. At the time of these arrests, Makino was in the United States. Once informed of that fact by the MPD, the Homeland Security Department arrested Makino, sources said.

“To get around the blocking of URL addresses, the group applied the so-called IP "jikauchi" manual input method of changing URL addresses to IP addresses, which consist entirely of a string of numbers. This allows users to access child porn online through banner ads and other means. Pornography of kindergarten and primary school children that was distributed in the past was copied on DVDs using personal computers. The group allegedly took orders via e-mail and sold DVDs for 680 yen each. The annual sales exceeded 100 million yen a year, sources said.

“The U.S. Homeland Security Department not only collects terrorist-related information but also investigates illegal immigrants, smuggling and child pornography. The department exchanges information with Japanese authorities regarding cyber-attacks, child porn and other crimes that are international in nature.

Sex with Children in Japan

The rate for having sex with a 16-year-old in 1999 was around $250; for a 12-year-old, $400.

The papers are filled with sex with children stories. In March 1999, a mother was arrested for letting men have sex with her 15-year-old daughter. Around the same time another mother allowed a man to take nude photographs of her 10-year-old daughter in exchange for $850. In October 2001, a Tokyo high court judge was impeached after admitting that he paid for sex with a 14-year-old schoolgirl. A man from Kyoto was arrested for having sex with a 12-year-old in Bangkok.

The tolerance of sex with children is partly explained by the fact old men who are insensitive to women and children rule the government, some children are willing to do it, and that men feel threatened by a fully-grown women and seek sex with children.

In the late 2000s there was some outrage over a video game that featured the rape of two girls and their mother with players raping the girls, getting them pregnant and securing abortions, scoring points with each violent act committed against the females The game was developed by a Yokohama-based game software maker. International protests forced Amazon and others to stop selling the game but the game continued to be sold in Japan because sanctions placed on the game were only voluntary. A number of similar games also continue to be sold, made and developed.

Sex with Children Laws in Japan

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In April 1999, a law was passed that outlawed child pornography and sex with minors. The law defined minors as being aged 17 and under and prohibited have sex with minors in return for money or goods. People charged with these crimes face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Before the law was passed a minor was defined as someone under 12.

Before that Tokyo and Nagoya metropolitan areas did not have laws against conceptual sex between adult men and girls under the age of 18. An effort to pass laws in 1988 were rejected on the ground that sex was a personal issue. Incest was also not considered a crime unless a complaint was filed by the child or the child's "legal representative."

In September 2009, a 14-year-old boy was charged with child prostitution after he paid $600 to have sex with a 13-year-old girl he met on an online dating service. The money came from about $1,000 the boy had saved from cash allowances he received from his parents.

Teachers and Sex in Japan

Molestation and statutory rape of children by teachers is a serious problems in Japan. In 1999, 116 teachers were disciplined for committing indecent acts on students. Of these 56 were fired and 13 were charged with crimes. In 2001, there were 122 such cases. Experts believe that vast majority of cases go unreported.

In 2002, 98 teachers were fired for obscene acts. In 2003, 155 teachers were disciplined for “indecent acts.” in 2005, 124 teachers were disciplined for sexual offenses, including child prostitution and secretly taking images of women. In 1995, only 27 teachers were disciplined for such acts.

In 1999, a 37-old teacher in Kanagawa Prefecture was charged with committing an indecent act with a middle school girl after offering her money. The same teacher operated a prostitution club with services provided by middle school girls. Around the same time a 35-year-old English teacher was dismissed after allegedly video-taping female students through a skylight in a girl’s bathroom while they changed their clothes. A 49-year-old male teacher was jailed for touching the breasts and lower body of a mentally disabled girl while she took a shower.

In 1998, a 35-year-old high school teacher was accused of taking videos under girl's skirts by standing under a staircase. In January 1999, another school teacher was arrested after he donned a wig and skirt and videoed naked girls at a hot spring resort with a hidden camera.

In June, 1995, the principal of a major college preparatory school was arrested for running a prostitution ring involving 280 girls between the ages of 14 and 17. A few months earlier a Tokyo teacher was arrested for running an introduction service using 321 high school students.

See Child Pornography Above

More on Teachers and Sex in Japan

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In July 2001, a 34-year-old middle school Social Studies teacher picked up a 12-year-old girl, who he met through a telephone dating service, and handcuffed her and drove off with her in his car with the plan of having sex with her. While the car was traveling on an expressway she jumped out of the car and was hit by a truck.. She died after she bled to death on the side of the highway.

In January 2002, a Saitama teacher was arrested for paying a 13-year-old girl $380 for sex, a high-school teacher n Kagoshima prefecture was charged with “sexual conduct” with a 16-year-old student, and a Tokyo middle school teacher was sentenced to a year in prison for groping a high school girl on a bus.

In December 2003, a Board of Education senior official in Tokyo was caught trying to secretly video tape women changing in the dressing room at a hot spring resort In December 2006, a primary school teacher in Tokyo was reprimanded for running a website that showed photographs of six children that died traffic accidents and other children that been disfigured or seriously hurt in accidents. He was also charged with distributing child pornography In 2006 one teacher was charged with distributing child pornography and a principal in Saitama was arrested for groping a woman who was waiting for a taxi at a taxi stand at 1:00am. He was drunk at the time.

In October 2004, a 40-year-old junior high school teacher was sentenced to 18 months in prison for molesting two 13-year-old girls. Most of victims were students at his school. He molested them in his car or a karaoke where he would take the girls.

In September 2007, a vice principal was arrested from removing the underwear of a passed-out, drunken woman at a bar and taking photographs of her body. Another vice principal, at an elementary school, was disciplined for repeatedly molesting schoolgirls. He used the pretext of taking their measurements? so he could touch their bodies. Another primary school vice principal paid a girl to have sex and took obscene photographs of a number of women he met on the street which were published in a magazine. Yet another vice principal was sentenced to three years in jail, suspended five years, for lewd acts. He met six teenage girls through a dating service and sold lewd photographs he took of them.

Victims of Teacher Sex in Japan

Victims who attempt to come forward are often given a harder time than the perpetrators. The New York Times reported a story about a 16-year-old who was given genital herpes in 2001 by her teacher and told her parents about it. When they confronted the teacher, the teacher denied the claim and warned that if they reported him, the girl would be expelled from school. In spite of the threats the family reported the teacher to police. The teacher was fired and given a one-year prison sentence. However, the girl became an object of taunting by students at her school and the situation got so bad her parents sent her abroad to go to school.

In February 2002, a 51-year-old teacher was fired and given a two-year prison sentence for fondling a girl in a school office. After the teacher was arrested she was ridiculed by other students and chided by her best friend for ruining the life of the teacher. The victim told Mainichi Shimbun, “When I was the supermarket, I was surrounded by some senior students I had never spoken to before. They shouted, “That’s the sexually harassed! — and laughed at me.”

In October 2004, a 40-year-old junior high school teacher was sentenced to 18 months in prison for molesting two 13-year-old girls. Most of victims were students at his school. He molested them in his car or a karaoke where he would take the girls.

Sexual Assaults on Women in Japan

According to one survey, 60 percent of 459 Tokyo women surveyed said they had experienced some form of sexual assault ranging from verbal abuse to rape.

Only 6,124 rapes were reported nationwide in 1998. The true number is believed to much higher than that because most rapes go unreported. Women victimized by sexual crimes are regarded as dirty.

Perpetrators of sexual assaults often go unpunished. One American woman who was molested a Japanese man went to police. The man was arrested but police encouraged her not to press charges because he was a first time offender and he supported his parents.

An expert on sexual abuse told the New York Times, “In Japan, there is a rape myth, which says that the victim of rape is always to blame. Moreover, women are told that if you suffer molestation or groping, you have to be ashamed. If you talk about it to anyone else to anyone else, you are going to be tainted for the rest fo your life.”

After a gang rape occurred at Tokyo university, one member of parliament remarked, “Boys who commit group rape are in good shape. I think they are rather normal. Whoops, I shouldn’t have said that.”

A survey in 2010 found that 14 percent of sex offenders — mostly rapists and child molesters — repeated their crimes with 54 percent of them doing so within the first year of their release from prison.

Miyago Prefecture is considering employing a system like that used in some places in the United States in which sex offenders are be required to wear a GPS device attached to their ankle so their whereabouts can be monitored. The national government is not so keen on the idea, considering it Orswellian. Beginning in April 2010, sex offenders who committed crimes against children started receiving regular visits from police.

Image Sources: 1) 3) Joan Sinclair's book Pink Boxes, 2) Japan Visitors 4) Picture Tokyo 5) Ray Kinnane and Wiki Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2013

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