Sex trafficking in Japan

Sex trafficking in Japan is human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and slavery that occurs in the country. Japan is a country of origin, destination, and transit for sexually trafficked persons.

Japanese citizens, primarily women and girls, have been sex trafficked within Japan and to a lesser degree abroad. Foreign victims are sex trafficked into the country.[1][2] Children,[3] [4] minors, and persons from families in poverty[5] are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Sex trafficked victims are deceived,[1] [2][6][7] threatened,[2][6][7] and forced into prostitution. Their passports and bank documents are often confiscated.[2] Debt bondage is often employed.[2][6] They suffer from physical and psychological trauma.[7][3] A number contract sexually transmitted diseases from rape and live in generally poor condition. Some rescued victims face ostracization, depression,[3] and or commit suicide.[7] Online sextortion and the creation of coerced rape pornography are issues.[7]

Male and female traffickers in Japan come from a wide range of backgrounds and every social class. Traffickers are often members of or facilitated by crime syndicates, [2] including the yakuza or bōryokudan. Sex trafficking is linked to Japan's entertainment and tourism industries,[4] and women and girls are also trafficked to businesses catering to military servicmen and contractors in United States Forces Japan. Traffickers have used the internet websites, email, and apps to lure victims.[7] Japanese nationals have engaged in cybersex trafficking.[8][9]

The scale of sex trafficking in Japan is difficult to know because of the underground nature of sex trafficking crimes, the fact that only a small minority of cases are reported to the authorities, and other factors. The Japanese government has been criticized for its lacking anti-sex trafficking efforts and laws.[3][7][6] Some Japanese officials have been accused of being apathetic to the issue.[6]


Girls, including runaways, are lured, coerced, or forced into prostitution in Japan.[7] The creation and sale of child pornography in Japan is a pervasive problem.[7][4][3]

Some Japanese students have become child prostitutes in "high school dating" businesses in Tokyo and other cities.[5][3] These dating businesses are known as the "JK business", which is one of the representative practices that represents sexual exploitation in Japan. It is a compensated dating business where girls individually provide dating services to Japanese men for a fee. The "JK business" offers "hidden options" and attracted numbers of high school girls to earn extra money.[10] Evidence suggests these dating activities are preparatory stages for potential forms of child prostitution and child abuse, however, this type of business appeared to be socially accepted and tolerated.[11] According to the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, there were 137 JK business operations identified and non closed; 69 individuals arrested for being engaged in criminal activities surrounding the JK business.[12]

Akihabara has been referred to as a hub for child sex trafficking.[4]

Modeling scam

Japanese citizens, in addition to foreign women, are deceived by malicious individuals who claim to be fashion model agents. The victims are then convinced to sign phony contracts, legally binding them to participate in prostitution and the production of pornography.[7][6] If victims try to refuse, agents allegedly threaten that they will have to pay penalties, or they will reveal the videos to the victim's family. Victims are also forced to sign contracts through which they abandon certain legal rights, such as copyrights of the films in which they are portrayed.[13]

Non-governmental organizations

Lighthouse, a non-profit, rescues and helps sex trafficking victims in Japan.[5][7][6][4][2]

Colabo (Tokyo) conducts anti-sex trafficking efforts in the country.[7][3]


The manga, 'Blue Heart,' includes real stories of victims of sex trafficking in Japan.[6]


Besides young Japanese women and girls, foreign women who work in or migrate to Japan are also vulnerable to sexual exploitation, especially those from Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines.[14] These victims are often lured by false promises of work opportunities in Japan arrive on short-stay visas. Once they arrive in Japan, they are subsequently forced into sex work, however, their involvement in the adult entertainment industry are generally regarded as voluntary participants, whatever their circumstances.[15] Because of the visa status, these foreign workers are reluctant to seek help from local authorities since they acknowledge the vise was not able to grant them legal working rights in Japan. Combined with factors such as psychological intimidation, language barriers, and cultural differences, foreign women are at a higher vulnerable position.[16]

Government Response

Japanese authorities have taken law enforcement actions against adult and child sex trafficking. The Employment Security Act (ESA) and the Labor Standards Act (LSA) both criminalized forced labor, which protects mental and physical freedom of the workers and serves as a measure against sex trafficking.[17] The "Act on Regulation and Punishment of Activities Relating to Child Prostitution and Pornography and the Protection of Children" criminalized engaging in commercial sexual exploitation of a child, including purchase or sale of children for the purpose of production of child pornography or prostitution.[18] On March 29, 2016, a cabinet decision was made on "Regarding basic policies on activities relating to measures against sexual exploitation etc. of children".[19] This decision was meant to eradicate the sexual victimization of children resulting from child prostitution and production of child pornography. The National Public Safety Commission has been designated to govern the overall measures against the sexual exploitation of children. The police also work closely together with the relevant ministries and authorities to crackdown child prostitution-related crimes. Seven major prefectures maintained ordinances banning JK businesses, prohibiting girls younger than 18 from working in compensated dating services, or requiring JK business owners to register their employee rosters with local public safety commissions.[20]


  1. ^ a b "Seven Cambodians Rescued in Sex Trafficking Bust in Japan". VOA. January 24, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Why are foreign women continuing to be forced into prostitution in Japan?". The Mainichi. June 10, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "For vulnerable high school girls in Japan, a culture of 'dates' with older men". The Washington Post. May 16, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Internship explores a seedy side of Tokyo". NJJN. July 29, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "Schoolgirls for sale: why Tokyo struggles to stop the 'JK business'". The Guardian. June 15, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "The Sexual Exploitation of Young Girls in Japan Is 'On the Increase,' an Expert Says". Time. October 29, 2019.
  8. ^ "Japanese, Filipino couple sued over child cybersex". Inquirer. September 18, 2015.
  9. ^ "Online child sexual exploitation and abuse". UNODC. 2019.
  10. ^ "Japan | Global Slavery Index". www.globalslaveryindex.org. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  11. ^ "OHCHR | End of mission statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, on her visit to Japan". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  12. ^ "Japan". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  13. ^ Japan NGO Network for CEDAW (JNNC) 2016, NGO Joint Report (Japan) with regard to the consideration of the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Japan for the sixty-third session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, p. 18-20.
  14. ^ "Why are foreign women continuing to be forced into prostitution in Japan?". Mainichi Daily News. 2017-06-09. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  15. ^ Cameron, S & Newman, E n.d., Trafficking of Filipino Women to Japan: Examining the Experiences and Perspectives of Victims and Government Experts, United Nations University, United Nations Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings. p.3.
  16. ^ "Why are foreign women continuing to be forced into prostitution in Japan?". Mainichi Daily News. 2017-06-09. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  17. ^ "Japan". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  18. ^ "Japan". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  19. ^ Council for the Promotion of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons 2017, Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons (Annual Report), Government of Japan, 30 May.
  20. ^ "Japan". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2020-11-20.

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