School girl fetishes: an insight into Japan's most disturbing obsession
Japan's sexualisation of school girls condones perverted sexual desire and it needs to stop.
Nearly 5,000 young girls are thought to be working in cafes across Japan where older men pay teenage girls dressed in school uniform to chat, hold hands and even have a snooze in their laps. These spaces are called 'JK cafes'. "JK" is an abbreviation for Joshi Kosei, meaning "school girl". There is a street in Tokyo filled with so many of these cafes that it has acquired the name "school girl alley". Experienced scouts highly trained in the manipulation of vulnerable girls are employed to recruit new teenage girls. Poverty and low self-esteem are factors that increase the likelihood of being recruited, according to Nito, who works with a Colabo—a charity that provides a safe space for school girls that are vulnerable to being recruited.
Stacey Dooley investigates the disturbing sexualisation of young girls in a new documentary, Young Sex For Sale in Japan. In the documentary, Stacey Dooley speaks to a regular customer at the cafe who talks about his favourite girl. He likes her especially as "She is good at talking dirty, but she pretends to be pure".
What's most unsettling is that this casual sexual exploitation is completely legal in Japan.
The perverted desire to have sex with young girls is not repressed or hidden in Japan. The fetishisation of school girls has been going on for years and some academics believe that it may have started after the release of a 1985 song called Please Don't Take Off My School Uniform by the female idol group Onyanko Club. Child pornography was only banned in 2014. Images and videos of child abuse was completely legal up until this point.
Perhaps even more disturbing than school girl fetishes is a practice called 'Chaku Ero', meaning "erotically clothed". Despite the ban on child pornography, there are loopholes that can be exploited. Children can be involved in Chaku Ero practices. In her upcoming documentary, Stacey Dooley chats to a Chaku Ero producer who talks about one of the films he produced which featured a six-year-old girl dressed in a swimming costume, playing in the bath. Dooley asks how he would feel if it was his own daughter that was involved in these practices. He replied, "I would force both of us to commit a joint suicide".
"Lolicon", short for "Lolita complex" is the term for Manga and anime that features sexually explicit images of children.
It can involve extreme violence, rape and incest. This kind of material remains legal as the Japanese Government were overpowered by artists and publishers who resisted on the grounds of free speech. Dan Kanemitsu is against the ban and disagrees that this kind of content could normalise child sex abuse. He argues that it is essentially harmless and could even prevent paedophiles from committing crimes if they can fulfil their desires by watching and reading this content.
The lax laws in Japan allow for other sinister content to be created, such as the 2006 game, "RapeLay" where players attempt to rape a single mother and her two school-age daughters.
Thankfully this game is now banned, but it does still raise the question: How is it legal to broadcast such explicit and disturbing content and why isn't the government doing more to stop it?
Recruiters are becoming increasingly savvy and use social media to lure girls in. The adverts are designed to look "cute" so that they appeal to the girls. One girl who was manipulated into joining a "Magic Mirror" shop was 16-year-old Nanami (not her real name). She saw one of their adverts and signed up thinking that it would be her dream job. The "Magic Mirror" shop that Nanami worked for involved sitting and chatting in a room with a mirror until a customer arrived. Once the customer arrives he picks which girl he would like to "model" on the other side of the mirror. One customer explained, “The girl came immediately to the front and started dancing provocatively,” he said. “(The girls) were moving their hips to and fro as if they were having sex with me through the magic mirror.” The one-way mirrors are supposed to protect the girls against what the men do in their cubicles, but Nanami revealed that she had a clear view of the customer. Nanami said that she 'felt disgusted' when she saw them.
Japan has recently banned underage girls working in the JK business, but some fear that this ban will only push these shocking operations further underground. Many cafes have been shut down recently but there are still cases of girls selling themselves over the internet. Working in a JK cafe has far greater earning potential than other part-time jobs, so young girls are still likely to be lured into the business. The Metropolitan Police Department state that the scouts who target school girls will not simply disappear so young girls are still in significant danger of being recruited.
The pervasiveness of shame in Japanese Culture means that many young girls suffer in silence and don't seek help because they are so afraid of bringing shame upon their family. Critics argue that for long-lasting change the attitudes of Japanese society need to change and schools need to provide adequate sex education. Ms Tachibana, who works for Bond Project, an organisation that offers refuge from the JK industry, argues that the government needs to set up rehabilitation programmes for girls caught up in these awful practices. These girls have nowhere to go, and when they talk about their experiences, they are often picked on and shamed. This needs to change if Japan is to eradicate these exploitative businesses.