National

Nonprofit's manga raises awareness of teen sexual exploitation in Japan

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

A Tokyo-based nonprofit organization is publishing manga booklets Monday that aim to safeguard juveniles from what it calls the increasingly serious reality of teen sexual exploitation in Japan.

The brainchild of Lighthouse, a group known for its counseling service for victims of human trafficking, the manga, according to the NPO, offers an authentic insight into sex crimes targeting juveniles today.

“Sexual commodification of children is growing more and more serious,” spokeswoman Aiki Segawa said. “There are a lot of cases where the kids could have been saved before it became too late if they had been more knowledgeable about what sort of danger lurks in their life.”

Lighthouse, formerly known as Polaris Project Japan, claims on its website that it has received over 3,000 calls and emails from victims of various forms of human trafficking, mostly involving minors and women, since it started a counseling service in 2005.

Beginning Monday, Lighthouse will start sending about 150 free copies of an 84-page booklet, titled “Blue Heart,” to those who ordered it in advance, mostly school teachers and workers at children’s institutions.

The manga’s production was financed to the tune of ¥1.2 million through an online crowdfunding project early last year.

In an effort to better reach schoolchildren, the group is also planning to make a free version of the manga available in the form of an e-book in April, possibly via smartphone apps.

National Police Agency statistics for 2013 show that a total of 7,687 offenses took place in which the well-being of juveniles was violated. Of them, 1,644 were related to child pornography and 709 to child prostitution.

The manga consists of three episodes, all based on real-life reports of sexual victimization affecting teenagers. Prior to publication, Lighthouse asked teens to give the group feedback about how to make the story line more authentic.

One episode has to do with the infamous “JK business,” where high school girls, or “joshi kosei” in Japanese, are lured into what are ostensibly touted as high-paying jobs, only to later find themselves coerced into providing sexual services by their employers and customers.

In the episode, a high school girl is hired by a trafficker to engage half-naked in online video chatting with male customers, with the result that nude images of her proliferate across the Internet. The girl eventually contemplates suicide.

Another episode deals with the little-known reality of sexual assaults against boys. Lighhouse spokeswoman Segawa said that although the number of young male victims who confide in the organization is considerably smaller than that of girls, she believes there are far more boys who are simply unwilling or unable to come forward.

The manga also addresses the issue of so-called revenge porn, in which sexually explicit images of targeted individuals are posted online as a way of harassing and defaming them, sometimes by their ex-partners.

Not just aimed at children, the manga project, according to Segawa, is also a wake-up call for adults, who she said need to be awakened to the reality that today’s teenagers live “side by side” with the danger of sex crimes.

For those interested in getting hold of the manga, please visit the Lighthouse website at lhj.jp (Japanese-language only).