National / Media | DARK SIDE OF THE RISING SUN

Porn industry takes first step toward recognizing it has a problem

by Jake Adelstein

Special To The Japan Times

Japan’s multibillion-dollar pornography industry suffered a shock last month after police arrested three men connected with one of the country’s top talent agencies, in a rare crackdown on illegal practices in the business.

Investigative sources said the trio were arrested on suspicion of dispatching a woman in her 20s to work with a video producer over two consecutive days in late 2013 during which she was coerced into engaging in a sex act.

Those who cover crime in Japan know this problem isn’t new — it has just been a while since the police did anything about it.

On June 11, police arrested Marks Japan President Takashi Kozasu, 50, and two others on suspicion of labor law violations. The three men were charged with breaking laws that regulate labor dispatch companies, which forbid agencies from sending workers into harmful work against public morals. Police sources said they launched the investigation after the woman consulted with them in December 2015.

According to media reports, the suspects played a part in forcing the woman in her 20s into appearing in adult films by threatening to punish her financially. They also threatened to demand money from the woman’s parents as a penalty for “contract violations,” if necessary.

She reportedly signed a contract with the company as a model in 2009, but appeared in more than 100 adult films after Oct. 1, 2013, until she was able to cancel the contract in 2014.

In a report published March 3, Tokyo-based advocacy group Human Rights Now warned of a rise in the number of cases in which young fashion hopefuls are coerced into obscene or pornographic videos after responding to offers from agents purporting to offer above-board assignments.

In many cases, the group said, young women sign contracts with agencies without knowing they will later be pressured to have sex on camera.

Shihoko Fujiwara, a representative from Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims, says the organization had received more than 100 complaints regarding forced participation in adult films in the past 18 months.

“Victims are talked into signing things like a fashion modeling contract, or they are told they are going to be acting in a film,” Fujiwara says. “When they turn up on set, however, they are given a porn script and informed that it is a porn shoot. They beg to quit or to go home but the producers or studios threaten to charge them with millions of yen in penalties for ‘contract violations.’ They are used and disposed of like products, with long-lasting consequences on their schooling, careers and marriages.”

Ten percent of these complaints were from young men, Fujiwara says.

Those involved in the adult industry were at first evasive after the June arrests. Mariko Kawana, a former adult video actress who has made more than 400 X-rated films over her career, told Diamond Magazine Online on June 10 that she had never experienced coercion.

In the same interview, however, Kawana noted that her first introduction to the industry came from a man who tried to blackmail her into working as an adult video actress. He invited her to an audition and then threatened to tell her parents she was acting in adult videos as soon as she turned up for the interview.

Kawana was then approached on the street by a scout who was working with a large production company, in which she registered as an actress and learned she could refuse any role. The president of the production company called her male friend and halted the blackmail attempt.

Kawana ultimately ended up appearing in adult videos, but on her own terms.

The coercion of actresses in the adult film industry isn’t entirely new. In February 2009, police in Tokyo arrested the CEO of talent agency Pinki Net Productions on suspicion of child pornography law violations. The agency had used a 16-year-old girl in an adult movie that was sold on DVD.

Industry observers at the time had warned that the case may just be the tip of the iceberg — and so it seems.

In response to the most recent allegations, the Intellectual Property Promotion Association (IPPA), which represents Japan’s adult film industry, issued a formal apology on June 22. In a statement, the IPPA said it “deeply regrets that we failed to take the initiative (to deal with the problem). We are very sorry.”

The IPPA pledged to work with NPOs to address issues such as coercion and human rights violations, and to improve working conditions as quickly as possible.

Fujiwara welcomes the apology, but warns that the IPPA oversees just 80 percent of the agencies involved in the adult film industry. Plenty of other firms operate independently without oversight, she says.

Acknowledging a problem exists is always the first step toward solving it. Let’s hope the agencies take the next step soon in order to protect those working in the industry, preferably sooner than later.

Dark Side of the Rising Sun is a monthly column that takes a behind-the-scenes look at news in Japan.