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In early January at about 8 p.m., a 17-year-old who works at Naniwa de Sanpo (A Walk in Naniwa) in Osaka’s Namba district stands outside a convenience store with a luxury bag slung across her shoulder.

Moments later, a man in a suit who appears to be in his 30s appears and greets her. The girl, who did not reveal her identity, walks off with the man. Several minutes later, the pair cautiously observe their surroundings before discreetly slipping into a love hotel.

About an hour later, they exit the building separately. The girl returns to the convenience store where she waits outside for a rendezvous with another man.

Despite an intensified crackdown on dating services employing underage girls, preventing the girls from simply switching to other employers is becoming a game of cat and mouse, police say.

The girls can be highly compensated for performing illicit sexual acts.

Newly passed ordinances in Tokyo and Aichi Prefecture prohibit girls aged 17 and under from working in the “JK business,” which thrives on the use of joshi kosei, referring to high school girls.

Some of the shady operations are being exposed. But keeping track of girls who can easily find new businesses that will hire them to offer sex acts is another matter.

Naniwa de Sanpo, the shop in Osaka, advertises “tourist information on high school girls.”

The Osaka Prefectural Police arrested a former business manager and others connected to the shop in May and June for allegedly providing sexual services.

One girl who was employed at the shop in January said she “earned as much as ¥7 million” working there.

According to industry insiders, some of the girls employed at Naniwa de Sanpo moved there after other JK business were exposed by police.

Although no law exists allowing a general crackdown on JK businesses themselves, the hope is that enforcement of regulations under ordinances, as well as on-the-spot police checks, will help prevent young girls from seeking out such employment.

In Tokyo, JK operators are now obliged to register with the Tokyo Metropolitan Public Safety Commission and submit a list of employees, allowing their ages to be verified.

In Osaka Prefecture, where there is no underage ordinance, police have turned to the Child Welfare Law and have uncovered three other businesses aside from Naniwa de Sanpo since last September.

But the police admit they are fighting an uphill battle. One police official said the high earning potential for young girls at the illicit operations means many will continue to seek out such employment.

“As long as there are girls who can’t forget that ‘taste of honey,’ and adults out there who are using the services, it’s just a cat-and-mouse game for us,” the official said.

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