Tag Archives: human trafficking

The Realities and “Legal Slavery” of Japan’s Porn Industry

Japan’s pornography industry has come under greater scrutiny after Tokyo Metro Police arrested executives of a well-known talent agency for allegedly coercing an actress to engage in sex on camera.  Human rights groups had been calling for action for months.

Police announced Monday that they had arrested the president of Marks Japan Group and two others on suspicion that they forced a woman into appearing in adult films by threatening to punish her financially. They also threatened to force her parents to pay for “contract violations” if necessary, police said…..For the full article, please see this article written by Jake Adelstein, Mari Yamamoto, and Louis Krauss for the Los Angeles Times. 

JSRC is pleased to publish the full commentary from Shihoko Fujiwara, founder of Japan’s Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims, in regards to the darker side of Japan’s multibillion dollar pornography industry.

Executives of this firm were arrested for illegally dispatching women to work in pornographic films, allegedly coercing them to do so as well.
Executives of this firm were arrested for illegally dispatching women to work in pornographic films, allegedly coercing them to do so as well.


Shihoko Fujiwara, Founder of Lighthouse-

Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims have received over 100 complaints regarding forced participation in porn. 10% of these complaints are from young men around 20 years old, (some coerced into gay porn as well).

In the porn industry, the production side holds all power while the agencies and scouts who cater to them by supplying the talent often deceive the so-called talents into doing the shoots. The producers cannot get away with claiming that they did not know. It is possible that the entire industry play a part in creating a system of forcing people into porn acting in a similar manner as human trafficking.

The reality is that there are too many young men and women who are forced into porn, for the industry to dismiss it as something they were unaware of.

Victims are talked into signing a fashion modeling contract, however when they turn up on set they are given a porn script and informed that it is a porn shoot. They beg to quit or go to home but are threatened to be charged millions of yen for penalties and often end up giving in. They are used and disposed with long lasting consequences on their schooling, careers and marriages.

The time has come for the government and the society to face the issue head on. There are currently no laws or ministries who oversee the porn industry but there is a dire need for such authorities to take control of the situation.

This is Lighthouse’s statement in Japanese.
人身取引被害者サポートセンターライトハウス(Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims) には、この18ヶ月の間にも100件以上のポルノ強要相談が来ています。1割弱と少ないが20歳前後の男性からの相談もあります。


 • これを見逃していた国や社会全体が問題を直視する時期に来ています。現在ポルノ産業を管理所轄する法律も官庁もないが、早急に整備が必要だと考えています。


On Modern Slavery: Thoughts on Human Trafficking

Michiel Brandt died from complications of leukemia in July of 2012, at age 30. Today, August 29th, 2013, she would have been 32. This was the essay she submitted to the Monterey Institute of International Studies on why she wanted to attend the school. It’s a heartfelt and concise piece on what “human trafficking” really means.
She graduated posthumously on December 8th, 2012. The Monterey Institute of International Studies thanks to her Professor Tsuneo Akaha and her friend Maria Pacana, has set up a fund in her honor. If you’d like to keep her dream and her memory alive, donations are always welcome. The essay was written while she was being treated for her third bout with leukemia. 

Even as I lay like a pincushion with numerous intravenous lines running into my arms and legs, overwhelmed by the unbearable side effects of irradiation and chemotherapy, there was no doubt in my mind that I would overcome this damned cancer and live to do two things: travel the world, and pursue my ultimate passion to combat human trafficking.I was diagnosed with adult T-cell leukemia in the spring of 2005, a type of leukemia usually found in adults over forty years of age. As I was only twenty-three at the time, I was told upfront that I would most likely not live to see the next year. Even so, with a mere three percent survival rate, oddly, I never once doubted that I would survive. In August I was blessed with a bone marrow stem cell transplant from my brother who tested as a perfect match for me—a rarity even among siblings—and by fall I was discharged from the hospital, a miracle speedy recovery.

I want to pursue postgraduate studies because I aspire for a career at an international organization such as the IOM (International Organization for Migration), where I can fight for my all-time passion to combat human trafficking. [Not only do I find it personally abhorrent, but intellectually, it] is a terrible exploit of labor that robs women, men and children of their freedom and dignity. In fact, human trafficking is too polite of a term. “Modern slavery” is a more apt expression. Perhaps if portrayed by this term, more people would share my vehemence to combat it.

Everything is for sale in Japan. The lines between sex-worker and human trafficking victim are sometimes blurry, sometimes crystal clear.

There are many approaches to combat this internationally organized crime. In the two years since I have earned by bachelor’s degree, I pursued several paths toward this goal. I did fieldwork with a nongovernmental organization called The Asia Foundation, assisting rescued victims of human trafficking in Japan by guiding them to shelters, getting in touch with their families, and arranging flights home if they desired it. I have also taken the approach of public awareness. In order to decrease the demand in Japan, I helped organize seminars with the Foundation to make the current situation public. The majority of Japanese do not have the faintest idea that they live in the largest destination country for victims of trafficking. Worse, most look down upon these foreigners with menial jobs, having no idea that they were tricked into coming to Japan, their passports taken away upon arrival, forced into debt, not paid for their services, and threatened with the death of their families if they were to run away.

I also contributed to an international study to record the situation of human trafficking across borders in order to combat it more effectively. I conducted research for a U.S. State Department-funded study of human trafficking, where I investigated the situation in Japan. During this time I participated in many international conferences on counter-trafficking, where I had the pleasure of working with embassies and international organizations such as the IOM.

I still wish to try to tackle human trafficking from other angles, such as awareness-raising in countries of origin at the grassroots level to inform potential victims of the dangers of trafficking. A legal approach also interests me, such as securing a visa for trafficked victims in Japan so that they can work legally, and making the T1 Visa in the U.S. more attainable to victims, as it is not. I aspire to work at the IOM or an organization like it, as it takes on many of these projects, and has the flexibility and resources to combat human trafficking using many different approaches.

I would like to attend a master’s program to realize my goals, to become a part of something greater and more influential, and to learn how to make my ideas really make a difference to help stop Modern Slavery.

Michiel Brandt, October of 2011.


Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Fund (Monterey Institute of International Studies) — Please help us keep Michiel’s dream alive:
Here is how to give to this Fund:
1) Go to:http://www.miis.edu/giving<http://lists.middlebury.edu/t/684068/711859/1372/0/>;
2) Click on “Giving Now”; and,
3) Complete the giving form: under “2. Gift Information” “Direct Your Gift”, please select “Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Fund.”

Combatting human trafficking: 1st Winner of Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Announced

Thanks to her Professor Tsuneo Akaha, Michiel  Brandt, was able to posthumously graduate from the Monterey Institute of International Studies on December 8th, 2012. Professor Akaha and Maria Pacana also helped set up a memorial fund in her honor. The first recipient was chosen this year.
Details are at the bottom of the post.
The Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Fund — Please help us keep Michiel’s dream alive:
Here is how to give to this Fund:
1) Go to:http://www.miis.edu/giving<http://lists.middlebury.edu/t/684068/711859/1372/0/>;
2) Click on “Giving Now”; and,
3) Complete the giving form: under “2. Gift Information” “Direct Your Gift”, please select “Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Fund.”

Elena Kokhanovski, a first year MPA student, has been awarded the $1500 cash prize to support her internship in the anti-human trafficking field. Elena is undertaking academic and non-academic activities focused on this issues, according to the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS).

The award is given in honor of the late Michiel Brandt, a former MIIS student from Japan who died of leukemia while preparing for a career in this field and received her MA in International Policy Studies posthumously in December 2012. Michiel-chan aka Mimi-Chan (ミミちゃん) was one of the founders of this blog and my BFF.

The prize is made possible by generous gifts from Michiel’s family and friends in Japan and the United States. This award is designed to encourage students with professional aspirations to work in this field with the hopes of eradicating and/or preventing human trafficking.

Amy Sands, Provost of Monterey Institute of International Studies and the staff of Japan Subculture Research Center wish to extend congratulations to Elena on receiving this prize and good luck as she begins to pursue her career and fights the good fight.

Michiel wrote a very eloquent and heartfelt essay on why she wanted to work to stop sexual slavery. From 2006-2007, when I was working on a US State Department sponsored study of human trafficking in Japan, including the supply side and the traffickers–Michiel was an invaluable research assistant and translator. The essay is below.

On Modern Slavery: Thoughts on Human Trafficking by Michiel Brandt

Michiel Brandt in 2008, after a day doing research.
Michiel Brandt in 2008, after a day of fact-checking early drafts of Tokyo Vice.


Michiel Brandt was a good friend and a comrade in arms in the fight against human trafficking. (November 2011). She was a very brave woman. It's good to see her remembered.)
Michiel Brandt was my closest friend and a comrade in arms in the fight against human trafficking. (Photo/November 2011. Saint Marianna University School of Medicine Hospital). She was a very brave woman. It’s good to see her remembered.

Michiel and Hanami





Police Say More Japanese Women Becoming Human Trafficking Victims

The National Police Agency announced recently that there were total of 44 human trafficking cases confirmed by police across Japan in 2012, and a dramatic uptick in the number of domestic trafficking cases.

The numbers of victim were 27 in all. However, what was unusual was that among them a total of 11 Japanese women were recognized as victims of human trafficking, including forced prostitution.

All of the victims were born and raised in Japan, and the number of such victims was the largest since 2001, at least. The numbers did not include the hundreds of Child Welfare Law violations in which underage girls were found working, often under duress, in sex shops and adult entertainment facilities.

The Japanese government has been reluctant to recognized cases of sex-slavery involving Japanese women up to now. There have only been a handful of cases in which the anti-human trafficking laws were applied to arrest and convict criminals who preyed up on Japanese women.

Many human trafficking victims go unseen, unreported and suffer in silence.
Many human trafficking victims go unseen, unreported, and suffer in silence.

An increasingly emerging pattern for enslaving young Japanese girls involves a four-party system—a system designed to make the victim a virtual debt serf but also makes it hard for the police to prosecute as sex trafficking crime.

Scouts finds girls who have run away from home or whom are having family troubles and get them to visit a host club. The girls build up a huge tab after being told they can drink for free. In order to pay off their debts, the host club introduces the girl to a loan shark, who gives her the money to pay the debt (bar-tab). The girl is then introduced to a sex club by the loan shark so she can pay off her new debts, which also accrue interest quickly. The scout, the host club, the loan shark and the sex-club are often backed by one organized crime group and working together.

The Polaris Project Japan*, an anti-trafficking and awareness raising NPO located in Tokyo, has long argued that the Japanese government’s failure to take statistics on probable human trafficking cases, or coordinate information sharing between the multiple agencies results in an artificially low number of reported cases. Human trafficking cases, depending upon the circumstances in which the authorities become involved, may be handled by the Ministry of Justice, Immigration, Customs, or the Community Safety Division, the Community Security Division, the Organized Crime Control Division, or the Crimes Against Youth Division in local and prefectural Police Departments. There is little information sharing between the various divisions and agencies and little or no effort made to proactively identify trafficking victims. For many years, child abuse cases in Japan were also very low until reporting suspicious incidents became compulsory across the board.

*Jake Adelstein, chief editor of JSRC,  is a board member of Polaris Project Japan. 

Graduations and Goodbyes.

Professor Tsuneo Akaha, of Monterey Institute of International Studies, sent me photos of Michiel “Mimi” Brandt’s posthumous graduation ceremony on December 8th (US time). Michiel was one of the founders of this blog and my BFF. The tremendous amount of joy and warmth she brought into the world during her short life inspired me and apparently many others as well.

Below is the address Professor Akaha gave in her honor.

Michiel Brandt graduated posthumously with honor.


Today we are delighted to award Michiel Brandt an MA in International Policy Studies  posthumously and to have Michiel’s mother Hiroko from Tokyo and her brother Daniel from San Francisco to receive her diploma. 

Michiel was nearing completion of all the requirements for her degree with a specialization in Human Rights, International Norms, and Justice, when she lost her battle against cancer  on July 9 this year. She was 30 years old. She attended MIIS four semesters, from September to December 2008, and again from August 2009 to December 2010. She took a leave of absence between the two periods to undergo treatment for leukemia. Her medical battle did not deter her from pursuing her dream of a professional career to help the disadvantaged, the weak, and the vulnerable in the world. She was particularly dedicated to the cause of fighting human trafficking, the reason that brought her to MIIS in the first place.

In order to honor her and to carry on her dream, MIIS has established a Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Fund to support Monterey Institute students pursuing an internship in the human trafficking field. If you are interested in donating to the Fund, please go to the MIIS website and click on “Giving” on the front page or contact the Institutional Advancement Office. “

Michiel was one of the warmest, sweetest, and most diligent persons I have ever known. She was always willing to assist others who needed help with academic and nonacademic matters. Behind her fellowship and friendship was her bilingual and bicultural background. She had lived, studied, and worked in both Japan and the United States. I also believe that her battle with cancer gave her the strength and courage with which she conducted herself. “

Over the three years that I knew her, not once did I hear her complain about her own issues. Instead, she helped others with compassion and love. The numerous posts by her friends on her Facebook page, which continues today, testify to the fact that she touched the lives of so many people while she was with us and continues to do so even after she left us.  

In short, Michiel was a model MIIS student, committed to pursuing a professional career to make a difference in the world, in the lives of the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. Even though she is not with us physically, in her seat we have a Japanese flag in her honor.  

Now I ask you to join me in welcoming Hiroko-­‐san and Daniel-­‐san onto the stage.  

December 8, 2012

Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Fund (Monterey Institute of International Studies) – Please help us keep Michiel’s dream alive:
Here is how to give to this Fund:
1) Go to:http://www.miis.edu/giving<http://lists.middlebury.edu/t/684068/711859/1372/0/>;
2) Click on “Giving Now”; and,
3) Complete the giving form: under “2. Gift Information” “Direct Your Gift”, please select “Michiel Brandt Memorial Prize Fund.”


Sexnomics: Japan’s 100 Billion Dollar Sex Industry And The Pink Zone

UPDATED: Japan’s semi-legal sex industry exists on a mind-boggling scale, yet there are very few books or articles which even give a rudimentary idea of how big a role it plays in the national economy. Japan has laws which forbid prostitution but set no punishment for the prostitute or the customer. Selling uncensored pornography depicting sexual intercourse is a crime but paying for actual sexual intercourse at an established Soapland establishment is not. It’s not that the sex industry exists in a grey zone in Japan, it exists in a pink zone–it’s overwhelmingly legal except for when the authorities decided to make token crack-downs.

Takashi Kadokura (門倉貴史), the economist who rose to fame with his white-paper on Japan’s underground economy, has written the penultimate guide to Japan’s sex industry in his book SEXONOMIC: PROFITS IN THE GLOBALSEX ECONOMY・世界の「下半身」経済が儲かる理由 . It deftly lays out and explains how the varied sexual service industries in Japan (fashion health, image clubs, soap land)  work on an economic level and some alarming trends.

If you are an anthropologist, an economic researcher, or simply interested in the seedy side of the sun, than this book is a treasure trove of strange and useful information. For example, the “fashion health” (euphemism for sexual massage to include fellatio/hand-jobs/frottage) industry, which is perfectly legal in most places, brings in ¥678,000,000,000 a year (8 billion dollars).  That’s only a fraction of the sex industry. In addition to “fashion health” there are also “image clubs”, in which similar sexual services are provided but the women wear uniforms (maid, nurse, policewoman, office worker, pregnant mother etc) and the sex shop often has special facilities, like a subway car.  Think of mini-sexual theme parks and you have a good idea of what an image club is like.

According to the book, based on field studies and calculations, an established  fashion health/image club brings in roughly 3 million dollars a year in revenue, is visited by 32, 5000 customers, is open 12 hours a day, and the average waiting time for service is 20 minutes. There are 1,021 such shops in Japan. In recent years, S & M sex shops, have also seen a booming business. Dominatrixes (女王) are more well-paid than girls working as “the slaves” because it requires a certain level of dramatic skill and physical strength to be a dominatrix.

Japan's S & M clubs are also whipping up big business. The more social status a male customer has, the more likely he is to ask for M service.

The book also explores Japan’s teenage prostitution problem asserting that 1 in 10 Japanese men has a “lolita complex” (pedophiliac tendencies) and that 15% of the male population has viewed child pornography, while over 10% of the male population owns child pornography. The statistics were not pulled out of thin air but come from a Japanese government survey. In addition, the book notes that there are an estimated 170,000 junior high and high school girls engaged in prostitution each year in Japan, charging higher than the standard market rate (30,000 yen) or roughly 50,000 yen ($600) per customer. The teenage prostitution market is estimated to be as high as 54,700,000,000 yen per year (approx. 700 million dollars).

The book explains also the mechanisms which drives Japan’s human trafficking problem, although the failure to mention the growing problem of domestic trafficking does date the book.

If you want to know why love hotels prosper in Japan, how many there are, and the turnover (no pun intended) rate, this book will also tell you more than you want to know. While the book focusses on Japan, it does examine the sex industry in the US, China, Italy, Thailand and other countries which gives perspective on Japan’s situation.

The book is not all titillation and speculation. The final section “What can be done about the sex industry?” makes a good argument that Japan should abandon the grey zone laws it has now, where prostitution is illegal, but the client and the sex worker can’t be arrested–and legalize and regulate the industry. Many may disagree but he makes a good argument that clarifying the status of the sex industry would better protect the rights of sex workers, increase tax revenue, and also prevent the spread of sexual diseases amongst the general population, including the sex workers and their customers. Of course, his advocacy of realistic and extensive sex education should be a a no-brainer for a modern society, especially Japan which is not bound by ideas that sex should be limited to marriage.

If at times, slightly tongue-in-cheek, the book does convincingly convey the scale and problems of Japan’s sex industry and is worthy addition to the library of anyone studying the underside of Nippon. Recommended. (In Japanese only.)

Silence Broken: The Plight Of The Comfort Women

Former Comfort Women Await Justice 

Adair K. FincherSeptember 25, 2008

 (This is a well-researched article about the women who were forced to work as sexual slaves by the Japanese Army during the second world war. Revisionist Japanese historians would like to deny it ever happened but that does not mean that it didn’t.)

A typical winter scene outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea: Three elderly Korean women, too old and too weak to stand, sit with gloved hands frantically waving butterfly-shaped signs written in Korean: “Apologize to us on your knees.” The air is cold. They and their supporters—nuns, the elderly, the young, and the non-Korean—are bundled in heavy winter coats and woolen caps, noses peeking out over tightly wound scarves. A cane sticks out from below the banner draped across the elderly women’s knees. In Japanese, Korean, and English the banner reads, “Wednesday Demonstration to Solve the Japanese Military Comfort Women Issue.”

Continue reading Silence Broken: The Plight Of The Comfort Women