Four people, including three teens, have been arrested after police investigated a Web site that sold DVDs of nude boys and raked in millions of yen each year, police said Thursday.
This was the first time police had investigated a site that sold images of nude boys from primary school to high school age who had been given money to perform lewd acts on camera. The site also carried photos of the boys' faces and genitals.
The Saitama prefectural police announced the arrests of four people including Yosuke Kobayashi, 29, of Nakahara Ward, Kawasaki, a Web designer who operated the site, on suspicion of violating the law on activities relating to child prostitution and child pornography, and the protection of children.
The other three, who were arrested on suspicion of helping to produce the DVDs, are all 19 years old. Police have withheld their names because they are minors.
They are two Nihon University students and a company employee in Chiba. One Nihon University student of Tokyo and the company employee were arrested Thursday. The other Nihon University student of Yokohama was arrested in early April.
Kobayashi, who was arrested in February, has been indicted on the same charge. The police said they would shortly send papers on a high school student, 18, to a district public prosecutors office on the same charge.
Kobayashi was arrested on suspicion of giving 30,000 yen to a 13-year-old middle school first-year student of Tokyo, at a hotel in Kanagawa Prefecture in December and filming him perform obscene acts.
The three minors who have been arrested and the high school student on whom papers will soon be sent had all appeared in videos available on Kobayashi's site, the police said. They are investigating how the former "victims" ended up becoming "victimizers."
Investigation sources said Koba-yashi operated the site in Japanese, English and Chinese and had recruited boy "models" through the site and Internet bulletin boards for at least five years, promising them "lucrative rewards."
"You can earn more than 300,000 yen in three hours," the advertisement claimed. "We support boys who have dreams."
He had been selling videos featuring boys to pedophiles at home and abroad, earning between 10 million yen and 20 million yen a year, they said.
Kobayashi reportedly sold DVDs for up to 30,000 yen each. His site carried unaltered pictures of boys' faces and genitals, including those of a boy around 10 years old.
The police have identified more than a dozen middle and high school students, including some from the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Tohoku region, in the videos. The site carried photos of the faces of about 50 children ranging from primary school to high school students.
Police also found videos of about 10 boys that had not yet been made available.
One boy reportedly told police he once agreed to be filmed because he wanted some extra "pocket money," but when he refused to take part in more filming, Koba-yashi threatened to sell the video and forced him to perform obscene acts.
Kobayashi opened accounts at local banks in Britain, Ukraine and China to receive payments for the DVDs, according to the police.
"The site was to spread the splendor of pederasty," the sources quoted Kobayashi as saying. "I didn't intend to start selling the DVDs enthusiastically."
Police are trying to uncover a clearer picture of Kobayashi's operations, as they believe the pornographic DVDs became the pillar of his business.
From victims to victimizers
The Nihon University student of Tokyo and the Chiba firm employee were arrested on suspicion of giving 100,000 yen to a first-year high school student, then 15, in August 2008 at a Kawasaki hotel and filming him perform obscene acts over three days.
They told the police they became acquainted with Kobayashi as "boy models" several years ago and became friends. In addition to making films, they were involved in prostitution, the police said.
Kobayashi reportedly told the police that he and the boys worked together as they told him they wanted money.
The Saitama prefectural police have found at least 1,528 people in Japan purchased more than 30,000 pornographic items from Koba-yashi over the past three years. However, simply possessing the articles is not a punishable offense.
Boys pornography a blind spot
Japan introduced legal controls on child pornography in 1999 after coming under a barrage of criticism at home and abroad. Japan and Russia are the only two Group of Eight countries where "possession" of child pornography is not punishable. However, moves to correct this situation are under way.
In December, a working team charged with devising measures to eradicate child pornography was launched. Made up of officials from several relevant ministries and the Cabinet Office, the team will compile a draft of measures by the end of July.
However, pornography that exploits boys has been something of a blind spot: Government countermeasures had mainly been intended to tackle the exploitation of girls. Although the current law is gender-neutral, Kobayashi's site had been left untouched by police for more than five years.
Police have cracked down on several Internet bulletin boards frequently used by pedophiles, but the fact Kobayashi made the prostitution of boys and his films into a business reflects that there is a demand for such pornography.
Police authorities have detected many Internet sites that specialize in pornographic images of boys, according to the National Police Agency. These sites will be closely monitored.
Sites such as Kobayashi's are dubbed "shotakon" sites. Shotakon--a portmanteau of the words "Shotaro" and "complex"--is a sexual attraction to young boys.
Shotaro refers to Shotaro Kaneda, the main character in the comic "Tetsujin 28-go" (Gigantor in English), who remote-controls a giant robot. The boy, who always wears shorts in the comic, is a prime example of characters that adults attracted to young boys find appealing. A search for shotakon written in katakana characters got 1.18 million hits on the Yahoo search engine, while shotakon in English got 1.49 million hits.
-- The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network