It was twenty years ago that I visited Japan. A sensory overload of magical sights and sounds - I can still picture it vividly to this day: the bustling cities, quiet temples, bright cherry blossoms and the breathtaking mountain views from bullet train rides.
It was in Japan that I first learnt how to use chopsticks properly and, whilst in Kyoto, I developed a love of okonomiyaki (a meal I still enjoy with my own family).
In Japan, I experienced unforgettable teppanyaki performances with chefs who did egg tricks and I even attended a sumo wrestling match one night. I saw people in the street wearing geta and had my photo taken with young people in the (mind-blowing) Harajuku fashion district.
Japan felt populated yet orderly, traditional yet extremely modern. It was a place of striking contrasts.
As part of a group of travelling teachers, I visited Japanese schools and saw many famous sights, but also had the opportunity to visit someone’s home and take a peek into a-day-in-the-life of a local person.
With opposing emotions, we soaked in the beauty of places like the golden temple, while tears flooded at seeing the devastation whilst visiting the memorial museum in Hiroshima.
From the simulated earthquake experience, to the Japanese baths - this trip blew my mind in so many ways!
As an outsider, what I didn’t see then, and what I didn’t even know existed, was the dark and hidden pain associated with the child trafficking scene in Japan.
Because it is not driven by targeting poor communities, like in many other countries, child trafficking looks different in Japan.
“Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and for children subjected to sex trafficking” – Trafficking In Persons Report 2018
Hiromi and Yuri are ZOE’s on-the-ground missionaries in Japan. Here is an excerpt from Japan’s Needs are Unique where they share about the situation in their country.
Japan’s human trafficking problem is made up of sophisticated and organized prostitution networks that target vulnerable Japanese girls in public areas such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools, and online.
Due to pressure from their parents to be successful or conform, traffickers prey on children who are craving love and affection. Traffickers camouflage themselves to be a scouting agent for modeling jobs, and sometimes even a potential boyfriend/girlfriend. Before a child realizes it,he/she is victimized to appear on various pornography outlets and forced to do other sexual services. They are in bondage to the trafficker who places on them an unreasonable debt and vows not to release him/her until the debt is paid. They also know all of the child’s information, including parents, friends, school, etc.
Japan is a country that is economically blessed and our physical and material needs are always taken care of, but the voice of children crying out for love and affection is drowned out by the noise of parents and society.
One thing we can all do for the children of Japan is PRAY! Needs are great in Japan. Not necessarily physical or material needs, but spiritual need is crucial. This is why ZOE is passionate about doing prevention work in Japan through sharing the love of God in Christ. We believe that we can make a huge difference and bring light to children’s lives through Jesus.
ZOE Japan’s main goal right now is to prevent trafficking through education in churches, schools, and communities by bringing awareness about the problem in Japan.
Prevention is part of ZOE’s long term solution to ending trafficking worldwide.