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It’s fairly common knowledge that Japan has a bit of a thing for schoolgirls, with girls in cutesy school uniforms appearing in commercials, anime, and manga. But there’s a much darker side to this aspect of Japanese culture, which is revealed in VICE News documentary Schoolgirls for Sale in Japan hosted by reporter Simon Ostrovsky.

Ostrovsky travels to Tokyo’s Akihabara district, know for electronics, manga, and anime, to look at the “JK business”, where schoolgirls offer themselves up for “joshi-kosei” (Japanese for “high school” and also where the “JK” comes from) dates.

As Ostrovsky walks around the neighborhood he sees groups of schoolgirls hanging around, and signs offering up various services. And we are not talking about help with homework or tuition.

It’s a place where schoolgirl bands sing to packed venues full of business men and where cafes have schoolgirls available to rent by the hour, either to talk to or read your fortune. Although creepy, you might say that nothing illegal is going on here. Well, it seems it is, because it’s thought all this is just a front for something much more nefarious: prostitution of these teens, which is taking place behind closed doors and run by a network of Japanese underworld criminals.

Ostrovsky talks with a Western journalist and a Japanese outreach worker who claim many of the teenage girls come from broken homes and are coerced into the industry and taken advantage of.

It’s all pretty damning, bleak, and alarming stuff and heartstrings are most definitely pulled. Here’s hoping something is done to change the situation very soon.

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