Japan records surge in upskirt photography, perverts ‘bored’ amid pandemic to blame, experts say

Buoyed by increasing public willingness to call out ‘chikan’, the gropers who prey on women on the nation’s famously crowded public transport system, Japanese police have launched a crackdown on another variety of sex pest – the growing number of upskirt photography enthusiasts.

Across the country police have reported a surge in illicit snaps, with a crime expert suggesting it is because of new technology making it easier to take unauthorised pictures under a woman’s skirt, the closure of commercial sex businesses during the pandemic and boredom during repeated coronavirus states of emergency.

In 2010 there were 1,741 arrests in Japan in connection with illegal photographs being taken of women, police statistics show. That figure more than doubled in 2019, rising to 3,953. Police in Osaka Prefecture, the area spearheading the new crackdown, said 144 cases were reported in the first six months of 2021, up 30 per cent on the same period last year.

Most cases of upskirting (‘tosatsu’) involved assailants using mobile phones, although 610 of the incidents reported in 2019 entailed sophisticated photographic equipment, such as miniaturised cameras concealed in shoes, umbrella tips, pens or glasses.

“Silent camera apps originally developed to quietly take photos of sleeping babies with smartphones are used in many cases,“ Goki Jojima, chief of the community safety division at the Minami Police Station in Osaka, told The Asahi newspaper.

The Osaka crackdown involves officers in busy areas, including train stations – favoured hunting places for would-be photographers – telling people that women are being targeted. Information leaflets are being handed out, there is a police video campaign and plain clothes officers are being deployed.