Books & Films to Learn about Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Vol. 14 “Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade—And How We Can Fight It”

Today is the last day of the campaign! Let us first apologize that this is a long (but we think, worthwhile) post. 

The book we review today is literally the starting point of NFSJ: “Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade—And How We Can Fight It” written by David Batstone, the co-founder and president of anti-human trafficking NGO, Not For Sale. When Mariko Yamaoka, a published translator, was searching for a new book to translate, she found this one. It changed her life, as well as the lives of staff now volunteering for NFSJ! (Read the background story of how Yamaoka founded NFSJ:

  Looking back on the decade since the publication of this book, the assistant director of NFSJ, Nozomi Kuriyama, interviewed director Mariko Yamaoka.          

 (The outline of the book) 

The author Batstone, after reading a newspaper article, learned that his favorite Indian restaurant in his neighborhood was actually a hub of trafficking slaves from India to the US. Curious about the reality of human trafficking, he set off on a tour to see for himself and report what is happening in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the United States. He not only depicts the cruelty and misery faced by trafficking victims, but also the rescuers who save victims with the conviction that “human beings are not for sale”. He also describes survivors who regain their self-respect and dignity to be able to say, “I am not for sale.” (The Japanese edition is now out of print. However, most libraries have copies available, and you can buy used books through sites like Amazon.)


Kuriyama (K): It has been 10 years since the Japanese translation of “Not For Sale” was published. Plus, next year 2021 will mark the 10th anniversary of NFSJ. So, what do you think is the biggest change during the past decade?  

Yamaoka (Y): The biggest change for myself was the increase in opportunities to go out and meet people. I have gotten used to speaking in public through a number of lecture opportunities. Also, through activities of NFSJ and JNATIP (Japan Network Against Trafficking In Persons), I have had many opportunities to research efforts made by governments including our own and the United Nations, through which I came to realize how the national laws and UN conventions are closely related to our daily lives. So that was another big discovery for me.    

K: There must be certain changes you’ve made because of your findings.  

Y: Yes, especially when working with SSRC (Citizens’ Network to Build a Sustainable Society through Responsible Consumption), I learned a lot about environmental and animal rights issues, and came to understand that all these social issues are related to each other. I had to change my lifestyle in what I eat and wear, starting with what I buy.    

K: Our society has changed a lot too.

Y: Yes. After the book was published in 2010, there have been many historic events: rise of the Islamic State; huge influx of refugees into Europe; Rohingya refugees from Myanmar; huge northbound immigration from South and Central America; acceleration of climate change; and human rights issues in China. And in Japan, the Great East Japan Earthquake, exposures of issues like AV forced appearance, TITP labor exploitation, children’s poverty issues, and now the turmoil of COVID-19… As society has become more vulnerable, the problem of human trafficking has worsened more than what this book described.

   On the other hand, the issue of human trafficking has been highlighted more during the last decade than before. Even in Japan, I feel that awareness has been raised. I hope NFSJ’s activities have contributed to this, even partially. I don’t have tangible evidence, though.           

K: Although there are no Japanese examples in this book, are there any episodes in it that you think are relevant to the reality in Japan?

Y: In Chapter 1 (South East Asia) and Chapter 4 (Eastern Europe), there are some scenes that women are tricked and brought to brothels in spite of their protests, and are victimized with violence and threats. These remind me of the issue of forced appearance in the pornography industry in Japan: the women are coerced to act in porn videos through deceit and threatened even if they resist. Also in Chapter 2, bonded laborers in India are featured and although the scheme is a bit different, they remind me of the slave labor of foreign technical intern trainees and students from abroad working in Japan.     

K: For this year’s NFSJ campaign, our intention is to motivate those who read the book and film reviews to make some changes someday, however small. Is there anything you want to tell the readers as one who was motivated by the book “Not For Sale” and made a change yourself? 

Y: In Chapter 4 of the book, there is a story of a woman who was trafficked from Eastern Europe to Italy. Towards the end of the story, when she was at a loss standing in front of a bakery, the woman shop owner came out, approached her and introduced her to a support facility, which led to her rescue. This baker was just doing her own business as usual. But she knew that there are victims who suffer from trafficking, and also knew there are organizations that support such people. That was why the baker could reach out to the trafficked woman with no hesitation. 

   That is exactly what NFSJ aims to do as we try to raise awareness of the issue among as many people as possible. The first step is to know the issue. Then, even if you don’t act right away, we hope you remain concerned. From there, you can either research more, let people know about it in your own way, volunteer for some organization, start up your own project, or seek to make improvements within your own company’s business. It can be anything. We just hope this movement of abolishing human trafficking will spread in various ways that suit each person.

(Nozomi Kuriyama, Mariko Yamaoka)   

(Written by David Batstone in 2007, Revised Edition in 2010, by Harper Collins, 304 pages, $13.59

This is the end of our campaign. Thank you for reading the posts!


Vol. 13 “Our Nation and Immigrants: Foreign Workers and the Future of Japan” (Tentative English title)

*This book is not translated in English yet.

I would like to introduce the latest book by Mr. Ippei Torii, director of the NPO “Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan”. For more than 30 years, Mr. Torii has been protecting and supporting foreign workers to restore their human rights when violation and exploitation occur. His activities have been reported in a variety of media, including the NHK program “Professional”.

Mr. Torii is the co-chair of the Japan Network Against Trafficking in Persons (JNATIP), of which NFSJ is a member. I have been privileged to have many opportunities to work with him. Let me share with you one episode that will be relevant to this book. It was in 2017 when we JNATIP members were organizing a seminar for Diet members. In the discussion on what to title the event, Mr. Torii said, “Let’s use ‘Human Trafficking in Disguise’. The Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) itself is a state-sponsored disguise. Japanese society has accepted and allowed this pretense.” The decision was made without further discussion.

In this book, Mr. Torii describes, using many graphic cases, how Japanese society has “disguised” its internship program, which often includes harsh labor exploitation that can be regarded as human trafficking. When you read the history of Japan’s labor immigration policy and how foreign workers have been treated in this country, you will find that it has been haphazard and deceitful.

The author indicates that the pretense of TITP has created an attitude among the Japanese general public that “we are teaching Japan’s superior skills to people from developing countries”. This attitude has resulted in our looking down on people from those countries. The reality is that foreign workers have come from far away places to work in a country with a shrinking population and a critical shortage of industrial laborers. For this reason, the book reiterates that TITP should be terminated as soon as possible and a “system for accepting migrant workers” should be created so that we can live together in harmony.

In conclusion I would like to leave you with this quote from the book—it’s clear who needs to change.


The word “immigrants” is sometimes used as a discriminatory word, however we need to change our thinking about them to “people who are trying to become a part of this society”. In fact, our society is looking for and needs “people who are trying to become a part of this society”. (Nozomi Kuriyama)

(Written by Ippei Torii in 2020, published by Shueisha-Shinsho, 256 pages, 860yen+tax,

Vol. 12 “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls” (film)

Watching this documentary is deeply disturbing, depicting in graphic detail the traumatizing and dehumanizing of young women for the purpose of selling sex. At times I felt physically sick seeing how these young women were regarded as “things” not humans. 

Giving an in-depth look at the factors that contribute to human trafficking including poverty, statelessness, being orphaned and perhaps the hardest to comprehend, parents sending their oldest daughters into prostitution in order to support the family, one realizes the complexity of the issue. The trafficking spans areas from Eastern Europe to Las Vegas in the United States. 

Listening to interviews with various people: former pimps, social workers, psychiatrists, Christian pastors and NPO representatives, one can better grasp the depth of how lives are forever impacted by this insidious evil. Some of those who are fortunate to be rescued spend their whole lives in counseling in order to come to an understanding of what happened to them and how they may overcome it. Sadly some are never able.  

Nefarious is a powerful and informative film, expressing empathy for the victims. And there is hope! In the latter part of the documentary the Nordic model approach to prostitution (*) is explained. Also included is a strong Christian message urging people to pray, along with some testimonies by former prostitutes and a pimp. Even if one isn’t a Christian, I strongly encourage you to watch the film not only for the awareness it brings of the terrible reality, but also for the possibility of finding a changed life that it offers.

“The film ends with the assertion that slavery today is not just an education and development problem – it’s a moral issue – the missing belief that women have an inherent value beyond their sexuality.” (From an online reviewer.)

*The Nordic model is based on four pillars, namely criminalizing buyers of sex, decriminalizing prostitutes, offering help and services for prostitutes to leave the sex industry, and awareness and education of the general public.

(Kathy Burton-Lewis, Bonnie Jinmon)

(Directed by Benjamin Nolot in 2011, 99min.
Producer Exodus Cry website with trailer:
Watch for free on YouTube : )


Vol. 11 “Nana-Sampo: Wondering if God Exists in Settings of Vulnerability and Recovery” (tentative English title)

*This book is not translated in English yet.

Blue sky, white clouds, meadows, forests and flowers. Little birds and butterflies are dancing, puppies and squirrels are running around… “Cuteness” would be the first word that describes Minami Nanami’s illustrations. Her works show her tender love and concern for small creatures.

Nanami visited various social action groups and welfare facilities carefully interviewing the leaders, founders, and workers there to create a three-page manga called “Nana-Sampo” after each visit. The manga was serialized in a Christian magazine called “Gospel for The Millions” and was eventually published as a book.

NFSJ was interviewed in 2015, and we were honored to be featured in the book as the top story. That’s because Nanami wanted more people to be aware of the issue of human trafficking, which is also happening in Japan. She has been supporting the activities of NFSJ and the Citizens’ Network to Build a Sustainable Society through Responsible Consumption (SSRC), of which NFSJ is a member, by providing free illustrations.

Nana-Sampo is filled with wonderful people who strive to reach out and share their lives with those who are often marginalized by society, such as the homeless, alcoholics, foreigners living in Japan, the mentally ill, shut-ins, child abuse victims, and survivors of natural disasters. Each of the activists has suffered setbacks and lost hope, but then have risen up in prayer and encouragement to serve others with joy, being grateful for personal growth.

You might think that these stories of people’s experiences would be dark and heavy, but thanks to Nanami’s illustrations, it becomes a heart-warming book. Also, one of the most distinctive features of the book is that at the end of each report, the author looks back at her own thoughts and actions asking herself if they were right or not, coming up with some answers.

This book is packed full of stories of invaluable lives in an easy-to-read comic book format that will bring new wisdom and life principles to readers, Christian and non-Christian alike. (Mariko Yamaoka)

(Written by Minami Nanami, Published in 2019 by Inochi-no-Kotoba-sha, Forest Books, 175p., 1,400yen +tax,
Minami Nanami’s website:


Vol. 10 “Women Who Were Forced to Perform in Pornography” (tentative English title)

*This book is not translated in English yet.

One day, a scout approaches you and offers you the “chance to become a model or actress” with “high income,” and you decide to have a listen. But after that, you are forced into appearing in a porn shoot, and a hell from which you cannot escape awaits you…. This book is based on the author’s extensive experience in counseling women who were actually coerced into appearing in pornography (usually called “adult video” or “AV” in Japan), and describes the clever tactics and the horrifying reality of the situation.

At first, women think it’s a matter of just listening to what agents have to say, but NO! As things proceed and minutes pass, the women find themselves in an extremely difficult position to refuse. Thinking that if they don’t sign a contract, they won’t be let go, they sign it just to escape. But later, using that contract, the women are threatened with paying a breach of contract penalty if they refuse to perform. Thus the agents persuade the women to do ‘only one film’. They end up performing once against their will, but then suffer unimaginable humiliation. They are then further threatened by the producers saying their parents and acquaintances would be told about the film unless they perform again. These young women, ignorant of the law, social rules and customs, are taken in by these cunning tricks, and forced into situations from which they cannot escape.

The porn industry’s annual market size is estimated between 400 and 500 billion yen. Approximately 20,000 titles are produced annually. A simple calculation shows that 54 titles are produced every day. Behind the scenes of this business, horrific sexual violence and human rights violations against women are being committed. Even so, the industry continues to be considered legitimate as “entertainment” providers. 

Women who are victimized by these violations do not even realize that they are the victims and blame themselves, thinking that it is their fault. They do not know how to escape. It is said that many women are even driven to commit suicide. I was impressed by the way these women gradually regain their self-worth. They are strengthened through the work of the rescuers who come alongside them, accepting their pain and suffering, while working together to find a solution.

In January 2018, news of the arrest of the president of a porn production company and two others on suspicion of forcible solicitation for pornography was reported. This is probably the result of the blood-soaked efforts of the rescuers. Although the content of the book is quite heavy, it seems to me that it also points to a certain amount of hope. (Takuya Hoshide)

(Written by Setsuko Miyamoto, published in 2016 by Chikuma Shinsho. 240 pages, 800yen+tax,


Vol. 9 “Black Gold: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee” (Film)

Today I am writing, as always, with a cup of coffee in hand. Coffee is the second largest product traded in the world after oil. Since “fair trade” coffee has become so popular, I have assumed it means that “unfair trade” is also rampant in the industry. But to be honest, I didn’t expect that it would go this far—until I saw this film.

Oromia, Southern Ethiopia. For coffee farmers, the selling price for one kilo of beans (to make 80 cups of coffee) is only 24 yen. At about 300 yen per cup in a café, this means only 0.1% is paid to the producer. That’s because in the coffee industry, dominated by four giant companies such as Nestlé, international trade prices are set in the New York exchange market and six intermediaries exist between producers and consumers.

Tadesse Meskela is the manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union. In an effort to improve the lives of the growers (to keep their children in school, nutritiously fed and given safe water), he travels to Europe and the United States, visiting conscientious businesses, exhibiting at coffee fairs and looking for roasters who will buy directly from them. Sometimes he sighs out of disappointment when he can’t find Ethiopian coffee among the dozens of products on the supermarket shelves.

The words of one of the farmers’ adult sons pierce me: “I’m sorry to have to say to my hard working father that I’m not going to be a coffee farmer myself. Our family is miserable because of coffee growing.” Another grower says he will cut down his coffee trees and plant a drug plant that will yield much a larger profit. Seven million people in Ethiopia receive emergency food aid each year. It’s not that there isn’t any work, but rather that even if they work extremely hard, their products are bought out so cheaply by exporters that farmers can barely survive. Considering the expression used in the  Japanese title for this film, “The Truth about Tasty Coffee”, the reality is so bitter and sad.

Japan is the fourth largest coffee consumer in the world. This means that if we choose fair trade or directly-traded products, this situation will surely change. Why don’t we at the destination point of the supply chain support people like Tadesse, who are struggling at its starting point?  (Mariko Yamaoka)

(*I should add that although there is a depiction in the film that is implicitly critical of Starbucks, now nearly 15 years after the time of filming, the company is focusing on ethical sourcing.)

(Directed by Marc Francis & Nick Francis, Released in 2006, 77 min.,
Available at Vimeo for $5:
Trailer: )

Vol. 8 “THE LAST GIRL: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State”

Nadia Murad’s book – THE LAST GIRL: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State is informative regarding the culture, landscape, faith and life of the Yazidi people. For that alone it was definitely a book worth reading. This powerfully true story relates the disturbing account of the brutality of Murad’s captivity as a sex slave, her loss of family and friends, and her courage to survive. The descriptions of her abuse and her courage in the face of that abuse were palpable. Murad’s struggle to survive reflects the faith of the Yazidi people that sustained her throughout the unbelievably inhuman ordeal. 

As sad and shocking as the evil perpetrated on Murad and all the victims of the genocide was, there is an uplifting quality as well in the courage shown by those at risk of their own safety who helped them escape. I encourage you to read this extraordinary story of a deeply inspiring young woman who has not only survived sexual slavery, but has pledged her life to help others overcome this evil. (Kathy Burton-Lewis)

(Written by Nadia Murad, Published in 2017 by Tim Duggan Books, 320p., $17.00 (paperback) )


Vol. 7 “Disposable Foreigners: Japan as a Country of Immigrants without Human Rights” (tentative English title)

*This book is not translated in English yet.

“I’m so grateful to have this man in Japan!” Shoichi Ibusuki is one of those people who makes you feel this way. Although not mentioned in the book, he became involved in labor union activities when he was still a student and became a lawyer out of necessity (and he’s taken the bar exam 17 times!). He is an activist at heart and a hero of justice.

Although the title of this book, published just this year by Mr. Ibusuki, is provocative, the text is an easy-to-read introduction to the problems of foreign nationals, spelling out the facts in a straightforward and concise manner. Even so, the book makes my hands tremble with indignation at such irresponsible and inhuman practices in companies and organizations, as well as at the government for allowing them to go unchecked: “300 yen per hour” for technical interns, “98% of interns fail to report violations of the Labor Standards Act,” “raped by the president more than 50 times,” “interns forced to return to their home countries through use of violence and threats,” “discrimination against Muslims,” and so on.

The first half of the book explains the problem of exploitation of foreign workers, citing cases in which the author was involved as a lawyer. However, in the second half of the book, Ibusuki talks about human rights violations by the Immigration Services Agency, which he describes as “even worse and more desperate than the problem of interns.”

Even refugees who have escaped persecution in their home countries and apply for asylum are treated as illegal aliens. If they disobey deportation orders, they are detained in prison-like immigration facilities. Even if they are granted provisional release, they have no idea when they will be detained again. The detention is indefinite and prolonged, with people suffering physical and mental illnesses, attempting suicide out of despair, and even dying from hunger strikes in protest. The agency practices harsh behavior such as placing dozens of people on chartered planes and “deporting” them back to their home countries. But as the mass-repatriation is costly, their strategy is to prolong detention, so that detainees will lose patience and return home at their own expense. I think this immigration policy, which does not recognize human rights for foreigners, is a particularly ruthless one in Japan.

True multicultural coexistence cannot be achieved without seeing people as people. In order for Japan to regain respect in the international community, it cannot remain as a “country of immigrants without human rights”. I would like to recommend this book to many people as a reminder of this fact. (Mariko Yamaoka)

(Written by Shoichi Ibusuki, Published in 2020 by Choyokai, 136p, 1,000yen+tax,

Vol. 6 “The Price of Free” (Film)

A group of men run through the crowded streets of India. They break into one building, climb the stairs, pry open the locks and search the rooms. “Not here!”, “Where are they?” The shouting voices resound. They run up the stairs to the roof where so many bags are piled up. Finally, they find children hidden in the piles, as if crushed.

Opening like an action film, “The Price of Free” is a documentary about the work of Kailash Satyarthi, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, for rescuing more than 80,000 children from slave labor. 

The film also shows Bal Ashram, a rehabilitation center that provides children with mental and physical care and opportunities to study, leading to their reintegration into society. It is a relief to watch children who were initially frightened and crying, had been beaten or injured at work, or were very skinny because of insufficient meals at factories, regain their health and smiles.

On the other hand, the film shows that rescuing children from slavery is always an extremely dangerous activity. For example, undercover investigations reveal the dark schemes of human traffickers; Kailash and his family receive threats; and corruption is everywhere–the sheer scale of evil powers stand in the way of rescue efforts. Nevertheless, Kailash does not give up, saying passionately, “We need a whole range of approaches.”

How can we stand in solidarity with Kailash and his team?  I would suggest you examine carefully the products that the children are making in the film. After watching it, ask yourself if you will choose products like those shown in the film. This will naturally change your purchasing behavior. There are things we do today, as Kailash says in the film, “to ensure that every child enjoys freedom in his/her childhood”. (Nozomi Kuriyama)

(Directed by Derek Doneen, Released in 2018, 87 min., Available for free on YouTube:
Trailer: )

Vol.5 “Reportage: The Factories of Despair in Japan” (tentative English title)

*This book is not available in English.

It didn’t take me long to finish reading this book. Although dealing with the issue of “modern slavery” on a daily basis, I knew almost nothing about the reality that had been happening in Japan, or even right next to me…I was quite shocked by my own ignorance. While issues on foreign technical intern trainees have gained more media attention recently, problems surrounding foreign students are scarcely reported. Yet, according to the author, some foreign students (called “disguised foreign students” in the book) face much more severe conditions than technical intern trainees.     

Furthermore, I could not understand the contradictory situation of caregivers and nurses from the Philippines and Indonesia, who had come to Japan through the EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement) and expected to solve Japan’s labor shortage, yet eventually had to go home in disappointment because they could not pass the national exams for qualification. Reading this book gave me the answer: after all, this confusion was caused by irresponsible, selfish politicians and government officials.

With all these stakeholders, who seek immediate results, place their own profit as top priority, and selfishly act to skim the cream off, I wonder how can a migrant worker policy result in success? If we hold on to unfair policies to take advantage of the foreign labor force, sooner or later, no one would come to Japan even if we plead with people abroad. Or, this might be already happening. Sadly, it may be the fault of Japanese society that more and more foreigners who came here originally with dreams, feel deceived and resentments build day by day. Is this the situation we really want? 

The word “Despair” in the title was probably intended to refer to the feelings of exploited foreign workers. However, after reading this book, I could not help but think that the word refers to our own despair towards our government and our own future as taxpayers. The one feeling desperate towards this country is not a foreign worker, but myself. (Mariko Yamaoka)  【*This review was originally written in 2016】

(Written by Yasuhiro Idei, Published in 2016 by Kobunsha (+α Shinsho), 192p, 840yen+tax,