We are Not For Sale Japan

Staff’s Essay (6) God and Human Trafficking (Bonnie Jinmon)

What is the connection? At my church (Tokyo Baptist Church) about 9 years ago I heard a woman missionary speak and show her photos of women and girls around the world who were forced to be prostitutes and heard the term “Human Trafficking” for the first time. Until then, I’d thought most prostitutes were immoral women in it for the money. But in fact, many are coerced.

So a few of us started meeting after church monthly to pray about the situation and see what God would have us to do. He led us to start a new ministry in early 2012, of which I became the leader. It’s called “Salt & Light” according to Jesus’ words in Matthew that His followers should be these things in society, to influence it for good and God, drawing people to Himself.

By then I’d read David Batstone’s book “Not For Sale” which describes various forms of slavery and heard it occurs even in Japan. I knew the Japan chapter of his NGO had started up and felt God leading me to join as a volunteer to learn more and be a better leader for S&L. I’ve learned and shared so much since then, knowing the first step to stopping the evil of trafficking is making others aware—and at the church we can also do the important work of praying against it, so have weekly prayer times. In our pamphlet we use Psalm 10:14a “But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand.”

Working with the other staff at NFSJ has been a real blessing over the years—they are so compassionate and dedicated. Another thing I like is that it is bilingual, so I can share information to both Japanese and English speakers. One of the ways I’ve been able  help at NFSJ is doing native-speaker English check of things that others (mostly director Mariko) have written or translated from Japanese. I think it’s important to get accurate information about the situation in Japan to the world community. With God’s help and your help, we can abolish human trafficking!

Staff’s Essay (5) Even without Direct Contact with Victims (Mariko Yamaoka)

It all started from a paperback that I picked up at a small foreign books library in Kagura-zaka 11 years ago. The book was entitled “Not For Sale” which told the true stories of slavery recurring in the modern age and warned about the reality of human trafficking, taking place all over the world.

A young Cambodian girl tricked and forced to be a prostitute, an Indian family who became slave laborers at a brick kiln with all relatives because of a small amount of debt, a Moldovan single mother who set off as a migrant worker but later found herself sold as a sex slave in Italy, Ugandan boy who was kidnapped and forced to be a child soldier, a killer machine…  As a translator, shocked by these horrible stories and at the same time encouraged by the acts and words of the people who supported rescue and restoration of the victims, I decided to sell the plan of translating the book to a publisher so that I can tell other Japanese people about the issue.

It then took me 3.5 years to translate the book, but as soon as it was published by Asahi-Shimbun Press, the author David Batstone contacted me that he would come to Japan. The editor of the book and I, with other people’s assistance, prepared and set itinerary of David such as lectures, meeting with NGOs, law firm and other business people, interviews, a press conference, and a radio show appearance. David had established an organization that was also named Not For Sale in 2007 and when he finally visited Japan in 2011, he asked me to start up the Japan chapter of his organization. I decided to suspend my translator career for a while and jumped into the world of social movement where I had been a total stranger.

So this was how Not For Sale Japan started. It turned out to be one of the few organizations in Japan that mainly deal with the issue of human trafficking. But it doesn’t have an office or paid staff: all the staff are volunteers working from home. Its activities are rather slow, based on the motto of “Those who are available do what and when one can do.” However, we have managed to have more than 10 events annually and have done awareness raising activities for many people through social and other media, as well as our own pamphlets and newsletters.

Plus, for the last few years, we played roles as steering committee member of JNATIP   (Japan Network against Trafficking in Persons) and co-director of SSRC (Citizens’ Network to Build a Sustainable Society through Responsible Consumption). These involved planning, organizing and participating in conferences with the Japanese government, various seminars, NGO report contribution for international human rights committees, research for Ethical Scorecards of Companies, etc. Of course as these tasks took more time and effort, our own activities became a little rolled back. But I would say our work has impacted more on society by joining these networks.

In its regular activities, NFSJ does not have direct contact with victims of human trafficking, much less perpetrators. Most of the people we face daily are general public including students, business, and government people. “Is it actually possible to raise awareness that would truly contribute to the solution without directly supporting victims face to face?” is one of the important questions that repeatedly occurs to me.

However, I always remember what Mira Solvino, an American actress who advocates for anti-trafficking movement, said in her speech in 2011 NFS Global Forum that I attended in California: “Not so many people can really meet trafficking victims. So who tells about them, if not you?” I’m sure that it would be possible to grasp the entire picture (at least to a certain degree) of human trafficking in Japan through hearing regularly from other support groups, reading and watching news, reports, books, and videos.

It all starts with awareness. It is up to the person what he/she does after knowing, but to start with, just be aware of it. I hope NFSJ can open a door for people just like the small paperback book did for me 11 years ago.

Today, July 30, is the UN designated “World Day against Trafficking in Persons.” It is also the one year anniversary since NFSJ website launched. The top page story has not changed for the past year and still is relevant. So, I encourage you to read it, if you haven’t done so yet. Then, after reading it, please share on your social media and/or talk about it with your friends and family. Just one such action is a precious contribution for solving the problem of human trafficking.

As a director with a modest leadership, I appreciate from the bottom of my heart the support from our fellow volunteer staff, related organizations, and NFSJ supporters. Thank you, and please continue keeping our activities in mind.


Staff’s Essay (4) Not being a bystander (Takuya Hoshide)

It was more than 10 years ago. Every night after 10 PM, a young foreign woman was standing on a street and soliciting men near Tanashi Station, not far from where I lived. Even I myself was spoken to by her several times like “Oniisan, you want a massage?” in broken Japanese. There was always a man in the background who was watching closely over her. I often wondered why a foreign woman came all the way to Japan to prostitute herself on the street late in the night.

One day, I had an opportunity to watch the movie “Nefarious”. I was tremendously shocked in learning the terrible reality in the world: women are tricked, beaten, forced to prostitute, and treated like slaves. Also shocking was the fact that Japan was not at all the exception for the situation. The sex industries that exist in the cities as if they are natural phenomena can potentially hold this horrific reality. I realized that the woman who stood on the street in my neighborhood could be one of those victims and that such a horrendous reality could happen in my vicinity. I was ashamed of myself who had thought of her casually as if it was none of my business. I thought I should not be a bystander for this reality and I started to pray so that I can do something.

Rescuing victims would really be a heavy task and not what one can do between one’s daily jobs. Today, I still feel powerless and sad not being able to do it. But I hope I can speak up and tell other people that there is a reality in our own backyard that must not be overlooked. I really wish to speak up that behind the adult entertainment and sex industry flooding everywhere and behind many men buying young women’s sex, there is a horrific reality of human rights abuse and sex slavery.

Even Dracula the vampire dies when the sun shines on him. If the true situation is visualized before the eyes of the people, if the evil deeds of buying and selling of human beings like commodities are revealed in broad daylight, such industries will not function as industries any more. This is what I believe and this is why I continue taking part, even though little, in the activities of Not For Sale Japan.

Staff’s Essay (3) Why I am concerned about human trafficking and modern day slavery (Michelle Roberts)

I always knew bad things happen in this world.  However, I didn’t understand my complicity until 2011.

I attended a lecture by David Batstone.  He talked about people being tricked or kidnapped and forced to work in restaurants and brothels.  These exploited people being emotionally and psychologically abused, many times physically abused.  Mr. Batstone was compelling, but I needed to confirm his stories.  Unable to join in the Not For Sale Japan activities, I spent many hours researching.

It turned out my everyday life supported human trafficking and modern day slavery.  From the materials (components) in my smart phone to the clothes I wear and even the salt I use on my food had claimed the lives of many people.  Beginning with changing my lifestyle, I felt the need to do more.  By this time I had moved to Korea and was able to volunteer my time with many NGOs to help combat human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Even now as I continue to change my purchasing habits and help raise awareness for sex and labor trafficking, I know that I alone cannot solve this problem.  It will take us working together to make a difference in the lives of people being exploited.

To find out how many slaves you employ, take the survey at SlaveryFootprint.org.

Staff’s Essay (2) Just simply wish you to survive and thrive (Nozomi Kuriyama)

Have you ever met or been asked for help from a victim of human trafficking/modern-day slavery?

I think I have.

It was about 30 years ago. I went to Narita Airport to see a friend off to her homeland.  She was a Thai student who had been staying at my house during her study at a graduate school in ICU.

At the airport, we were spoken to by two Thai girls.  They approached Somsiri, our student, recognizing that she was Thai and asked  her for help because they were running away from someone.  They desperately wanted to go home but they did not have air tickets or passports. Somsiri needed to leave to catch her plane and I did not understand Thai at all, so I had no idea what to do.

I do not have a clear memory of what I did after that, but I think I found an airport security guard and told him something like “The girls over there have a trouble. Please give them appropriate care”, then left the airport.

Many years later, I had a chance to join a seminar led by Mariko who had just established Not For Sale Japan in 2011.  While listening to her presentation, my memories at Narita suddenly came back.  I realized and believed that they must have been victims of human trafficking and that I had left them in despair.  I can still recall what one of the girls looked like.  She had black bobbed hair, black straight eyebrows and desperate eyes.  She wore a whitish T shirt and short pants, beach sandals or cheap mules on her barefeet.

I sometimes imagine what could have happened to them after I left.  Did they have a chance to go back home? Or, did they get caught again by the brokers and taken back to brothels?  I just don’t want to imagine more than that, though it is easy for me to visualize it now because I have learned a lot about how women are treated in sexual exploitation.  If they were caught again, their hearts and bodies would have been beaten up till ragged.

They must have been no older than 23, almost as the same age as I had been.

I just wish they are alive now.  I want them to thrive in their 50s as I do here.

When I think of this, I mourn and feel pain from the bottom of my heart.  However, I stopped blaming my past self.

Now I have learned about human trafficking and modern-day slavery.  I know there are structures that cause this kind of crime in Japan. I also know that it is impossible to live our daily life totally removed from the slave labor which is happening all over the world.  I have learned that all those who are victimized have great pain both physically and mentally that are difficult from which to recover. If a victim is rescued, there are many challenges to redeem one’s dignity.

To know the truth is not always easy. I often feel shame, rage, despair and grief.  This is tough. But knowing about the reality of human trafficking gave me a kind of power to live in this society.  Now I know where and whom to contact when I come across girls like the two young women I met years ago.

I also find hope through many people and organizations who stand up to solve these problems in the world, as well as in Japan.  They do many things, such as researching, rescuing, and developing programs to help avoid being trapped in the modern-day slavery in vulnerable areas. They also cooperate with the police department and/or government officials to establish effective measures, etc.

We, Not For Sale Japan, have a purpose to abolish human trafficking and modern-day slavery. In order to make this happen, our primary aim is to raise awareness among Japanese society. We also network with other organizations and advocate with the Japanese government and private companies to take a zero tolerance policy towards modern-day slavery.  To join this movement, you don’t have to be an expert.  It is enough to have hope to see a world where everyone may live and thrive in one’s life.  So that we may see a world like this together, I want you to join us!

Nozomi Kuriyama

Staff’s Essay (1) Why I Volunteer with Not For Sale Japan (Kathy Burton-Lewis)

I knew almost nothing about Human Trafficking until I heard David Batstone, the founder of NFS speak seven years ago. At that time I also met Mariko Yamaoka, the co-director here in Japan and have been involved with the organization since then.

What I learned about HT was shocking and extremely disturbing because it is an insidiously evil activity abusing the most vulnerable in our society, namely children and young people. I have been privileged to participate in various activities and events helping to bring awareness to the people of Japan about human trafficking. One very meaningful activity is assisting in the screening of the film, “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls”, a documentary on the global sex trade. The film is shocking in depicting the horror of the industry but I think we need to get out of our “comfort zone” and become aware that this evil is spreading around the world through the sex trade, as well as inhumane labor practices.

The more we learn about HT and how to recognize it, the better we are equipped to put an end to this abhorrent business. One doesn’t have to have prior knowledge or expertise to join in this effort – merely a desire to see HT abolished. Won’t you join us in this endeavor?

(First “Nefarious” screening event in 2013)