Under a local ordinance, sex-related businesses are permitted to open their doors in only two districts – sections of Omiya Ward in Saitama and Nishi-Kawaguchi in Kawaguchi, an outlying city.
But according to police, as of October, about 290 sex shops were operating outside the boundaries, despite 67 related arrests for violating the local ordinance.
Police now say the only way to stop shops from bouncing back is to ensure landlords with property in the banned areas stop leasing to sex industry businesses. Those who do will risk being held on suspicion of aiding illegal business. Police also said that excuses of ignorance regarding the law will no longer be tolerated.
Consequently, on Oct. 7 police sent papers to prosecutors regarding a building owner in Nishi-Kawaguchi for aiding an illegal sex business, marking the first time police had made such a move.
Police officials said the owner had signed a covenant saying he would not lease to sex shops after four of his tenants had been arrested for violating the ordinance. But in June, he contracted with another illegal sex business.
"I knew the district banned sex shops,” police quoted the owner as saying. “But I was unable to find a tenant for two years and I thought I could earn the rent if I pretended I didn't know [the shop was illegal]."
Police say real estate agencies also could face criminal charges, if any help oversee rental agreements for illegal sex shops.
Tetsuma Yamada, an editor with Naitai Group, which publishes magazines offering information on Tokyo's adult entertainment shops, said he thinks the police are moving in the right direction.
"Shops that violate the law deserve to get sacked by police,” Yamada said. “In order to recover thriving entertainment spots, those in the sex business need to stick to the minimum rules.”