Japan's National Police Agency has reported that investigations for the possession and distribution of child pornography reached record levels in 2017, the result of a large database of pornography buyers seized by Tokyo police last May.

The database, listing some 7,000 purchasers of child pornography, included people professionally responsible for children, among them elementary school teachers and administrators, government officials, and police officers.

The police agency reported that child pornography cases increased to 2,413 in 2017, 316 more cases than in the year prior, according to the Japan Times.

A majority of charges involve the production of child pornography, which increased to 1,414 cases last year, a 10 percent increase from 2016. Additionally, cases involving the possession of child pornography in 2017 nearly tripled, to 201 cases.

The database of customers was discovered after Tokyo police arrested four people last May tied to a website selling child pornography on DVDs. The list included names, email addresses, and the title of the DVDs purchased.

A National Police senior investigator told the Japan Times that while "Japan's child pornography issue is notorious worldwide," the agency's police work has "rung the warning bell that child pornography itself is wrong."

The police have referred 1,703 people from the list to prosecutors and have arrested 200 people thus far, and the Tokyo police have estimated that nearly 1000 more people will be referred to prosecutors in neighboring prefectures.

The Japan Times reports that 42.4 percent of the investigated cases involved children "coerced or tricked into sending nude selfies with smartphones." This, according to the National Police, is the most common way that pornographic photos of children are obtained.

An agency official warned that "perpetrators might be disguising themselves as children of the same generation when they are communicating online," with children..

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In 2017, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan published a pastoral letter which encouraged parents to take precautions to prevent children from falling prey to online criminals.

"It is very important that parents place restrictions on children's Internet browsing by making use of filtering functions etc. to prevent criminal victimization," the bishops wrote.
"The Internet has made access to pornography very easy in contemporary society compared to the times when it was only available in media such as magazines and videos," they added.

"It is a great responsibility for adults to give young people adequate and correct knowledge and information about sex and to develop values that truly honor sex that leads to new life."