"Can I ask you a question about.....that thing over there where you hang the signs and stuff?"
I can't recall the Japanese word for "notice board". It will only come to mind later: "keijiban." Typical.
The police officer, standing authoritatively outside his corner box holding a big stick, doesn't give me any definitive response. I take that as a cue to keep talking to him until he notices me.
"There was a poster of a girl," I speak as politely as I can, "a fifteen year old girl who is missing. The poster was up on every police box in the city for the past month or two. Then, one day last week, all the pictures seemed to have been taken down at once. Why? Do you know what happened to her?"
He squints his eyes as if he is trying to understand, and trying to understand is a painful process.
"A girl," I repeat, "a fifteen year old girl. She was everywhere."
"Ah," he throws his head back, as if he finally gets it. "That sign has passed its time limit. It is expired."
"So the situation hasn't changed then? You're still looking for her?" I try to clarify.
"No. We are not looking for her anymore," he replies.
"So you found her?"
"Oh, I wouldn't know about that."
I am not surprised.
"Why," he asks, "have you seen her?"
"No, I haven't seen her." I'd switched to plain verb forms by then. Very impolite.
He looks at me quizzically, which I take as a cue to bow and run, before he started asking me about my alien status.
This photo of the sign in question was taken last month:
When these posters were all taken down so abruptly, I wanted to know what had become of the girl in question.
I'd resorted to asking the police officer myself, because I couldn't find any information on the missing girl anywhere else, despite passing her picture multiple times each day for over a month. I tried a Google search for her name, but couldn't find much besides a cast member in an erotic film who claimed to be a couple of years older. I couldn't find anything at all to suggest that the girl was or had been missing.
Her photos grabbed my attention over the past couple of months, largely because of the contrast between the two pictures of the girl in the posters. On one side there is a child, and on the other, a child prostitute. Perhaps I'm wrong to assume that she is or was in "enjo kosai," but there is such demand for said services in Japanese society that it's hard to envision much else.
Some months ago, I received the below advertisement in my mailbox, which appears to be for a schoolgirl prostitute service:
Japanese society has a very sick element to it, and their normal society is too gutless to face up to it and do something about it.
This sums up the current situation rather well, I think.