"Daijobu desu. It's okay -- I'm her English teacher."
Whenever curious locals asked why a young female was in the front passenger seat, that was the man's standard reply.
"He would tell people he was giving English lessons at his home, and they took it for granted that's what he was doing," recalls a local housewife, from an encounter seven years earlier.
The 69-year-old resident of Fukuoka City was indicted earlier this month after police seized from his home more than 600 videos that the man had allegedly recorded, of immoral encounters with perhaps several dozen young female victims -- mostly elementary school-aged girls -- during a period that extended over 10 years.
The man, who has lived in Japan and taught English mainly to primary school students for decades, allegedly took his students home with an offer of private English lessons, the sources said.
Aera (March 29) notes that the man -- whose name so far has been omitted from the media reports -- was frequently seen coming and going in his white sedan.
"When he drove home, there would almost always be a student beside him in the front seat," the housewife adds. "Sometimes primary schoolers, sometimes older. And always girls."
Reports in the vernacular press noted the man had first been brought to the attention of the police in 2006. But a follow-up door-to-door canvassing and stakeout had failed to produce conclusive evidence.
Then in 2008, police obtained testimony from a victim that allegedly took place while she was between the ages of 9 to 11. Yet inexplicably, the man was not detained until this January, when he was arrested on suspicion of violating the child welfare law. He was arrested again in February on charges of violating the anti-child prostitution and child pornography law, and for the third time in March on charges of sexual assault against a female minor.
According to police, the man had admitted to the allegations, but justified his action by saying he had done it "so that the girls would have a better sex life in the future."
Aera reports the man lived in a spacious two-story house, surrounded by a bamboo thicket, some 40 minutes from central Fukuoka. He first arrived about 25 years ago, and after greeting a neighbor and handing a business card identifying him as an "English conversation teacher," he had remained aloof from her and other neighbors.
The suspect had registered a small conversation school close to the city's Tenjin commercial district. He also claimed expertise in Qi Gong massage therapy, and offered remedial treatments to those who "had given up on conventional medicine."
"After the death of his mother in the 1980s, he also began claiming 'spiritual powers,' and during English lessons made his students engage in something resembling meditation," says Yoshihiko Yamabe, head of a local association of Qi Gong practitioners.
In addition to "English conversation instruction," entries on his business registration included "sales of health foods, cosmetics, household detergents and others," and "operation of equestrian classes."
Although the suspect was elderly, Akiko Kamei, who heads a national network against school sexual harassment, points out that the predisposition toward pedophilia remains ingrained.
"Among people whose occupations that put them in daily contact with children, a portion may take such jobs for reasons that approach sexual interest," Kamei warns. "I suppose there are people who think once a person becomes a 'sensei,' he warrants the unconditional trust of the children under his care."© Japan Today