Japan is one of the last developed countries to ban possession of child pornography
Japan is one of the last developed countries to ban possession of child pornographyGetty

Japan has banned possession of child pornography for the first time in its history.

Under the new law, anyone caught with sexual images of children faces up to one year in prison, or a £6,000 fine. However graphic cartoon pornography featuring child-like female characters – which is known as Hentai - is not covered by the new law.

Japan is the last member of the group of first-world countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to outlaw possession of child porn.

Anti-smut campaigners welcomed the law change to combat Japan's growing child sex problem. The amount of child pornography in Japan has increased ten-fold in a decade, based on police seizures.

Activist Shihoko Fujiwara told CNN: "Under the existing circumstances, the suffering and damage has become more critical. I really hope that the law rescues suffering child victims, as well as the victims damaged in the past by stopping the circulation of child porn.

"This is the epoch-making event for Japan."

The decision to exempt animation – known in Japan as Manga - containing adult content comes after heavy lobbying by the industry.

Hentai, which is the adult type of manga animation, invariably features innocent-looking female characters engaged in explicit sexual exploits with other humans, or fictional creatures.

The female protagonists in Hentai inevitably look child-like, which is a problem to some in Japan.

Dr Mio Bryce, of Macquarie University ,said "cuteness is a problem, because cuteness is something that makes you feel you have to protect the person, and there's a very fine line between 'I can protect the person' and 'I can control the person.

"If you're looking at it all the time, how are you actually seeing people? Is it just a fantasy, or maybe some people with a bit of a wrong mind think that is actually there, and that is the way to treat women. So there is a risk,"

But anime lobbyist Ken Akamatsu defended the right to create anime by pointing out nobody is hurt in the creation of it.

"Actual children suffering and crying is not acceptable," Akamatsu said. "But manga doesn't involve actual children. So there are no actual victims."