The Japanese police have arrested as many as 17 men accused of filming thousands of women bathing in hot springs over a period of 30 years.

The shocking incident came to light after police arrested the head of the voyeurism ring in a different case.

The group's leader, Karin Saito, 50, was arrested in 2021 in Hyogo Prefecture, west of Kyoto. He was arrested for reportedly drugging women with sleeping pills and committing indecent acts at his parties.

The police launched an investigation after Saito confessed to taking pictures of at least 10,000 women for 30 years in 46 different prefectures.

According to the South China Morning Post, police arrested 16 more men, including a doctor from Tokyo, senior company executives, and local government officials, in connection with the case.

They were arrested in 11 different prefectures. According to the police, Saito and his group used high-end cameras to zoom in on women bathing in the open-air hot springs.

The perpetrators would use cameras with long-focus telephoto lenses to film these women. They would carry out these acts by hiding in mountainous areas and later organise screenings of these videos.

The incident has sent shock waves across the country, with fears that it may affect the country's tourism sector which was just getting back on its feet post Covid-19.

This is not the first time that the beautiful Japanese hot springs have hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. In 2015, the Fudo no Yu hot spring near Tokyo was closed after police received several reports of people indulging in "lewd" sexual behaviour, including orgies. The spring was a part of the popular Shiobara Onsen resort.

The authorities finally decided to close it down after a group comprising of 14 to 15 men and some young women were accused of abusing the hot springs that were left unguarded by the resort management.

Every region of Japan has hot springs. There are different kinds of hot springs with different minerals in them. They are supposed to be enjoyed naked, but several resorts and hotels also give their guests the option to bathe indoors.

Hot springs, or "onsens," are mineral-rich hot water bodies. It is said that this water has a relaxing effect on the body and the mind, which is why people from across the world flock to these sites every year.

Hot Spring
Representative image of a Japanese hot spring. Image/