Eighty women were arrested between January and September on suspicion of prostitution for allegedly soliciting customers on the streets of Tokyo's Kabukicho nightlife district, police said Tuesday.

The Metropolitan Police Department has been cracking down on prostitution in Kabukicho amid a surge of activity in the wake of the relaxation of the country's COVID-19 restrictions and due to social media exposure of the trade there.

The arrested women were aged 20 to 46, the police said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, 53 people were arrested for alleged prostitution. The tally dropped to 23 in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak, but it rose to 34 in 2021 and 51 in 2022, according to the police.

A total of 35 people were apprehended in September alone. Most were Japanese women in their 20s, they said.

The police highlighted that almost 40 percent of these women were seeking to pay off debts from money spent in host clubs or on so-called underground boy bands who encourage fan interactions.

To help these women, Tokyo police have introduced welfare initiatives for them upon their release. Since 2022, the police have also provided specialized counseling services to support their return to normal lives in society.

Photo taken July 28, 2023, shows a woman (C) arrested on the spot for allegedly soliciting customers for prostitution in Tokyo's Kabukicho district with a plain-clothes police officer on the right. (A passerby's face has been pixelated for privacy reasons)(Kyodo)

Related coverage:

Japan police to stamp out online criminal activity with help of AI