Quasi-pornographic 'chaku-ero', or clothed eroticism -- images of small children posing in tiny swimsuits -- are easily found on the Internet, slipping through a legal loophole.

Lawyer Keiji Goto, who campaigns for minors' rights, says the problem is a social one.

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You might send money to her because she tells you that her grandmother is sick. I dated many beautiful Asian women and I never got scammed.

As long as you stay away from the go-go bars, it’s highly unlikely that you meet girls who try to scam you.

Many Japanese think that sexually objectifying young girls is not taboo but rather 'just falls into a grey zone,' said Goto.

Japan is far from being the only place with a problem of sexualising children.

Now they (male fans) say they prefer primary school girls, without hesitation.'Ai's mother, Mami Yamazaki, says her daughter has wanted to be an 'idol' singer since she watched an anime cartoon about young girls striving for stardom.'On television, you see kids acting in dramas and commercials. What Ai is doing is not much different,' she says, despite the audience for idol shows being mainly adult males.

Yamazaki, 26, herself played in a band as a teenager and sees her daughter's performances as a way into the popular and lucrative world of idols.

Most fans are 'pure,' insists Himeno, now 24, although she admits she was once offered 30,000 yen (0) for her used pantyhose.'Men idolising young girls is relatively accepted in Japan,' said Himeno, citing the 'Tale of Genji', an 11th-century classic depicting a nobleman's romantic relationships with women, as well as a small girl.

For Ai's manager Hidenori Okuma, the men are attracted by the thought of contact with a 'girl next door'.'Meeting and chatting with high-school idols has become so popular,' said Okuma.'It's now less embarrassing to admit you like young girls.

She just wants his money and she doesn’t make a secret of it.

He’s blind enough to give her money whenever she asks.

The number of minors abused in child pornography has risen five-fold in the past decade, according to official figures.