This article originally appeared on VICE Japan.
How are you spending Christmas Eve? In Japan, where less than 1 percent of the population identifies as Christian, most people go on dates with a significant other rather than dinner with the family. Couples check into hotels for an intimate night, a trend that creeps are now taking advantage of.
Those off at a romantic rendezvous are violated by hidden cameras that record footage, that are then sold to porn sites. Afterall, if it’s action they’re looking for, there’s no better day to catch it than Christmas Eve.
VICE recently spoke with Hiroyuki Konno, a representative from private investigation firm Splash, about the strange new phenomenon.
VICE: What type of technology is used in hidden camera recording?
Hiroyuki Konno: When thinking about the history of cameras, we can see that 8mm, VHS, and analogue age came to an end when digital videos came out and SD cards became available. Micro SD cards have been commonly used since about 10 years ago, and with this trend came small-sized cameras.
In this day and age, it would even be possible to connect a small-sized hidden camera placed somewhere overseas to WiFi, and send footage from that camera to a smartphone which could show the footage through an app.
In terms of audio recording, it was common for people to set up a microphone and then transmit the sound recorded using analogue radio waves, but this isn’t usually done anymore.
Is video recording more common than audio?
Yes, that seems to be the case. There is so much more information contained in video recordings compared to audio. With today’s camera equipment, there’s no need to replace the cameras periodically, so they can stay put and keep recording. Plus, they are so small. Even if the performance of the camera isn’t good, it will still record audio, and nowadays, you can set cameras to detect motion.
What do you mean detect motion?
Cameras can be set to detect if something or somebody moves in the frame and notify the user.
So as long as it’s turned on — I could be spacing out over here — the camera would let me know with a loud sound (like a siren) if anything in the frame moves.
Let me give you an example. I’ve heard rumours that there are hidden cameras recording at all times in love hotels in Shibuya. I can’t be too sure, though, because we can’t investigate unless the love hotel requests it, so we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it even if we did find one.
What is the picture quality of these cameras like?
It’s clearer than HD. This particular camera can’t be connected to WiFi, but it can record close to 4K.
How can you get your hands on equipment like these?
Cameras with this functionality are sold on Amazon. Accessories are available there too.
How much does a camera cost?
About 5,000 yen (Approx. $45). Anyone can buy them since they’re cheap. They’re also easy to set up. Once they’re set up, they can just be left in the location to record. In a worst-case scenario, you don’t even have to come back for them to avoid being identified.
It’s now becoming more difficult to detect these cutting-edge gadgets, especially compared to their analogue counterparts.
We know hidden cameras are common in love hotels, but what about regular hotels or business hotels?
I feel like it would be easier to spot a hidden camera in a regular hotel, since there are fewer decorations compared to love hotels. But from my personal experience, hotel cleaning staff rarely notice recording equipment even when it’s out in the open. Once, I left a camera out on the table to test one of these cameras and the cleaning staff didn’t notice a thing.
Whether it be a love hotel or business hotel, most hotels have WiFi. Once a small-sized camera is connected to the hotel’s WiFi, it can be set up easily. But I would guess that rooms with double beds are more likely to be set up with hidden cameras than twin or single rooms.
That makes sense, since couples would usually want a double bed. From that perspective, isn’t it a bad idea for couples to spend Christmas Eve in a hotel?
I wouldn’t spend Christmas Eve in a hotel with my significant other. Even higher-end establishments could easily become targets since all that is needed for a hidden camera is a power supply. I would have to say that staying at home is the safest bet.
I would think that Christmas Eve is prime time for those trying to take hidden recordings. A friend of mine who works at a brothel told me they have fallen victim to hidden recordings twice this year. Those two cases are the only ones they’ve caught, so there must have been many who got away. That’s two instances in one brothel in one year. It scares me to think about the numbers on a national level.
Our firm actually gets a lot of jobs to detect hidden cameras from corporate clients. We’ve had six to eight cases this year related to footage uploaded to porn website XVIDEOS, which were taken using hidden cameras placed in a women’s locker room.
There are a few thousand private investigation firms in Japan, so I would imagine the overall number for this type of crime is high. There were even recent reports on the news of hidden camera footage from youth hostels or houses shared by multiple tenants.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.