Department stores across Japan are reporting a surge in sales of school equipment designed to protect children from violent crime. With the April start of the academic year fast approaching, concerned parents are spending tens of thousands of yen to ensure that their children are not the latest victims of a spate of crimes that have shattered Japan's image of a country where children are safe. 'School bags with built-in GPS systems and alarms are proving very popular at the moment, with sales at our Nihombashi main store between October and January up 20 per cent on last year,' said Takashi Yamashita, a spokesman for Takashimaya, Japan's biggest department store. A traditional-style black leather backpack, fitted with the GPS device, costs 45,000 yen ($3,000), while an alarm system can add a further 20,000 yen. A company in Osaka is also producing sweatshirts and blazers that contain a flexible glass-fibre mesh designed to deflect a knife blade. The firm, Madre Security, sells up to 15 coats a month, each of which cost 41,000 yen. For parents, however, it is a small price to pay for peace of mind. In November, Peruvian immigrant Jose Torres Yake was arrested in Hiroshima over the murder of seven-year-old Airi Kinoshita. A week later, Yuki Yoshida, also seven, was found dead in a forest in the central Japan prefecture of Tochigi. Her killer is still on the loose. And in December, 12-year-old Sayano Horimoto was allegedly knifed to death in the town of Uji, Kyoto prefecture, by her cram-school teacher, Yu Hagino, a 23-year-old student at Doshisha University.