Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 12 June 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan, 12 June 2007, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Japan (Tier 2)

Japan is primarily a destination, and to a lesser extent a transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. The majority of identified trafficking victims are foreign women who migrate to Japan seeking work, but who are deceived or coerced into debt bondage or sexual servitude. Some migrant workers are reportedly subjected to conditions of forced labor through a "foreign trainee" program. Women and children are trafficked to Japan for commercial sexual exploitation from the People's Republic of China, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. Internal trafficking of Japanese minor girls and women for sexual exploitation is also a problem. Over the past year, exploiters of women in Japan's booming sex trade appear to have modified their methods of controlling victims to limit their opportunity to escape or seek help. Many female victims will not step forward to seek help for fear of reprisals by their traffickers, who are usually members or associates of Japanese organized crime syndicates (the Yakuza). Japanese men are involved in child sex tourism in Southeast Asia.

The Government of Japan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Japan showed modest progress in advancing anti-trafficking reforms over the past year. The Japanese government continued implementing reforms initiated in 2005 through its national plan of action and its inter-ministerial committee on trafficking in persons, though progress appeared to slow during the reporting period.

While prosecutions and convictions under Japan's 2005 trafficking in persons statute increased significantly this year, fewer victims of trafficking were identified and assisted by Japanese authorities. The 58 victims found by the government in 2006 were less than half the number identified in 2005. NGOs and researchers agreed that the number of actual victims probably greatly exceeded government statistics. Some observers attribute this drop in part to a move of more exploitative sex businesses underground. The government should direct a more proactive law enforcement campaign to investigate suspected sites of commercial sexual exploitation in order to identify and assist a far greater number of trafficking victims and sustain progress in punishing trafficking offenders. The government should make greater efforts to investigate the possible forced labor conditions of workers in the "foreign trainee" program, the domestic sexual exploitation of Japanese women and children, and the use of fraudulent marriage as a mechanism for human trafficking. The government should also cooperate more closely with specialized NGO shelters to provide counseling services to victims of trafficking, and focus additional resources on preventing child sex tourism by male Japanese travelers.


The Government of Japan's efforts to punish acts of trafficking increased over the last year. Japan's 2005 amendment to its criminal code and a variety of other criminal code articles and laws, including the Labor Standards Law, the Prostitution Prevention Law, the Child Welfare Law, and the Law for Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography criminalize trafficking and a wide range of related activities. However, it is unclear if the existing legal framework is sufficiently comprehensive to criminalize all severe forms of trafficking in persons. The 2005 criminal code amendment prescribes penalties of up to seven years' imprisonment, which is sufficiently stringent. Application of these statutes, however, has been hindered by the difficulty of establishing the level of documentary evidence required for proving a trafficking crime. In 2006, 78 trafficking suspects were arrested; 17 cases prosecuted; and 15 trafficking offenders convicted under the 2005 statute. This is a significant increase from the few prosecutions and one conviction obtained in 2005. Of the 15 convictions in 2006, 12 offenders received prison sentences ranging from one to seven years; three offenders received suspended sentences. Two prosecutions were initiated for labor trafficking in 2006 and are ongoing. The government should take more initiative in investigating businesses suspected of human trafficking and in building cases against traffickers. The government should also revise the child pornography law to criminalize the access, purchase, and possession of child pornography. The fact that it is legal to purchase and possess child pornography in Japan contributes to the global demand for these images, which often depict the brutal sexual abuse of children.


In spite of increased government efforts, the effectiveness of victim protection declined during the reporting period. Law enforcement authorities only identified 58 victims in 2006, down from 117 identified in 2005. This small number is significantly disproportionate to the suspected magnitude of Japan's trafficking problem, which is estimated to greatly exceed government statistics. This may be due, in part, to traffickers moving their activities underground, but NGOs working with trafficking victims claim that the government is not proactive in searching for victims among vulnerable populations such as foreign women in the sex trade.

Victims in Japan are provided temporary residency and encouraged to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers but are not offered longer-term legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. The Japanese government funded the IOM-assisted repatriations of 50 victims last year. The government relied on domestic violence shelters – Women's Consultative Centers – in each of Japan's 47 prefectures to provide shelter for identified victims; the government referred few victims to dedicated trafficking shelters run by NGOs – a change since 2005, when many victims were referred to these NGO facilities. The Women's Consultative Centers have been criticized as inadequate for the care of foreign trafficking victims, offering in-house counseling only in the Japanese language and offering no special services to address the unique trauma of trafficking and the cultures of the victims. Some victims were not appropriately identified by Japanese authorities and, as a consequence, were treated as violators of Japanese immigration or prostitution statutes and penalized instead of being protected as victims of human trafficking.


The Japanese government increased its efforts to prevent trafficking in persons, both at home and in source countries, over the reporting period. The government's inter-ministerial committee oversaw the expanded dissemination of 500,000 copies of a brochure that provides victims and potential victims with information on seeking help from the government or NGOs in the languages of all the nationalities of identified victims. Tightened visa restrictions significantly reduced the number of identified victims who enter Japan with "entertainment" visas, from 68 in 2005, to 18 in 2006. The government also expanded a public awareness campaign started in 2005 aimed at the demand for commercial sexual exploitation; 25,000 posters highlighting the link between prostitution and sex trafficking were circulated nationwide. The government donated $200,000 to UNICEF for a child trafficking prevention campaign in Central Asia, as well as $2 million to an ILO project for anti-trafficking efforts in Thailand and the Philippines. Because Japan's Diet has not ratified the umbrella UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention, Japan has not officially ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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