Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 11 June 2003
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan, 11 June 2003, available at: [accessed 24 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 a country of destination for men, women, and children trafficked for sexual exploitation. Victims come mainly from China, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Colombia, and Eastern Europe. Some victims are lured to Japan under false pretenses; others come aware that they will work in the lucrative Japanese sex trade and are abused after their arrival. Trafficking also occurs within Japan as victims are "resold" between traffickers.

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. The government is providing international funding for anti-trafficking efforts in Southeast Asia and conducting symposiums that help focus other governments. At home, however, measures are less advanced. The government has no national plan of action. Japan's law enforcement and immigration response is seriously hindered because government officials, unclear on the nature of trafficking, tend to define the crime too narrowly and disagree among themselves about who is a trafficking victim.


Japan is active internationally, conducting training seminars for immigration officials in source countries throughout Southeast Asia to help them prevent trafficking. Domestically, the government holds information campaigns against the abuse of foreign workers. The government sponsored a seminar in 2003 with UNICEF to raise awareness of child trafficking, but needs to take further legislative efforts to address the issue of commercial sex tourism where some citizens travel abroad with the express purpose of having sex with minors.


Japan has no law specifically prohibiting trafficking, although in practice it applies mainly the immigration and labor laws against traffickers. The government does investigate traffickers, but the number of prosecutions has been too few and the penalties too weak to act as an effective deterrent against the professional syndicates involved in trafficking. The 2003 arrest and conviction of kingpin trafficker Koichi "Sony" Hagiwara were significant. His criminal sentence, like many violent crime sentences in Japan, was light by U.S. standards (less than two years for a repeat offender who operated a criminal trafficking organization which moved hundreds of victims from Colombia) indicating a weakness in Japan's punishment of traffickers. The government does not aggressively prosecute and punish the criminal organizations involved in trafficking.


The Japanese Government does not adequately protect victims. The government's authority to provide temporary residency status to foreigners in an emergency is rarely invoked for foreign trafficking victims. Japanese officials are trained to deal with the extenuating circumstances of foreign victims; however, in practice, they tend to treat them as illegal migrants and quickly deport them. Victims who are suspected of attempting to avoid deportation may be held in detention centers, a treatment inappropriate to their status as crime victims. Facing deportation, victims have few options to seek legal remedies against traffickers in civil courts. Japan is active internationally making generous donations to UNDP and IOM to aid victims in Vietnam and Cambodia.

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