Last Updated: Monday, 23 November 2015, 15:09 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 14 June 2004
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan, 14 June 2004, available at: [accessed 24 November 2015]
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 Watch List)

Japan is a destination country for Asian, Latin American and Eastern European women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. There have also been cases of Asian and Latin American men trafficked to Japan for criminal, labor and/or sexual purposes. Japan's trafficking problem is large and Japanese organized crime groups (yakuza) that operate internationally are involved. The Japanese government must begin to fully employ its resources to address this serious human rights crime within its borders.

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. Its placement on Tier 2 Watch List is based on its commitments to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards by taking additional steps over the next year. The government needs to increase its efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons, including increased investigations, prosecutions and convictions of trafficking crimes and better assistance to victims. The government should pursue efforts to prosecute the powerful organized crime figures behind Japan's trade in human traffic. Considering the resources available, Japan could do much more to protect its thousands of victims of sexual slavery. The government did, however, provide support for international anti-trafficking programs and conferences. Japan must speed its review of anti-trafficking legislation and ensure trafficking-related punishments are commensurate with the severity of the crimes.


Japan lacks a comprehensive law against trafficking and until recently there was no official, clearly defined policy to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet have made a significant effort to mobilize the resources of the bureaucracy to address the trafficking issue, creating a senior coordinator presiding over an inter-ministerial committee for anti-trafficking efforts in March 2004. The government currently employs the Penal Code and a variety of labor, immigration, and child welfare/protection statutes to carry out limited trafficking-related prosecutions. These laws provide for up to 10-year prison terms and steep fines, but actual penalties have been far less severe. Efforts are underway in the government to draft legislation to improve Japan's anti-trafficking statutes. The National Police Agency (NPA) has instructed prefecture offices to increase law enforcement efforts against traffickers; investigate suspect locations and possible organized crime connections; report any foreigners arrested for prostitution who may have been trafficked; provide female officers to interview female victims; and provide counseling and medical assistance as required. An Organized Crime Control Department was established in the Japanese Police in early 2004 to carry out these anti-trafficking activities.

Last year, the NPA arrested 41 individuals for trafficking-related offenses, 8 of whom were traffickers. Thirty-six of these individuals were convicted, resulting in 14 defendants receiving prison terms, 17 receiving fines, and five receiving both a fine and a prison term. In February 2003, 17 prefecture police offices and the Tokyo Metropolitan police simultaneously raided 24 strip clubs and rescued 68 trafficking victims. The NPA also participated in 16 transnational investigations. Victims were generally not encouraged to participate in investigations or prosecutions of traffickers. However, the Immigration Service is revamping its training programs to include the proper treatment and questioning of victims. Efforts are also underway to improve screening of travelers arriving in Japan from key source countries of trafficking and to tighten the issuance of "entertainer" visas, which are often used by traffickers to bring victims to Japan.


Over the past year, the Japanese government offered victims of sexual slavery little in the way of legal advice, psychological or financial support. Generally, victims were deported as illegal aliens. This year, the Japanese government administratively decided to not treat victims as immediately deportable criminals. A short grace period for the victims will allow the government to develop its cases against traffickers. Some victims are temporarily housed in detention facilities for illegal immigrants prior to deportation. The government's prefectural shelters are open to female victims of violence and to foreign trafficking victims, but few foreign trafficking victims utilize the shelters for fear that they will be sent to an immigration shelter and be deported. The prefectural governments of Tokyo and Kanagawa provide modest funding to assist NGOs that operate shelters for trafficking victims in Tokyo and Yokohama. The government is examining new ways of assisting shelters and NGOs.


In 2003, the Cabinet Affairs Office conducted a campaign to heighten public awareness of violence against women and trafficking. The NPA also produced a training video on trafficking and distributed it to all police offices to improve their awareness of trafficking. However, little effort has been made to lessen the domestic demand for trafficking victims. Tighter entertainer visa issuance and entry control procedures were instituted in 2004 for nationals from Colombia, a major source of trafficking victims. The GOJ disbursed $3 million to UNICEF, ILO, UNDP and the Philippine government to alleviate poverty, raise awareness of the dangers of trafficking, and promote alternative economic opportunities for women.

Search Refworld