U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan

Japan (Tier 2)

Japan is a destination country for a large number of Asian, Latin American, and Eastern European women and children who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. There have also been cases of Asian and Latin American men trafficked to Japan for criminal, labor and/or commercial sexual purposes. Japanese organized crime groups (yakuza) that operate internationally are involved in trafficking.

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 has made an impressive start in providing assistance to trafficking victims, including implementation of a national action plan with modest, additional resources for government-run shelters and private shelters. The government made substantial efforts to improve the legal framework by drafting penal code revisions which specifically criminalize trafficking and increase penalties for trafficking-related offenses. During the reporting period, the government undertook major reforms to significantly tighten the issuance of entertainer visas to women from the Philippines, a process used by traffickers to enslave thousands of Philippine women in Japan each year. Japan continued to provide support for international anti-trafficking programs and conferences. The foundations that the Government of Japan has laid in the past few months offer promises of results that would place Japan in a leadership role in fighting trafficking.


Japan increased its law enforcement efforts against trafficking during the reporting period. The government uses the penal code and a variety of labor, immigration, and child welfare/protection statutes to prosecute trafficking-related offenses. While Japan's current laws provide for up to ten-year prison terms and steep fines, actual penalties thus far have been much less severe. The government has drafted revisions to the penal code that specifically criminalize trafficking and increase penalties for trafficking-related offenses. Japan's National Police Agency (NPA) reported 58 arrests and 48 prosecutions in 2004, reflecting a significant increase over the previous year's performance. The NPA improved its handling of trafficking cases and provided guidelines on victim identification and treatment to local police forces. The NPA also took concrete steps to increase cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies on trafficking cases.


In 2004, the government improved its efforts to protect victims of trafficking. Twenty-two trafficking victims were provided government protection from January through October 2004, a dramatic increase over the previous year. The government implemented a national action plan that provides additional resources for victim protection in government-run shelters and private shelters. Trafficking victims are no longer treated as criminals, and a short grace period allows the government time to develop its cases against traffickers. Japanese authorities referred trafficking victims to government-run prefectural domestic violence shelters and NGO facilities. While the government's prefectural shelters are now open to foreign trafficking victims, few victims use the shelters for fear that they would be sent to an immigration detention center and then deported. The prefectural governments of Tokyo and Kanagawa continued to provide modest funding to NGOs operating shelters for trafficking victims in those prefectures.


The government continued its efforts to raise public awareness of violence against women and trafficking. The NPA produced a training video on trafficking and distributed it to all police offices to improve their awareness of trafficking. The government also took major steps to significantly tighten the issuance of entertainer visas to women from the Philippines, a major source of trafficking victims. The government continued to provide support for international anti-trafficking programs to alleviate poverty, raise awareness of the dangers of trafficking, and promote alternative economic opportunities for women. The government, however, has yet to make a significant effort to lessen the domestic demand for trafficking victims.


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