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Japan

The Situation
Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Japanese organized crime syndicates (the Yakuza) are believed to play a significant role in trafficking in Japan, both directly and indirectly.1

Source
During 2010, there was a growth in trafficking of Japanese nationals, including foreign-born children of Japanese citizens who acquired nationality.2  

Transit
Japan is a transit country for persons trafficked from East Asia to North America.3 

Destination
Japan is recognized as having one of the most severe human trafficking problems among the major industrialized democracies.4 Japan is a destination country for women and children from East Asia, Southeast Asia, and to a lesser extent, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Latin America who are subjected to sexual and labor exploitation.5 Recruitment techniques are often based on false promises of employment as waitresses, hotel staff, entertainers, or models.6 Traffickers also use fraudulent marriages between foreign women and Japanese men to facilitate entry of victims into Japan for forced prostitution.7 

Further, Japan continues to be an international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography.8 Japan is home to an immense sex industry that includes a wide variety of commercial sex operation models, including themed-brothels, hostess clubs, escort agencies, ‘snack’ clubs, strip theatres, and street prostitution. Many are owned, controlled, or ‘taxed’ by the Japanese organized crime network, the Yakuza, or increasingly by foreign-based groups such as Korean or Colombian crime networks.9 Japanese men continue to be a significant source of demand for child sex tourism in Southeast Asia.10

Male and female migrant workers from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other Asian countries are also sometimes subjected to conditions of forced labor.11 While not as widespread as sex trafficking, labor trafficking is believed to take place in construction, factory work, and domestic servitude situations.12     

Although the Government of Japan has not officially recognized the existence of forced labor within the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program (the “foreign trainee program”), the media and NGOs continue to report abuses including debt bondage, restrictions on movement, unpaid wages and overtime, fraud, and contracting workers out to different employers. The majority of trainees are Chinese nationals who pay high fees to Chinese brokers to apply for the program.13  

Internal Trafficking
Japan has a significant amount of internal trafficking of women and girls who are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Recruiters actively recruit in subways, popular hangout spots for youth, at schools, and other venues, making promises of success to young women and children if they model or work at certain clubs. Children are also often recruited at a young age to be abused through child pornography.14  

The Japanese Government
The Japanese Government was placed in Tier 2 in the 2011 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but making significant efforts to do so.

Japan does not have a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, but Japan’s 2005 amendment to its criminal code, which prohibits the buying and selling of persons, and a variety of other criminal code articles and laws, could be used to prosecute trafficking offenses. These laws prescribe punishments ranging from one to 10 years’ imprisonment.15

Prosecution
The Japanese government has taken modest, but overall inadequate, steps towards enforcing laws against trafficking. The government reported 19 investigations for offenses reported to be related to trafficking, resulting in the arrest of 24 individuals in 2010. The government convicted 14 of these individuals for various trafficking-related offenses, with penalties ranging from only a fine to jail sentences of one to 4.5 years. The government investigated only three cases of suspected forced labor during 2010 but failed to arrest, prosecute, convict, or sentence to jail any individual for forced labor.16

Additionally, the government fails to address government complicity in trafficking offenses. Although corruption remains a serious concern in the large and socially accepted entertainment industry in Japan, which includes the prostitution industry, the government did not report investigations, arrests, prosecutions, convictions, or jail sentences against any official for trafficking-related complicity during 2010.17 

The National Police Agency (NPA), Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Immigration, and the Public Prosecutor’s office regularly train officers on trafficking investigation and prosecution techniques. In July 2010, the government distributed a 10-page manual to assist law enforcement, judicial and other government officers in identifying and investigating trafficking offenses and implementing victim protection measures.18

Protection
Japan continues to lack dedicated shelters for victims of trafficking. Of the 43 identified victims in 2010, 32 received care at government shelters for domestic violence victims – Women’s Consulting Centers (WCCs) – however, these victims reportedly face restrictions on movement outside of these multi-purpose shelters, and inadequate services inside them. Due to limitations of space and translation capabilities, WCCs sometimes refer victims to government-subsidized NGO shelters.  However, government funded medical, psychological and legal care are often not provided at NGO shelters. While authorities report encouraging victims’ participation in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, victims are not provided with any incentives for participation, such as the ability to work or otherwise generate income.19

The government has no specific protection policy for victims of forced labor and it has never identified a victim of labor trafficking. Japanese authorities did produce a manual distributed to government agencies in July 2010 on how to identify victims of trafficking.  However, the manual primarily focuses on identifying the immigration status of foreign migrants and their methods of entering Japan, rather than identifying indicators of nonconsensual exploitation of the migrants.20 

Some victims have reportedly been arrested or detained before authorities identified them as trafficking victims. A long-term residency visa is available to persons identified as trafficking victims who fear returning to their home country, but only one person has ever applied for or received this benefit.21

Prevention
The Japanese government has made limited efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. The Inter-ministerial Liaison Committee released more than 33,000 posters and 50,000 brochures aimed at raising awareness of trafficking in 2010, however, NGOs report that this campaign has had little effect and failed to reach the consumers of commercial sexual services. The government has also sponsored online awareness campaigns and continues to fund several anti-trafficking projects around the world.22  

While Japan has the legal authority to prosecute Japanese nationals who engage in child sex tourism abroad, only a total of eight persons have been convicted since 2002, even though a significant number of Japanese men travel to other Asian countries every year to engage in sex with children.23

International Cooperation
Japan works with international NGOs and the International Organization for Migration. Japan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.24

Recommendations
The U.S. Department of State recommends that the Japanese government enact the following measures in its 2011 TIP Report: 

  • Dedicate more government resources to anti-trafficking efforts, including dedicated law enforcement units, trafficking-specific shelters, and legal aid for victims of trafficking;
  • Consider drafting and enacting a comprehensive anti-trafficking law prohibiting all forms of trafficking and prescribing sufficiently stringent penalties; 
  • Significantly increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and assign sufficiently stringent jail sentences to acts of forced labor, including within the foreign trainee program, and ensure that abuses reported to labor offices are referred to criminal authorities for investigation;
  • Enforce bans on deposits, punishment agreements, withholding of passports, and other practices that contribute to forced labor in the foreign trainee program; 
  • Continue to increase efforts to enforce laws and stringently punish perpetrators of forced prostitution; 
  • Make greater efforts to proactively investigate and, where warranted, punish government complicity in trafficking or trafficking-related offenses; 
  • Further expand and implement formal victim identification procedures and train personnel who have contact with individuals arrested for prostitution, foreign trainees, or other migrants on the use of these procedures to identify a greater number of trafficking victims;
  • Ensure that victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; 
  • Establish protection policies for all victims of trafficking, including male victims and victims of forced labor; 
  • Ensure that protection services, including medical and legal services, are fully accessible to victims of trafficking by making them free and actively informing victims of their availability; and 
  • More aggressively investigate and, where warranted, prosecute and punish Japanese nationals who engage in child sex tourism.25

____________________

1 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
2 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
3 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
4 Polaris Project: Transnational and Domestic Human Trafficking in Japan 
5 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
6 Polaris Project: Transnational and Domestic Human Trafficking in Japan 
7 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
8 2010 US Department of State Human Rights Report
9 Polaris Project: Transnational and Domestic Human Trafficking in Japan 
10 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
11 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
12 Polaris Project: Transnational and Domestic Human Trafficking in Japan 
13 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
14 Polaris Project: Transnational and Domestic Human Trafficking in Japan 
15 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
16 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
17 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
18 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
19 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report; Polaris Project: Anti-Trafficking Efforts in Japan
20 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
21 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
22 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
23 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
24 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
25 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report

 


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