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A web resource for combating human trafficking


The Situation
Japan is a transit and destination country for human trafficking. The traffickers are reportedly part of Japanese organized crime syndicates, particularly the Yakuza.1   

Japan is a destination country for women and children who are trafficked from China, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and to a lesser extent Latin America for sexual and labor exploitation. Many of the trafficking victims were coerced into commercial sexual exploitation in strip clubs, sex shops, hostess bars, private video rooms, escort services, and mail-order video services. NGOs reported that in some cases brokers used drugs to subjugate victims. Women also voluntarily migrate to work in Japan but are later coerced into exploitative conditions. Women are usually held in debt bondage for $26,000 to $43,000 for their living expenses, medical care, and other necessities.2 

Internal Trafficking
Japan has a significant amount of internal trafficking of women and girls who are trafficked for sexual exploitation.3 

The Japanese Government
The Japanese Government was placed in Tier 2 in the 2007 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.

The Criminal Code, 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 different types of human trafficking in Japan. Under the criminal code, traffickers can be sentenced up to seven years of imprisonment.4   

In 2006, the Japanese government arrested 78 suspected traffickers, prosecuted 17 cases, and convicted 15 traffickers with penalties ranging from one to seven years and suspended sentences. There were two prosecutions for labor trafficking in 2006.5  

Trafficking victims are placed in existing subsidized shelters for victims of domestic violence. The shelters have been criticized for not offering counseling in languages other than Japan.6   The government also pays for the victims’ health care and subsidizes repatriation through the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The Japanese Government does not adequately identify all trafficking victims and sometimes classify them as criminals. According to Polaris Project Japan, there were fewer victims identified and assisted by Japanese authorities in 2006. IOM stated that they helped repatriate 50 trafficked women with the government’s support.7

The Japanese government disseminated 500,000 copies of a brochure in many languages for trafficking victims seeking help and 25,000 that describe the link between prostitution and sex trafficking. The government donated $2 million to the ILO for anti-trafficking efforts in Thailand and the Philippines.8   

The U.S. Department of State recommends that the government be more proactive in investigating locations with commercial sexual exploitation, increase investigations of 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 NGO, Polaris Project Japan, recommends that the Japanese government take more initiative in investigating businesses suspected of human trafficking and in building cases against traffickers, revise the child pornography law to criminalize the access, purchase, and possession of child pornography.9


1   Polaris Project Japan: Human Trafficking
2  2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
3  2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
4  Polaris Project Japan: Human Trafficking
5  2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
6  Polaris Project Japan: Human Trafficking
7  2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
8  2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
9  Polaris Project Japan: Human Trafficking


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