Human trafficking in Japan


by Vanessa Charles


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Human trafficking in Japan was declared commonplace in the early 80s. Sex trafficking is particularly linked to Japan's entertainment and tourism industries. It's difficult to calculate the scale of this traffic because of underground activity, too often unreported.

It is estimated that between 100 and 150,000 women a year are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

The women forced into prostitution in Japan come mainly from Southeast Asia and the former Soviet Union, as they are affected by poverty.

Japan regularly promises to put an end to human trafficking, without much success so far. The U.S. Congress, the Council of Europe and several international organizations regularly question the country on the subject, concluding that the Japanese government is employing insufficient measures to completely eradicate this scourge.

The sex industry is part of this traffic

New legislation passed in 2005, tightening the conditions for obtaining an "Entertainment" visa, has failed to curb trafficking. Easy to obtain, this "entertainment" visa is the entry point for thousands of prostitutes every year. In the 1990s, for example, over 70,000 Filipinas entered Japan on such visas every year, although no one really knew how many of them were actually working in the entertainment industry...

One of the problems facing the Japanese authorities in their fight against trafficking is demand. Indeed, the sex industry has never done so well in a country where prostitution has been banned for 50 years. As proof, there are some 10,000 clubs or hostess bars in the archipelago, and countless girls are linked in one way or another to the business of paid love.

Influential men who turn a blind eye

Another obstacle to eradicating the phenomenon is the fact that a significant number of notables, members of parliament and law enforcement officers turn a blind eye to the trade.
In 2005, police uncovered 81 cases of human trafficking. Analysts and human rights associations alike consider this result to be ridiculously low in relation to reality. We can only hope, for the sake of these thousands of women, that the fact that Japanese women are now being trafficked will force the authorities to really tackle the problem.

Solutions that don't deliver results

In 2002, the Japanese government agreed to implement the protocol against human trafficking established by the 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, known as the "Palermo Convention". Despite this notable effort, Japan is designated by the United States as a Third 2 country, which states that the country does not fully adhere to anti-human trafficking standards.


Today, despite Japan's efforts to eradicate human trafficking, these efforts remain insufficient in the eyes of the world. Non-governmental organizations, such as the yakuza, are influential in the case of human trafficking, which remains predominant in the country.

You may also be interested in : The book "Tokyo Vice" by Jake Adelstein

This autobiographical tale gives us a glimpse into Japanese society: a country where respect for rules, appearances and decorum often takes precedence over common sense; where, in the name of the law, we'd rather arrest foreign women forced into sexual slavery and drive them out of the country than tackle the powerful yakuza organizations behind them.

Vanessa Charles

A (very) close friend of Cupid and a true lover of relationships of all kinds, I am the main editor of Give Me Date. I answer your questions about couples, sexuality and dating and I test dating sites to give you a subjective opinion on how to find love or meet new people.

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