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- United States Department of State, 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan, 30 June 2016

Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and for children subjected to sex trafficking.


It is often believed that Japanese and foreign workers in the sex industry are choosing to work there based on their free will.  As a result, these women are viewed and treated simply as sex objects.  Failure to recognize them as survivors of human trafficking means that they do not receive the legal protection of their human rights as they deserve.

Although Japan recognizes exploitation of children for prostitution as a crime, the penalties for perpetrators are less severe than in other developed countries and shows a tolerant attitude towards perpetrators.  

There have been several reports of foreign women mostly from Asian countries who have been deceived, brought to Japan and forced to work in the sex industry.  However, there is an increasing trend of Japanese women and children being exploited.  ​



In 2016, 50 survivors were prevented from being trafficked through forced labor and exploitation for prostitution.  50% of those survivors were Japanese, the largest number to date.  Most survivors were exploited for prostitution, and several cases of teenagers that were deceived by online traffickers through social media were found. 


Due to the ageing workforce in Japan, there are plenty of job opportunities for unskilled workers, attracting migrant workers from developing countries.  Unfortunately, this provides the ideal environment for exploitation of men, women and children through employers or third-party agents (traders).    

Debt bondage, forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation are among the different forms of suffering that workers endure.  Some women are lured to Japan through marriage, not knowing that their partner is a trafficker, providing a legal avenue for them to enter the country, after which they suffer labor or sexual exploitation.  



Exploitation of migrant workers in Japan is predominantly taking place through loopholes in the TITP (Technical Intern Trainee Program).  The official purpose of TITP is to support the industrial development of developing countries through the transfer of Japanese technology and technical expertise in the form of an internship, but organizations often use loopholes to exploit migrant workers.  

According to a 2017 report, there are more than 200,000 interns, coming from China (40.4%), Vietnam (34.1%), Philippines (9.8%), Indonesia (8.2%), Thailand (3.2%), Others (4.3%).  The Ministry of Justice also revealed in an official press release that 171 trainees had died while on the program between 2012 and 2017.

Exploitation often happens through the sending or supervising organizations by trapping interns in the form of debt bondage, unfair labor practices, poor living conditions and forced abortions.   

Actual case: 
Foreign worker exploitation

Cambodian police said they had arrested three suspects, including a Japanese man (52) who runs a restaurant in the capital Phnom Penh, on suspicion of trafficking, alleging that he had sold a Cambodian woman to a Japanese trader.

According to police, Japanese men invited 10 Cambodian women to come to Japan in November last year, saying, "If you work in a Japanese restaurant, you can earn 3,000 to 5,000 dollars a month."  After arriving in Japan, the women were forced into prostitution in Gunma prefecture.  

Actual case: 
Child exploitation 

A girl in the third grade of junior high school who lived in Yokohama city, ran away from home, met a man at Yokohama station who promised shelter and food, and left with him in his car. 

Shortly after, she was handed over to members of organized crime, and exploited for prostitution. 


Through the tireless efforts of various NGOs to raise awareness and advocate for policy reforms, the Government of Japan has started to recognize the issue of human trafficking in Japan.

In 2005, human trafficking was declared illegal partly due to international pressure.  Since then, the government has been actively working to track down and convict traffickers.  Although this is a great step in the right direction, there are still many opportunities to improve laws that would protect survivors and restore their human rights.

Increased education and awareness among members of society is crucial to enable us to stand together against this terrible crime.  Until such time, there will continue to be survivors that are not protected and supported. 

ZOE Japan combats child trafficking by sharing information at churches, schools and communities.  Through open communication and education, we believe that every person can become more aware and make a difference in their own societies.  

Child trafficking is not something that is happening in other countries, it is happening right here in Japan to our own friends and children, Japanese and foreign.  

Human trafficking is a serious crime that happens in every country in the world.  With your help, we can make a difference here in Japan and provide hope and future for survivors. 


Please visit our GET INVOLVED page to learn how you can make a difference.

We cannot do it without you!  

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