Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Human Trafficking and Slavery: Current Anti-Trafficking Efforts in Japan

By Ayako Sasaki

Submitted: December 5th 2011Reviewed: May 15th 2012Published: August 22nd 2012

DOI: 10.5772/48559

Downloaded: 2197

1. Introduction

Human trafficking has been discussed as a downside of globalization, and is now identified as one of the fastest-growing areas of international organized criminal activity. The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime was adopted in 2000 with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (hereinafter, the Trafficking Protocol). The significance of the protocol is that it includes labor exploitation and the removal of organs in addition to sexual exploitation in its definition of trafficking; under it, “trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the removal of organs”.[1] -

This global criminal activity is also known as “modern-day slavery” or the “contemporary form of slavery,” and a number of international organizations, national governments, and NGOs worldwide have attempted to address the problem and protect victims by formulating policies and developing programs. In particular, the United States has prioritized the issue since 2000, which was when the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (hereinafter, the TVPA)[1] - was passed, and has encouraged other countries to take adequate action to eradicate it.

In 2004, the U.S. government evaluated the Japanese government’s countermeasures and positioned Japan in Tier 2 in a “Watch List” in the Trafficking in Persons Report (hereinafter, the TIP report), published as part of the TVPA, stating, “the government of Japan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” [2]. It was only at the end of 2004 that the Japanese government formulated “Japan’s Action Plan of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons”. Five years later, in December 2009, the action plan was renewed, but it is still considered insufficient, and Japan’s placement remains Tier 2 in the TIP report as of 2011 [3]. Actually, the number of prosecuted traffickers and protected victims in Japan has been nowhere close to that in the U.S. and other countries positioned in Tier 1, especially those global-north countries which function to absorb trafficked victims, although it is assumed that there are as many victims in Japan as in those countries.[1] -

Why is the Japanese government hesitant to take more constructive action against human trafficking? Are the current efforts the range of what the Japanese government can do? How do historical, cultural, and social aspects affect the current anti-trafficking efforts in Japan? This chapter will explore these questions focusing on discourses especially of trafficking and slavery in comparison with the situation in the U.S. and most of the global-north countries, which had adopted the institution of slavery and colonialism as a policy of prosperity in their own history.

2. Background of the terminology of “modern-day slavery”

Slavery has been one of the longest-lasting international concerns in history although Miers explains, “slavery was the last thing on the minds of politicians” upon the establishment of the United Nations [4]. Here, I would briefly look back at the history of international efforts in this arena, referred to in [1, 4-11]. The first international condemnation of slavery was the Declaration relative to the Universal Abolition of the Slave Trade, annexed to the Act adopted during the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The abolitionist movement began to stop the Atlantic slave trade and to free slaves in the colonies of European countries and in the U.S.

A definition of slavery first appeared in an international agreement, the League of Nations’ Slavery Convention, in 1926. Although it did not mention human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution as a form of slavery, specific agreements and conventions about human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution had already been established in 1904 and 1910, containing the term “white slave” in their titles; I will discuss these later in detail.

In 1956, the United Nations adopted the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, which expanded the definition of slavery to those acts having the same effects as slavery, such as debt bondage, serfdom, and exploitation of the labor of women and children. In addition, the International Labor Organization had tackled the issue from the perspective of forced labor, and framed an international standard, the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention, C105, in 1957. The United Nations Economic and Social Council appointed a Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to report on the situation regarding slavery in countries that had ratified the 1956 Convention between then and 1974.

A common usage of the terminology of “modern-day slavery” seems to be related to the renaming of the Working Group on Slavery, established in 1975, under this sub-commission; it was renamed the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery in 1988.[1] - In addition to monitoring the application of slavery laws, conventions, and situations in each country, the group selected a theme for special attention each year. Prevention of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was selected as a theme in 1989, followed by eradication of the exploitation of child labor and debt bondage in 1990, and prevention of trafficking in persons and exploitation of the prostitution of others in 1991 [5].

Based on the report from the sub-commission of 1988, the Economic and Social Council recommends that the General Assembly “decides that, on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, 2 December 1989, and the same date in following years, should be proclaimed the ‘World Day for the Abolition of Slavery in All its Forms’ ”[12].

In line with these actions, NGOs began to highlight human trafficking as “modern-day slavery.” For example, the Anti-Slavery International, a long-established organization tackling the slavery issue since its foundation in 1839 as the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, has published several reports on modern-day slavery in countries including Brazil, Nepal, and the U.K., as Miers reviewed in her article titled “Contemporary Forms of Slavery” [13]. Also, the Asia Watch and the Women’s Rights Project, a division of Human Rights Watch, which was founded in 1978 as Helsinki Watch, published “A Modern Form of Slavery” a report on trafficking of Burmese women and girls into brothels in Thailand in 1993 [14]. These were early works helping force the world to pay attention to “modern-day slavery” and accelerate the global “abolition movement” in the later 1990s.

3. Slavery and human trafficking: Term differences in English and Japanese

3.1. White slave traffic

The phenomenon described as “human trafficking” has historically meant trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Indeed, prior to the adoption of the Trafficking Protocol in 2000, the main international convention concerned with human trafficking dealt exclusively with traffic for the purposes of prostitution [1,4-11,15].

The first international instrument, in which the term “traffic” or “trafficking” is used, excepting for drugs or guns, is the 1904 International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic, which is followed by the 1910 International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic. “White slavery” at that time was used as a sort of euphemism[1] - for the prostitution of young women and girls. However, the usage of “white slavery” had been inconsistent historically; for example, during the 1830s and 1840s, the term seems to have been used to describe the plight of working-class men by democratic politicians and labor leaders [16]. According to Donovan, the association between prostitution and the term “white slavery” emerged as early as 1839 in England, and during the 1880s, British reformers began to use it to refer to both class and sexual exploitation.

Tsunematsu accepts the view of the Committee of Fifteen of New York City that it was a Victor Hugo’s letter to Josephine Butler in 1870 that inaugurated the usage of “white slavery” limited to sexual exploitation or prostitution; the letter said that the enslavement of “black” women has been abolished in the U.S., but slavery against “white” women still existed in Europe [17]. On the other hand, Barry explains that the official usage of “white slavery” at the Paris conference in 1902, where representatives of several governments met to draft the 1904 agreement, was “initially meant to distinguish the practice from nineteenth-century black slavery”[18].

In the United Sates, the problem of “white slavery” drew interest from policy makers, journalists, and moral reformers as well as regular citizens during the Progressive Era (1900-1920), and at least fifteen plays and six movies about “white slavery” were produced in the early twentieth century [16]. The U.S. signed the 1904 international agreement in 1908 [19],and the Congress passed the Mann Act, or the White Slave Traffic Act, in 1910; this is the federal law that criminalized the transfer of women across state lines for immoral purposes.

We can see the beginning of the combined usage of the term “slave” and “traffic” among English speaking people here, at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, the Japanese government did not translate the term “white slave” literally into Japanese at that time; the Japanese government translated the 1904 agreement using two Kanji characters meaning “ugly” or “hideous” and “work” or “act” to describe “white slave”, in other words, “prostitution”.

For its part, “traffic” can be paraphrased as “buying and selling.” If I literally translate the Japanese translation of the 1904 agreement other way round into English, I get “the international agreement for suppression of buying and selling women in order to make them engage in “ugly work” (shuu gyou≒prostitution≒white slave).

Japan was one of the nations that sent women and girls overseas as prostitutes in the 1800s and early 1900s; they were called karayuki san“kara” in kanji means a dynasty in China between the seventh and tenth century, and later means overseas in general in Japan. Mitchell Anne Hagerstrom describes as “Miss gone-overseas” in [20] in Japanese, as described in [21]. Some people in the U.S. referred to the systematized prostitution of those Japanese women as “yellow slavery”[16]. Japan ratified the 1904 Agreement and the 1910 Convention [8,19] although the term “white slavery” was quite confusing and often misused, as Barry indicates that it had immediate appeal to racists who tried to conclude that the efforts were against “racially whites” women [18]. Therefore, the term was replaced after the 1910 Convention.

The international instruments used to deal with human trafficking have been strengthened in recent years, from the 1921 Convention for the Suppression of Traffic in Women and Children, the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women of Full Age in 1933, the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others in 1949, and the Trafficking Protocol in 2000. After 1910, the Conventions do not employ “slave” or “slavery” in their titles. In the meantime, the Japanese term for human traffic or trafficking entered an unsettled period although jinshin baibai (buying and selling human beings, or flesh trade) had been the most popular term. The Japanese word, which means “slavery”, had been used as a translation for none of the above-mentioned Conventions.

3.2. Sexual slavery vs. sex colonization

Kathleen Barry, the author of “Female Sexual Slavery” [18] published in 1979, is known as having been in the forefront a global anti-trafficking movement since the1970s, standing on a radical feminist base. The book was translated into six languages, including Japanese; the Japanese one was published in 1984. Interestingly, the title of the translated book is “Sei no Shokuminchi”, which literally means “Sex Colonization” in Japanese, although Tanaka, who translated the book, states in the post face that she has decided to adopt the term Dorei Sei, meaning “slavery” in Japanese, in the translation[1] -. Tanaka did not explain the reason not to adopt Dorei Sei in the title.

This could reflect a unique feature of the Japanese anti-trafficking movement. The “slavery” might have a great impact on Western countries, especially those that had been involved in it as perpetrators, in that the term stimulates people’s guilty feelings, and makes them feel they need to work on it. In that sense, Tanaka might well think that “colonization” was a more suitable term for Japanese people than “slavery”; at the begging of the 1980s, Japanese women’s group had highlighted a problem since the 1970s that many Japanese men traveled to Asian countries, such as Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Thailand, to buy women and girls for sex; this was called “sexual invasion” by the Japanese women’s activists [22].

Japanese women’s movement against sex tourism among Japanese men was founded in 1974, following to the Korean Christian women’s movement against the increase of Japanese male tourists to buy sex in South Korea in 1973. A column in “Asian Women’s Liberation” in 1977 states, “a map of sex tourism of Japanese men had aggrandized from South Korea to South-East Asian countries, which happed to correspond with the past Japanese military invasion” [22]. It also explained, “sexual invasion is inextricably associated with Japanese economic invasion”[22]. The activist group sometimes used “sexual slavery” in their activities in relation to “comfort women”[1] -, but this term, mainly used to call out Japanese sex tourism, was more associated with invasion, colonization, or imperialism, not directly with “slavery”; in the latter part of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, many Asian women were trafficked into Japan, which was again characterized as a modern form of “jinshin baibai” (buying and selling human beings, or flesh trade), not as “slavery.”

3.3. Human trafficking as slavery or threat

Currently human trafficking is commonly discussed and analyzed as a form of slavery, especially in Western countries, and these two terms are often used as though interchangeable [24]. As I explained earlier, Japan seems to be an exception, although foreign-based NGOs or branches of affiliated foreign-based organizations in Japan sometimes have utilized the “modern-day slavery” concept to explain human trafficking in their campaigns.[1] -

How can we explain the Japanese government’s indifference to ride the wave of global resistance to “modern-day slavery”? It is obvious that the Japanese government classified human trafficking under the “transnational threat” at least until 2004 as a parallel to illegal immigrants, not even to “transnational organized crime” [25]. The Trafficking Protocol was adopted under the rubric of transnational organized crime, and there are many criticisms of it because of its overt focus on criminal investigation and prosecution, and failure to protect the victims, as explained in [11]. Under that condition, policy-makers are willing to utilize “slavery” to appeal the necessity of protecting the victims in the U.S., and associate anti-trafficking effort with the history of fighting against slavery. However the term “slavery” does none in Japan to address the problem, nor formulate policies.

4. Slavery and liberty: Discourses in the U.S.[1] -

4.1. Background of the TVPA

Now, I would like to examine more in depth how people in the U.S. have employed the term “slavery” in the anti-trafficking movement, and what consequence it would have.

The sense of concern around the trafficking problem among policy-makers in the U.S. can be noted as far back as in 1993, when Asia Watch published a book reporting trafficking Burmese women and girls into brothels in Thailand. Representative Louise M. Slaughter, submitted the first resolution concerning a trafficking problem in Thailand to the House of Representatives in 1994. The title was “Expressing the sense of the Congress concerning the trafficking of Burmese women and girls into Thailand for the purpose of forced prostitution.”[1] - However, it did not make any big movements in the Congress, and she had to submit again the same titled resolution in February 1995 during the 104th Congress.[1] -

On March 10, 1998, commemorating International Women’s Day on March 8, Senator Paul Wellstone[1] - submitted a resolution with Slaughter during the 105th Congress[1] -. A global movement was gradually established, and the U.N. General Assembly in December 1998 decided to establish an open-ended intergovernmental ad hoc committee with one of its purposes to elaborate a comprehensive international convention against transnational organized crime, and to discuss the elaboration of international instruments addressing trafficking in women and children [27].

Policy-makers in the U.S. began to recognize that trafficking was a global problem which would affect the country not only in terms of perpetuating abuse of human rights, but also of benefiting international criminal organizations, which were said to “worldwide, four million women and children are trafficked each year, most by criminal syndicates that turn $7 billion in profits annually”[1] -. In March 1999, during the 106th Congress, in addition to the bill submitted by Slaughter and Wellstone,[1] - a separate bill with a special focus on sex trafficking was introduced in the House of Representatives by Christopher Smith and March Kaptur; it was called the “Freedom from Sexual Trafficking Act of 1999.”[1] - Smith argued that he believed that specific legislation to end sex trafficking would command a far broader consensus in Congress than a bill taking a broad view and definition of trafficking [28].

However, On October 27, 1999, Representative Gejdenson introduced H.R. 3154, the Comprehensive Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 1999, which recognizes that trafficking victims are forced into a range of slavery-like conditions. Finally, H.R. 3244, which merged the approaches of the past bills and drew from the strengths of each proposal, was introduced on November 8, 1999 [29]. H.R. 3244 became the original of TVPA, which was finally formulated as a public law in October 2000.

5. “Slavery” as persuading resources

Interestingly, in the policy making process, not a few people tried to connect anti-trafficking efforts with the history of slavery in order to persuade the government to take active and immediate action. For example, Laura Lederer, the founder of the Protection Project at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, gave testimony at all the hearings on trafficking issues in the House and Senate during the 106th Congress. She illustrated an example of a trafficking case using Lydia’s story [30]. “Lydia” is fictional, but a “typical” victim of trafficking. She is 16 years old originally from one of the former Eastern Bloc countries. When she was hanging around with friends on the street, she was asked by a beautifully dressed woman if she would be interested in being a part-time model. The woman took her and her friends to dinner, brought them small gifts, and invited them to her home for a drink after dinner. They were drugged and trafficked into an unknown country to be sexually exploited.

Lederer outlined an atrocious situation for Lydia and her friends, and smoothly connected the story with historical “slavery”; now multiply Lydia’s story by hundreds of thousands, and a picture of the scope of the problem emerges. UNICEF is estimating that one million children are forced into prostitution in South East Asia alone, another one million worldwide-there are just children [….]. These numbers and the accompanying accounts illustrate that trafficking of women and children for purpose of prostitution has become a contemporary form of slavery. The number may soon be on par with the African slave trade of the 1700s. [30]

Bill Yeomans, the Chief of Staff of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S.Department of Justice as of April 2000, stated in one of the hearings, “While we discuss this problem using such terms as ‘trafficking’ and ‘forced labor’, we should make no mistake about it: we are talking about slavery, slavery in its modern manifestations.” [31]

TVPA was reauthorized four times, until 2012. The term “slavery” and the connection of the anti-trafficking effort to the “fight against slavery” in the U.S. history seems to be one of the most powerful and persuasive ways to promote the effort in the U.S. The short title of the reauthorized TVPA in 2008 is the ‘‘William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008”[1] -. Adopting the name of Wilberforce, a leader of the movement to abolish the transatlantic slave trade, is a very strong statement in this regard.

6. Liberty and national identity of the U.S.

In the U.S., the history of slavery as it is often imagined, especially among policy-makers, actually means the history of “fighting against slavery.” The important concept in the fight against slavery is “liberty” or “freedom”; abolitionists “freed” the slaves in the “land of liberty”, the United States of America. The freeing of the slaves becomes a symbol of the essence of the identity of the nation.

John Ashcroft, Attorney General from 2001 until 2005 under George W. Bush, states with reference to Thomas Jefferson’s work;

As the leading industrialized nation, founded on principles of freedom and justice, it is almost unbelievable that trafficking occurs here--however it does. The U.S. must take the lead and work to eradicate this terrible scourge (snip.). We must strive to see that every man, woman, and child be afforded the opportunity to live in a world of freedom. President Ronald Reagan, and other cold war warriors, fought diligently to see peace, democracy, and freedom throughout the world. We have achieved a small part of their vision, and the protection of women and children throughout the world who are tortured and de-humanized through international human trafficking is another step closer to that vision [31].

The TIP report published in 2008 started with a picture of the Statue of Liberty and a poem by Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”(1883) [32]. In the 2010 report, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca refers to the Constitution’s 13th Amendment, which officially outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude, and states, “we recognize that such absolute guarantees need to be constantly enforced lest they only be words on a page. So too in the international arena […]”.[33]

Hathaway criticizes the current anti-trafficking movement, saying that under the buzzword of the fight against slavery, it “has actually promoted a very partial perspective on the problem of modern slavery,” and “raises real human rights concerns,” with the power to negatively affect the refugee population in particular [11]. However, in the U.S., connecting trafficking with the history of slavery seems to be very important for perceptions that the effort is reasonable and legitimate. Specific feelings toward the term “slavery” contribute to unite people from different backgrounds, and transcend their conflicting interests. Taking assertive action is a method of symbolically tackling and overcoming the negative legacy of “slavery” as well as protecting the country’s national identity.

7. Threat or shame: Discourses in Japan

7.1. Domestic trafficking after WWII

Next, I would like to analyze the Japanese situation. Historically, children from poor families in Japan sometimes experienced conditions which could be characterized as domestic trafficking during the postwar period, and even as late as the 1960s (see, Figure1). The war and the defeat created thousands of orphans, widows, and needy people in Japan, and they were sometimes domestically trafficked and exploited both sexually and for their labor.

Figure 1.

Age of and types of work engaged in trafficking victims (January 1949 – December 1951) Source [34], p.111. (in that work, Figure 16. Translated and modified by the present author).

Following this increase in domestic trafficking, the government took notice, referring to the phenomenon as “so-called human trafficking” (iwayuru jinshin baibai), and tackling the issue from various aspects, although the focus was on children, and the core of the responsible governmental body was the central council for juvenile problems under the Cabinet [34]. However, focus of tackling the problem was gradually shifted to a female sexual exploitation case since the statistics had already showed that most of the victims were women who experienced sexual exploitation in 1952 [35]. An anti-prostitution movement also emerged, and influenced the shape of the “anti-trafficking” effort.

The Anti-Prostitution Act was promulgated in 1956, and “human trafficking,” meaning “sex trafficking of women and girls,” was considered to have been addressed; protests by prostitutes were never recognized as constituting a “labor movement,” and domestic trafficking for other types of exploitations became treated not as “trafficking,” but as “labor” issues [35].

8. Failure of decolonization: Self-immunization and commitment to peace

Iwayuru jinshin baibai, seems to be considered beaten by 1970, following the Japan’s remarkable economic growth. Japanese activists came to focus on other problems, such as sex tourism, trafficking of Asian women into Japan, and exploited migrants who had overstayed their visas [35].

Unlike Americans, Japanese people are not usually conscious that they have a history of “slavery”. In fact, if I speak out without fear of being misunderstood, they are more conscious of the fact that Japan lost the war because of the failures of imperialism and colonialism. The unresolved “slavery” issue―both outside and inside the current borders of Japan―tends to be forgotten, which leads to persistent institutional discrimination against “foreign people” in Japan, especially against resident Korean and Chinese people who had been forced to emigrate, work, and live in Japan under Japanese imperialism, and against their children. This unresolved issue has been collared into various policy areas by the Japanese government, including international relations, immigration control, trafficking, and globalization[1] -.

Muto points out that Japan did not really face “decolonization” after the war because the Potsdam Declaration “automatically” determined the land area of Japan after the war. People did not have to experience the problems that arose in the decolonization process in, for example, the U.K. and France [36]. Muto states that in order to recover and develop, Japan placed itself in a structural and systematical mechanism which would protect it from the need to take responsibility for the decolonization process, making it an adjunct to U.S. hegemony [36]. This self-immunization process, however, of course also produced a new colonial structure in relation to the unsettled history of Japanese invasion and colonization. By and large, the Japanese people are innocently unconscious of their own lack of a decolonization process, which has been sponsored by their continued commitment to “peace” under Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution [36][1] -.

“The slavery” issue is undeniably a “colonization” issue in Japan. Given that the term “modern-day slavery” spurred people to act on human trafficking in the U.S., might the term “modern-day colonization” have the same effect on the Japanese?

9. “Threat” to a safe and peaceful country

With the above question in mind, I reviewed how “human trafficking,” especially international trafficking, has been treated among policy-makers by analyzing Diet proceedings and minutes of related committees since the 1970s [37]. As I mentioned earlier, the Japanese government categorized a trafficking issue as a “transnational threat” in December 2003, a year after signing the Trafficking Protocol in December 2002.

In the latter half of the 1980s, many non-Japanese people in Japan overstayed their visas, and it became a huge social issue; Japanese policy-makers at that time discussed trafficking issues as a part of illegal labor. Responding to the increase of foreign people overstaying their visas, the government also found the increase of crime committed by non-Japanese people; these were considered as a new type of “threat” to safe and peaceful Japan, and the government tightened immigration control. On the other hand, in order to meet a demand for cheap labor in the globalized market, including the sex industry, the government welcomed foreigners with Japanese ancestors, such as Japanese-Brazilians or Japanese-Peruvians, and continued to issue “entertainer visas” particularly for Filipinas, whom the TIP report criticized as being misused by traffickers[2]. These inconsistent strategies were followed until recently, under the concept of protecting safe and peaceful Japan[1] -.

“Modern-day colonization” would not function as well in Japan as “modern-day slavery” does in the U.S., since Japan has not faced a decolonization process. The tragic consequences of the war have made the Japanese people feel that “they are the victims of imperialism and colonialism as well.”[1] - In the U.S., the government is willing to play the role as “liberator.” In Japan, the nation recovered and developed peacefully, but the government never played the role of “liberator” for slaves either inside Japan or in colonies. Neither slavery nor colonization would be a major impetus to anti-trafficking efforts in Japan.

10. “Shame” as a possible driving force

Then, what would be the key to motivating the Japanese government to move forward? In the analysis of the relevant Diet proceedings and committees minutes, I identified a possible answer; Japanese policy-makers use the phrase “Japan’s/Japanese shame in international society” to implement policies especially against abuses of human rights, including sex tourism, child prostitution, or child pornography [37].

Ruth Benedict classified Japanese culture as a “shame culture,” in contrast to Western “guilt culture” [40]. She explains, “true shame cultures relay on external sanctions for good behavior, not, as true guilt cultures do, on an internalized conviction of sin.” Although there have been some negative comments on her work, as the reference [41] reviews, “Japan’s shame” or “national dishonor” are often used within Japan to appeal to the necessity of implementing a policy or taking actions in arguments at least in the materials I analyzed. For example, regarding sex tourism in the 1970s, House of Representatives member Susumu Kobayashi asked a government official as follows [42];

At least, for the honor of Japan, I would like to ask your opinion whether or not the government would have a will to formulate policy to check or restrain this kind of shameful tour in order to save the Japanese name.

In 1978, House of Representatives member Itaro Baba picked up an advocacy ad to Japanese tour companies from a manager of Taiwanese tour company, asking rethorically “Do you know the word ‘shame’?” in his speech, and urged to take action for the Japanese government [43]; and House of Representatives member Takako Doi referred to the media coverage from ABC News in the U.S. in 1980, saying “so Japanese men have been no doubt the sex animals of Asia, welcomed by sex merchants not only in Bangkok but also in Taipei, Manila, Seoul, and now San Francisco,” and states, “it is the sincerest form of shame” [44].

In 1990, Minister of Justice, Shin Hasegawa, answered a question regarding a trafficking case of Thai women in Japan, “It is a very shameful case for Japan […], and we would like to deal with it as strictly as possible” [45]. In 1997, a member of the House of Councilors Sumiko Shimizu, who participated in the first World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held in Stockholm in 1996, requested amendment of the Child Welfare Act, saying, “I went there as a representative of the government, but was very embarrassed since I was told that pornos of Japanese children are going around every corner of the world in spite of all the efforts and education in other nations” [46].

In November 2004, just before the Action Plan was formulated, Minister of State for Special Missions Hiroyuki Hosoda explained, “(human trafficking) has caught large attention from embassies in Tokyo as well; it is, so to say, an extremely shameful aspect of Japan, which has to be fixed” [47].

Was it because of this shame that Japan had to formulate a policy against human trafficking? In fact, it was only after the TIP report placed Japan on the Tier 2 Watch List that the government formulated the Action Plan, although it clearly states the very top of the current Action Plan that “trafficking in persons is a grave violation of human rights and requires a prompt and appropriate response from a humanitarian perspective, as trafficking in persons causes serious psychological and physical pain for the victims and recovery from such damage is very difficult” [48]. If “shame” is a driving force to promote some sort of governmental reaction to the problem, international sanction that “humiliate” the Japanese government, such as a low Tier ranking in the TIP report, might be the most powerful tool to motivate the Japanese government to move forward to some extent.

11. Conclusion

This chapter examined the background of the current Japanese anti-trafficking effort in comparison with those in the U.S.. While the U.S. connect human trafficking with the history of “slavery,” and make a strong claim with the term “modern-day slavery” that the issue needs to be addressed, Japan has not found a strong motivation to set a policy agenda on human trafficking, except avoiding “shame” or “national dishonor.”

However, peoples and cultures are no longer so rigid in this globalized society. The Japanese people have learned from their history and experiences, and changed their traditional reactions gradually. It is necessary to understand how history, national identity, and culture in society interconnect to current reactions to issues like human trafficking, and explore the unique meanings of these globalized phenomena to a society. Feeling shame at not having faced the decolonization process till now, Japan has to re-examine the essential nature of its national identity in order to consider how to pursue the goals of a safe and peaceful country in the global era; this might in turn lead to a more constructive anti-trafficking effort.


  • Article 3 (a). Drafting process of the Trafficking Protocol was analyzed in detail in reference [1].
  • P. L. No. 106-386.
  • The number of countries placed in Tier 1 is 32 out of 184 in the report published in 2011. It includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mauritius, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the U. S.
  • The working group no longer exists as of 2012. See, for the details.
  • Whether or not the situation that victims experience is just an “analogy” or actual “slavery” might be controversial.
  • “kara” in kanji means a dynasty in China between the seventh and tenth century, and later means overseas in general in Japan. Mitchell Anne Hagerstrom describes as “Miss gone-overseas” in [20]
  • See p.321for the Japanese translation of the reference [18].
  • Regarding details of “comfort women”, which was a euphemism used to describe women who were brought by the Japanese military for the purpose of sex during WWII, see e.g. [23].
  • For example, the Polaris Project Japan or the International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism Japan (IMADR-JC).
  • This section is a based on the summary of chapter 2 of the author’s doctoral dissertation, with great modification. See, reference [26].
  • H. Con. Res. 254. All the resolutions and bills mentioned in this section can be accessed through THOMAS (Library of Congress) at [2012/3/8].
  • H. Con. Res. 21: Expressing the sense of the Congress concerning the trafficking of Burmese women and girls into Thailand for the purpose of forced prostitution.
  • He was killed in a plane crash in 2002. For more about him, see
  • H. Con. Res. 239: Expressing the sense of Congress concerning the worldwide trafficking of persons, that has a disproportionate impact on women and girls, and is condemned by the international community as a violation of fundamental human rights, and Con. Res. 82: A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress concerning the worldwide trafficking of persons, that has a disproportionate impact on women and girls, and is condemned by the international community as a violation of fundamental human rights.
  • Slaughter’s statement, see the Introduction of Resolution on The Worldwide Trafficking of Persons, A Violation of Fundamental Human Right, in the Congressional Records, proceedings and debates of the 105th congress, second session (Extensions of Remarks, Tuesday, March 10, 1998), p.3162.
  • S.600: A bill to combat the crime of international trafficking and to protect the rights of victims, and the H.R. 1238: To combat the crime of international trafficking and to protect the rights of victims.
  • H.R. 1356: To end international sexual trafficking, and for other purposes.
  • P. L. 110-457.
  • Arguments with a doctoral student, Mr. O In Je, at Ritsumeikan University, also gave me the inspiration for this analysis.
  • Article 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
  • The Ministerial Meeting Concerning Measures against Crime was established in 2003 aiming to restore Japan as “the safest country in the world”. See, for the details (in Japanese).
  • August 15th was designated as “War Defeat Memorial Day” until 1982, but the name changed to “Day of Prayer for Peace and Mourning for the War Dead” in 1983. Asian Women’s Association referred to the report which contributed to this name change, and states, “the report, however, is solely devoted to the memory of the 3.1 million Japanese who were killed, completely ignoring the 18 to 20 million other Asians who were also victims of the same Greater East Asian War”. See, reference [39].

© 2012 The Author(s). Licensee IntechOpen. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Ayako Sasaki (August 22nd 2012). Human Trafficking and Slavery: Current Anti-Trafficking Efforts in Japan, Globalization - Approaches to Diversity, Hector Cuadra-Montiel, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/48559. Available from:

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