U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Japan, November 1996
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Official Name: Japan



Area: 377,765 sq. km. (145,856 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than California.
Cities: Capital--Tokyo. Other cities--Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kobe, 
Kyoto, Fukuoka.
Terrain: Rugged, mountainous islands.
Climate: Varies from subtropical to temperate.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--Japanese.
Population (1994): 125 million.
Growth rate (1994): 0.3%.
Ethnic groups: Japanese; Korean (0.6%).
Religions: Shinto and Buddhist; Christian (about 1%).
Language: Japanese.
Education: Literacy--99%.
Health: Life expectancy (1993)--males 76 yrs., females 83 yrs.  
Work force (64 million): Services--23%. Trade, manufacturing, mining, and 
construction--56%. Agriculture, forestry, fisheries--6%. Government--3%.


Type: Constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government.
Constitution: May 3, 1947.
Branches: Executive--prime minister (head of government);
Legislative--bicameral Diet (House of Representatives and House of Councillors); 
Judicial--Civil law system based on the model of Roman law.  
Administrative subdivisions: 47 prefectures.
Political parties: Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Social Democratic Party 
(SDP), New Frontier Party (NFP) New Party Sakigake, Democratic Party of Japan 
(DPJ), Japan Communist Party (JCP).
Suffrage: Universal at 20.


GDP (1995): $4.7 trillion. 
Real growth rate (1995): 0.9%. 
Per capita GDP: $36,863.
Natural resources: Negligible mineral resources, fish.
Agriculture: Products--rice, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat, silk. 
Industry: Types--machinery and equipment, metals and metal products, textiles, 
autos, chemicals, electrical and electronic equipment.  
Trade (1994): Exports--$427 billion: motor vehicles, machinery and equipment, 
electrical and electronic products, metals and metal products.  Major markets--
U.S. 30%, Western Europe 14%, developing countries 48%.  Imports--$293 billion: 
fossil fuels, raw materials, foodstuffs, machinery and equipment. Major 
suppliers--U.S. 23%, Western Europe 13%, developing countries 50%.


The close and cooperative relationship with Japan is the cornerstone of U.S. 
policy in Asia and the basis of a strong, productive partnership in addressing 
global issues. Despite different social and cultural traditions, Japan and the 
United States have much in common. Both have open, democratic societies, high 
literacy, freedom of expression, multiparty political systems, universal 
suffrage, and open elections. Both have highly developed free-market industrial 
economies and favor an open and active international trading system; along with 
North America and Western Europe, Japan is one of the three major industrial 
complexes among the market economies.

In accordance with Japan's enhanced international influence and its continued 
close ties with the United States, the two governments have developed a close 
global partnership to address shared priorities. An example of that partnership 
is the U.S.-Japan Common Agenda, a set of global initiatives in such areas as 
the environment, technology development, and health. Under the Common Agenda, 
the United States and Japan are coordinating $12 billion in population and 
HIV/AIDS assistance to developing countries and conducting joint research on 
advanced transportation and environmental technologies. The two governments are 
also cooperating closely on issues as diverse as ocean pollution, children's 
vaccines, narcotics demand reduction, the role of women in development, and the 
protection of forests and coral reefs.

Japan has been an active member of the United Nations since 1956, including 
participating in peacekeeping operations. Japan strongly supports the U.S.  in 
its efforts to encourage Pyongyang to abide by the nuclear Non-Proliferation 
Treaty and its agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Bilateral trade problems attract significant attention and often generate 
considerable controversy within the relationship. The United States is working 
hard to achieve greater access to Japan's markets and has made progress. Trade 
problems may be the most visible and contentious part of an extremely broad and 
important relationship. Overall U.S. policy toward Japan goes well beyond the 
problem areas and is based on three principles:

First, the United States has worked to achieve a close bilateral relationship 
with Japan as an equal partner. The past decade has brought a significant 
expansion of Japan's economic and technological prowess, an increase in its 
defense awareness and capability, and a greater interest and involvement in 
international political and economic affairs. Although there are still 
differences in their relative political, economic, and military positions in the world, both nations approach and conduct their relationship as equals.

Second, because of the two countries' combined economic and technological impact on the world (together accounting for a little more than 30% of world GDP and 60% of the Western industrialized nations' GDP), the U.S.-Japan relationship has become global in scope. Although in the past the partnership has been measured primarily in economic and technological terms, in the future it will have a larger political dimension. Currently, Japan assumes a greater international role and associates itself more actively and closely with Western political and security goals.

Third, Japan is becoming increasingly assertive in global matters and is forging a wider international role. The United States encourages this trend toward a broader international political and economic role by Japan, within the framework of a continued close bilateral relationship. The United States has called for a "global partnership" with Japan, in which the combined efforts of the two countries can be utilized to promote peace and prosperity throughout the world.

Security Relations

After World War II, Japan was placed under international control of the Allies. 
During the Allied occupation under the Supreme Commander, Gen.  Douglas 
MacArthur, Japan established democratic self-government supported by the freely 
expressed will of the people. The April 28, 1952, Treaty of Peace with Japan 
afforded an orderly transition to full sovereignty.

The U.S.-Japan security relationship dates from this time in the early 1950s. 
The U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security came into force on June 23, 1960, and in June 1970 became subject to abrogation upon one year's notice. At that time, both governments declared their intention to extend the treaty indefinitely.

Under the Treaty, Japan hosts a carrier battle group, the III Marine 
Expeditionary Force, the 5th Air Force, and elements of the Army's I Corps.  For Japan, the Treaty provides a strategic guarantee against external attack. The bases and facilities provided by Japan under the treaty also bolster U.S. 
maintenance of commitments to other allies in Asia. U.S.  military assistance to Japan was terminated at the end of 1967. Since the end of U.S. occupation in 
1952, U.S. military forces in Japan have decreased from more than 260 to fewer 
than 50--more than half of whom are stationed in Okinawa.

As U.S. forces withdrew, Japan's self-defense force (SDF) expanded capabilities 
and assumed primary responsibility for the immediate conventional national 
defense. The SDF mission, which the United States supports, is the defense of 
Japan's homeland, territorial seas and skies, and sea lines of communication out to 1,000 nautical miles. Japan has increased its defense budget annually and continues to make qualitative force improvements. As a matter of policy, Japan has forsworn nuclear armaments and forbids arms sales abroad. A bilateral 
agreement signed in 1983, however, allows the export of Japanese defense and 
dual-use technology to the United States.

The U.S.-Japan alliance remains the cornerstone for the defense of Japan and for U.S. security strategy in East Asia. Moreover, Japan recently restated its own unwavering support for the security relationship in its long-range defense 
blueprint--the National Defense Program Outline--issued in November 1995.

Despite the changes in the post-Cold War strategic landscape, the U.S.-Japan 
alliance continues to be based on what Secretary Christopher has described as 
"an abiding community of interests." These shared vital interests include 
stability in the Asia-Pacific region, the preservation and promotion of 
political and economic freedoms, support for human rights and democratic 
institutions, and the securing of prosperity for our people and other people of 
the region.

The two governments, in the fall of 1994, embarked on a high-level security 
dialogue aimed at reaffirming and strengthening the alliance in light of the 
changing international environment. An important milestone in this effort was 
President Clinton's April 1996 state visit to Japan and the issuance by the 
President and Prime Minister Hashimoto of a joint summit security declaration, 
which notes the achievements of the bilateral alliance and leads it into the 
next century. The security relationship between the two countries covers a broad range of cooperation:

-- Close and frequent consultations by senior officials, both civilian and 
military, on key security issues;
-- The development and production of defense equipment and armaments;
-- Japan's Host Nation Support (HNS) of nearly $5 billion a year, which helps 
defray the costs of maintaining U.S. forces in Japan; and 
-- Bilateral planning, training, and exercises.

The East Asia Strategy Report, published by the Department of Defense in 1995, 
said it best: "There is no more important bilateral relationship than the one we have with Japan. It is fundamental to both our Pacific security policy and our global strategic objectives. Our security relationship with Japan is the 
linchpin of United States security policy in Asia. It is seen not just by the 
United States and Japan but throughout the region as a major factor for securing stability in Asia."

Economic Relations

The United States and Japan are the two largest economies in the world, 
comprising about 30% of global output. Japan is a major market for many U.S. 
manufactured goods, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, photo supplies, 
commercial aircraft, non-ferrous metals, plastics, and medical and scientific 
supplies. Japan is also the largest foreign market for U.S. agricultural 
products, with imports valued at more than $13.8 billion in 1995.

The U.S.-Japan bilateral economic relationship is a strong and mature one. It 
also is an increasingly interdependent one based on enormous flows of trade, 
investment, and finance. The relationship is firmly rooted in the shared 
interest and responsibility of the U.S. and Japan to promote global growth, open markets, and a vital world trading system.

U.S. economic policy toward Japan is aimed at increasing access to Japan's 
markets, stimulating demand-led growth in the Japanese economy, and raising the 
standard of living in both the U.S. and Japan. This policy has been pursued 
through the U.S.-Japan "Framework for a New Economic Partnership" (the 
Framework), which was signed in June 1993 by President Clinton and then-Prime 
Minister Miyazawa and renewed in June 1995. The Framework addresses sectoral, 
structural, and macroeconomic issues in the U.S.-Japan bilateral economic 
relationship. In addition, the Framework included the Common Agenda for Global 
Issues, a highly successful program in which the U.S. and Japan collaborate on a wide range of global issues, including health, the environment, and population.

In 1995, the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with Japan declined by almost 10% to 
$59 billion from $66 billion in 1994. U.S. exports to Japan totaled $64 billion 
in 1995, up more than 20% from $54 billion in 1994. Since 1993, U.S. exports to 
Japan have risen by 34%, with increases as high as 80% in the sectors where 
trade agreements have been reached.

In addition to close bilateral economic ties, the U.S. and Japan cooperate 
closely in multilateral fora such as the World Trade Organization, Organization 
for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank, and the International 
Monetary Fund, and regionally in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum 

Since January 1993, the U.S. and Japan have signed 22 trade agreements, most of 
them under the Framework, plus four agreements under the GATT Uruguay Round. 
U.S. and Japanese negotiators concluded framework agreements on government 
procurement of telecommunications and medical technology products and services 
in November 1994; agreements on intellectual property rights, insurance, 
cellular phones, and various agricultural products--including apples--were also 
signed in 1994. Agreements were concluded on flat glass in January 1995, 
financial services in February 1995, and autos and auto parts in August 1995. An agreement on semiconductors also was reached in August 1996.

The Framework follows two earlier bilateral initiatives that led to market-
opening in Japan: the MOSS (Market-Oriented, Sector-Selective) Talks on specific sectors of interest, initiated in 1985 and the Structural Impediments 
Initiative, begun in 1989. Through these initiatives, both countries committed 
themselves to comprehensive measures to reduce impediments to competitive 
imports as found, for instance, in marketing and distribution systems, savings 
and investment patterns, and government-business relations.

In addition to these broad initiatives, the United States and Japan have over 
the last decade signed bilateral agreements to open Japan's markets.  These 
agreements cover a wide range of sectors, including computers, beef, citrus, 
manufactured tobacco products, paper, and semiconductors.

There have been some encouraging trends. Between 1985 and 1995, U.S.  exports to Japan increased dramatically, rising from $23 billion to $64 billion. In certain sectors, U.S. firms have gained a significant or even dominant market share in the Japanese market. As part of the GATT Uruguay Round agreement, Japan agreed in December 1993 to open its rice market, which had historically been closed to foreign rice. It also agreed to cut or eliminate tariffs and eliminate quotas on a wide range of other goods.  Partially offsetting the massive bilateral deficit in merchandise trade is the roughly $16 billion U.S. surplus in services with Japan including tourism and education.

There are considerable investment flows between the United States and Japan. 
U.S. direct investment in Japan was $39.2 billion at the end of 1995, much of it in finance, banking, and manufacturing; this was up from $6.4 billion in 1982. Many American companies have found Japan to be a 
large and profitable market. Nevertheless, American firms continue to encounter 
a range of formal and informal barriers to investment in Japan, and Japan 
continues to host a far smaller share of global foreign direct investment than 
any of its G-7 counterparts. Japanese direct investment in the United States 
rose dramatically in the late 1980s, then leveled off somewhat in the 1990s. 
Japanese direct investment in the United States stood at $108.6 billion at the 
end of 1995, most of that in manufacturing, real estate, and finance.


Japan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. The 
country's Constitution took effect on May 3, 1947. Japan has universal adult 
suffrage with a secret ballot for all elective offices. The government consists 
of an executive branch responsible to the Diet and an independent judicial 
branch. Sovereignty, previously embodied in the emperor, is vested in the 
Japanese people, and the emperor is defined as the symbol of the state.

The government is patterned on the British parliamentary model, with a House of 
Representatives and a House of Councillors. Executive power is vested in a 
cabinet composed of a prime minister and ministers of state, all of whom must be civilians. The prime minister must be a member of the Diet and is designated by his colleagues. The prime minister has the power to appoint and remove 
ministers, a majority of whom must be Diet members.

Japan's judicial system, drawn from customary law, civil law, and Anglo-American common law, consists of several levels of courts, with the Supreme Court as the final judicial authority. The Japanese Constitution includes a bill of rights similar to the U.S. Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has the right of judicial review. Japanese courts do not use a jury system, and there are no administrative courts or claims courts. Because of the judicial system's basis, court decisions are made in accordance with legal statutes. Only Supreme Court decisions have any direct effect on later interpretation of the law.

Japan does not have a federal system, and its 47 prefectures are not sovereign 
entities in the sense that U.S. states are. Most depend on the central 
government for subsidies. Governors of prefectures, mayors of municipalities, 
and prefectural and municipal assembly members are popularly elected for four-
year terms.

Article IX of the Japanese Constitution provides that "land, sea, and air 
forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained." At the same 
time, the Japanese Government accepts Article 51 of the UN Charter that each 
nation has the right of self-defense against armed attack. In 1954, the Japan 
Defense Agency was created with the specific mission of defending Japan against 
external aggression. Ground, maritime, and air self-defense forces were 
established. In recent years, the Japanese public has shown a substantially 
greater awareness of security issues and increasing support for the SDF. This is in part due to successful disaster relief efforts at home and peacekeeping 
operations in Cambodia. However, there are still significant political and 
psychological constraints on strengthening Japan's defense.

The Diet lower house election on July 18, 1993, was a watershed event. The 
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), in power since the mid-1950s, failed to win a 
majority and saw the end of its four-decade rule. A coalition of new parties and existing opposition parties succeeded in forming a governing majority and 
electing a new Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, in August 1993. His 
government's major legislative objective was political reform, consisting of a 
package of new political financing restrictions and major changes in the 
electoral system. The coalition succeeded in passing landmark political reform 
legislation in January 1994.

Under the new legislation, the electoral system was changed to one in which 300 
members are elected to the Diet's lower house in single-member districts and 
another 200 members on proportional slates in 11 regions. The new electoral 
system also reduced the number of seats in overrepresented rural areas and 
shifted them to some urban areas.

Prime Minister Hosokawa resigned in April 1994. Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata 
formed the successor coalition government, Japan's first minority government in 
almost 40 years, but he resigned less than two months later.  Prime Minister 
Tomiichi Murayama formed the next government in June 1994, a coalition of his 
Japan Socialist Party (JSP), the LDP, and the small New Party Sakigake. The 
advent of a coalition containing the JSP (since renamed Social Democratic Party, or SDP) and LDP shocked many observers because of their previously fierce rivalry. Mr. Murayama stepped down in January 1996, but the coalition was maintained under Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who concurrently serves as president of the LDP. In the September 20 Lower House election, the LDP gained seats but did not take a majority. Prime Minister Hashimoto was reelected to the premiership by the Diet on November 7, 1996, but the current Cabinet consists entirely of LDP members, with the SDP and Sakigake supporting the Administration but not participating in a full-scale coalition.

Principal Government Officials

Prime Minister--Ryutaro Hashimoto
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Yukihiko Ikeda
Minister of Finance--Hiroshi Mitsuzoka
Ambassador to the U.S.--Kunihiko Saito
Ambassador to the UN--Hisashi Owada

Japan maintains an embassy in the United States at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC (tel. 202-939-6700). The Japan National Tourist Organization is at 630 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10111.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--Walter F. Mondale
Deputy Chief of Mission--Rust M. Deming
Economic Minister-Counselor--C. Lawrence Greenwood, Jr.
Political Minister--Neil Silver
Commercial Minister--George Mu
Defense Attache--Capt. George R. McWilliams, USN

The street address and the international mailing address of the U.S.  embassy in Japan is 10-5 Akasaka 1-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo (107); tel 81-3-3224-5; fax 81-3-3505-1862. The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan is at 7th floor, Fukide No. 2 Bldg., 1-21 Toranomon 4-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo (105). 


The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Travel 
Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the 
State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. 
Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on 
immigration practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of 
instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of 
the U.S. posts in the subject country. They can be obtained by telephone at 
(202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the Consular Affairs 
Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a modem with standard 
settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications on obtaining passports and 
planning a safe trip abroad are available from the Superintendent of Documents, 
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800. 

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for 
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559 
gives the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or 
requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and 
countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS 
publication number CDC-95-8280, price $14.00) is available from the U.S. 
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800. 

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs 
regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may 
be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in 
the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the 
U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this 
publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency. 

Further Electronic Information:

Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB provides 
Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful information for 
travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to anyone with a personal 
computer, modem, telecommunications software, and a telephone line.

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN 
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Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly 
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U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis by the 
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subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are 
available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax 
(202) 512-2250.

Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy information also 
is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, 
the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, including Country 
Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information. 


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