U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Japan, November 1997
Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Official Name: Japan
Area: 377,765 sq. km. (145,856 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than
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 (1995): 124 million.
Growth rate (1994): 0.3%.
Ethnic groups: Japanese; Korean (0.6%).
Religions: Shinto and Buddhist; Christian (about 1%).
Health: Life expectancy (1994)--males 77 yrs., females 83 yrs;Infant
Work force (64 million): Services--23%. Trade, manufacturing, mining,
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), Sun Party, Japan Communist Party (JCP).
Suffrage: Universal at 20.
GDP (1995): $5.1 trillion.
Real growth rate (1995): 0.9%.
Per capita GDP: $40,897.
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 (1996): Exports--$400 billion: motor vehicles, machinery and
equipment, electrical and electronic products, metals and metal
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 United States' 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 rates, 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. The U.S. supports
Japan's goal of obtaining a permanent seat on the United Nations
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. The two governments have
developed a partnership to address shared priorities. An example of that
partnership is the U.S.-Japan Common Agenda, a set of global initiatives
in areas such 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 are 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.
During the Allied occupation under 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 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security came into force
on June 23, 1960. 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. Since the end of U.S. occupation in 1952, U.S.
military forces in Japan have decreased from more than 260,000 to fewer
than 50,000, more than half of whom are stationed in Okinawa. Japan's
Host Nation Support (HNS)--over $4 billion a year--helps to defray the
costs of maintaining these forces in Japan.
Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have gradually 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. 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.
Despite the changes in the post-Cold War strategic landscape, the U.S.-
Japan alliance continues to be based on what former Secretary
Christopher 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 U.S.-Japan
alliance remains the cornerstone of the defense of Japan and of U.S.
security strategy in East Asia. 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. Japan restated its own unwavering support for the security
relationship in its long-range defense blueprint--the National Defense
Program Outline--issued in November 1995. In April 1996, during
President Clinton's state visit to Japan, the President and Prime
Minister Hashimoto issued a joint summit security declaration which
noted the achievements of the bilateral alliance and led it into the
The East Asia Strategy Report, published by the Department of Defense in
1995, noted "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."
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 total agricultural imports valued at
close to $17 billion in 1996.
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
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
In 1996, the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with Japan declined by almost
19 percent, to $48 billion from $59 billion in 1995. U.S. exports to
Japan totaled $68 billion in 1996, up about five percent from $64
billion in 1995. Since 1993, U.S. exports to Japan have risen by 29
percent, a rate slightly faster than with the rest of the world as a
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 (APEC).
Since January 1993, the U.S. and Japan have signed 23 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, autos and auto parts in August 1995, civil
aviation on cargo services in April 1996, semiconductors in August 1996,
and insurance in December, 1996. An interim agreement on Port Practices
was reached in April, 1997.
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
There have been some encouraging trends. Between 1986 and 1996, U.S.
exports to Japan increased dramatically, rising from $27 billion to $65
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 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, mostly in
manufacturing, real estate, and finance.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
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 a parliamentary democracy, 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.
Under legislation passed in 1994, the lower house electoral system was
changed to one in which 300 members are elected 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.
The October 20, 1996 general election was the first held under this new
system. Prior to the election, Prime Minister Hashimoto presided over a
coalition established under his predecessor, Tomiichi Murayama of the
Social Democratic Party (SDP), who served as prime minister from June
1994 to January 1996. Prime Minister Hashimoto's Liberal Democratic
Party (LDP) gained seats in the October 1996 election but did not take a
majority. Despite the LDP's lack of a majority, Prime Minister Hashimoto
was reelected to the premiership by the diet on November 7, 1996.
Although the current cabinet consists entirely of LDP members, the SDP
and New Party Sakigake support the administration without participating
in a full-scale coalition.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Ryutaro Hashimoto
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Keizo Obuchi
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
Deputy Chief of Mission--Christopher LaFleur
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).
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
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 country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB).
To access CABB, dial the modem number: 301-946-4400 (it will accommodate
up to 33,600 bps); set terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no
parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit), and terminal emulation to VT100. The login
is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The
CABB also carries international security information from the Overseas
Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic
Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication series, which
contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip
abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S.
Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954;
telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day-a-week automated system ($0.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m.
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648).
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) 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).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country
(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:
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN). Available on the
Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign
policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes;
Dispatch, the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press
briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc.
DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov; this site has a
link to the DOSFAN Gopher Research Collection, which also is accessible
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-annual basis
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O.
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or
fax (202) 512-2250.
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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