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%).
Language: Japanese.
Education: Literacy--99%.
Health: Life expectancy (1994)--males 77 yrs., females 83 yrs;Infant 
mortality rate--4.3/1,000 
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), 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 
Security Council. 

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. 

Security Relations 

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 
next century. 

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." 

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 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. 


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 

Ambassador--Thomas Foley
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). 


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 
at gopher://gopher.state.gov. 

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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