Great Seal

Background Notes: Japan, March 1999

Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
U.S. Department of State

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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 (1998): 126.2 million.
Population growth rate (1997): 0.23%.
Ethnic groups: Japanese; Korean (0.6%).
Religions: Shinto and Buddhist; Christian (about 1%).
Language: Japanese.
Education: Literacy--99%.
Health (1997): Infant mortality rate--4/1000. Life expectancy--males 77 yrs., females 83 yrs.
Work force (67 million, 1997): 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), Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Komei Party, Liberal Party, Japan Communist Party (JCP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Reform Club, Sakigake.
Suffrage: Universal at 20.


GDP (1998): $3.797 trillion.
Real growth rate (1998): -2.5%.
Per capita GDP (1998): $30,100.
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 (1997): Exports--$411 billion: motor vehicles, machinery and equipment, electrical and electronic products, metals and metal products. Major markets--Southeast Asia 37%, U.S. 27%, China 5%, Western Europe 15%. Imports--$329 billion: fossil fuels, raw materials, foodstuffs, machinery and equipment. Major suppliers--Southeast Asia 24%, U.S. 22%, Western Europe 15%, China 12%.


Japan is one of the most densely populated nations in the world, with some 330 persons per square kilometer (almost 860 persons per sq. mi.). For 1997, the population growth rate was about 0.23%. Japan's growth rate in recent years has raised concerns about the social implications of an aging population.

The Japanese are a Mongoloid people, closely related to the major groups of East Asia. However, some evidence also exists of admixture with Malayan and Caucasoid strains. About 750,000 Koreans and much smaller groups of Chinese and Caucasians reside in Japan.

Buddhism is important in Japan's religious life and has strongly influenced fine arts, social institutions, and philosophy. Most Japanese consider themselves members of one of the major Buddhist sects.

Shintoism is an indigenous religion founded on myths, legends, and ritual practices of the early Japanese. Neither Buddhism nor Shintoism is an exclusive religion. Most Japanese observe both Buddhist and Shinto rituals: the former for funerals and the latter for births, marriages, and other occasions. Confucianism, primarily an ethical system, profoundly influences Japanese thought as well.

About 1.3 million people in Japan are Christians, of whom 60% are Protestant and 40% Roman Catholic.

Japan provides free public schooling for all children through junior high school. Ninety-four percent of students go on to three-year senior high schools, and competition is stiff for entry into the best universities. Japan enjoys one of the world's highest literacy rates (99%), and nearly 90% of Japanese students complete high school.


Traditional Japanese legend maintains that Japan was founded in 600 BC by the Emperor Jimmu, a direct descendant of the sun goddess and ancestor of the present ruling imperial family. About AD 405, the Japanese court officially adopted the Chinese writing system. During the sixth century, Buddhism was introduced. These two events revolutionized Japanese culture and marked the beginning of a long period of Chinese cultural influence. From the establishment of the first fixed capital at Nara in 710 until 1867, the emperors of the Yamato dynasty were the nominal rulers, but actual power was usually held by powerful court nobles, regents, or "shoguns" (military governors).

Contact With the West

The first contact with the West occurred about 1542, when a Portuguese ship, blown off its course to China, landed in Japan. During the next century, traders from Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and Spain arrived, as did Jesuit, Dominican, and Franciscan missionaries. During the early part of the 17th century, Japan's shogunate suspected that the traders and missionaries were actually forerunners of a military conquest by European powers. This caused the shogunate to place foreigners under progressively tighter restrictions. Ultimately, Japan forced all foreigners to leave and barred all relations with the outside world except for severely restricted commercial contacts with Dutch and Chinese merchants at Nagasaki. This isolation lasted for 200 years, until Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy forced the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.

Within several years, renewed contact with the West profoundly altered Japanese society. The shogunate was forced to resign, and the emperor was restored to power. The "Meiji restoration" of 1868 initiated many reforms. The feudal system was abolished, and numerous Western institutions were adopted, including a Western legal system and constitutional government along quasi-parliamentary lines.

In 1898, the last of the "unequal treaties" with Western powers was removed, signaling Japan's new status among the nations of the world. In a few decades, by creating modern social, educational, economic, military, and industrial systems, the Emperor Meiji's "controlled revolution" had transformed a feudal and isolated state into a world power.

Wars With China and Russia

Japanese leaders of the late 19th century regarded the Korean Peninsula as a "dagger pointed at the heart of Japan." It was over Korea that Japan became involved in war with the Chinese Empire in 1894-95 and with Russia in 1904-05. The war with China established Japan's dominant interest in Korea, while giving it the Pescadores Islands and Formosa (now Taiwan). After Japan defeated Russia in 1905, the resulting Treaty of Portsmouth awarded Japan certain rights in Manchuria and in southern Sakhalin, which Russia had received in 1875 in exchange for the Kurile Islands. Both wars gave Japan a free hand in Korea, which it formally annexed in 1910.

World War I to 1952

World War I permitted Japan, which fought on the side of the victorious Allies, to expand its influence in Asia and its territorial holdings in the Pacific. The postwar era brought Japan unprecedented prosperity. Japan went to the peace conference at Versailles in 1919 as one of the great military and industrial powers of the world and received official recognition as one of the "Big Five" of the new international order. It joined the League of Nations and received a mandate over Pacific islands north of the equator formerly held by Germany.

During the 1920s, Japan progressed toward a democratic system of government. However, parliamentary government was not rooted deeply enough to withstand the economic and political pressures of the 1930s, during which military leaders became increasingly influential.

Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and set up the state of Manchukuo. In 1933, Japan resigned from the League of Nations. The Japanese invasion of China in 1937 followed Japan's signing the "anti-Comintern pact" with Nazi Germany the previous year and was part of a chain of developments culminating in the Japanese attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

After almost 4 years of war, resulting in the loss of 3 million Japanese lives and including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan signed an instrument of surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Harbor on September 2, 1945. As a result of World War II, Japan lost all of its overseas possessions and retained only the home islands. Manchukuo was dissolved, and Manchuria was returned to China; Japan renounced all claims to Formosa; Korea was granted independence; southern Sakhalin and the Kuriles were occupied by the U.S.S.R.; and the United States became the sole administering authority of the Ryukyu, Bonin, and Volcano Islands. The 1972 reversion of Okinawa completed the United States' return of control of these islands to Japan.

After the war, Japan was placed under international control of the Allies through the Supreme Commander, General Douglas MacArthur. U.S. objectives were to ensure that Japan would become a peaceful nation and to establish democratic self-government supported by the freely expressed will of the people. Political, economic, and social reforms were introduced, such as a freely elected Japanese Diet (legislature). The country's Constitution took effect on May 3, 1947. The April 28, 1952, Treaty of Peace with Japan afforded a progressive and orderly transition to the restoration of full sovereignty from the stringent controls immediately following the surrender.

Recent Political Developments

The post-World War II years saw tremendous economic growth in Japan, with the political system dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). That total domination lasted until the Diet Lower House elections on July 18, 1993. The 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 formed a governing majority and elected 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 1994 legislation, 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.

In April 1994, Prime Minister Hosokawa resigned. Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata formed the successor coalition government, Japan's first minority government in almost 40 years. Prime Minister Hata resigned less than 2 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 Sakigake Party. The advent of a coalition containing the JSP and LDP shocked many observers because of their previously fierce rivalry. Prime Minister Murayama served from June 1994 to January 1996. He was succeeded by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who served from January 1996 to July 1998. Prime Minister Hashimoto headed a loose coalition of three parties until the July 1998 Upper House election, when the two smaller parties cut ties with the LDP. Hashimoto resigned due to a poor electoral showing by the LDP in those Upper House elections. He was succeeded as party president of the LDP and Prime Minister by Keizo Obuchi, who took office on July 30, 1998.


Japan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. There is universal adult suffrage with a secret ballot for all elective offices. The executive branch is responsible to the Diet, and the judicial branch is independent. Sovereignty, previously embodied in the emperor, is vested in the Japanese people, and the emperor is defined as the symbol of the state. Japan's 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 to four-year terms.

The membership of the current Diet's more powerful chamber, the Lower House, was elected October 20, 1996, in the first election held under the new districting system. Prime Minister Hashimoto led the ruling coalition--made up of the LDP, SDP and Sakigake--into that election, but his LDP fell short of a majority and its coalition partners opted afterward for a loose cooperative arrangement rather than a full-scale coalition. All cabinet members thereafter hailed from the LDP. The two smaller parties broke from that arrangement on the eve of an election to fill half of the seats in the Upper House on July 12, 1998, and the LDP's dismal showing in that vote forced the Prime Minister's resignation. Keizo Obuchi succeeded him in late July. Without coalition partners, Prime Minister Obuchi has been courting the cooperation of various opposition parties on a case-by-case basis to pursue his legislative agenda. (By mid-1998, the LDP had gained a majority in the Lower House due to defections from the opposition, but had insufficient numbers in the Upper House--before or after the July balloting--to control the Diet agenda on its own.)

Principal Government Officials

Prime Minister--Keizo Obuchi
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Masahiko Koumura
Minister of Finance--Kiichi Miyazawa
Ambassador to the U.S.--Kunihiko Saito
Ambassador to the UN--Yukio Sato

Japan maintains an embassy in the United States at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC (tel. 202-238-6700). Consulates General are in Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Guam, Honolulu, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. Honorary consulates general are in Buffalo, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, Miami, Minneapolis, Mobile, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Diego, and San Juan; and an honorary consulate is in American Samoa.

The Japan National Tourist Organization is at 630 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10111.


The ongoing region-wide Asian financial crisis, which began in 1997, has created uncertainty and instability in Japan's economy. Japan does, however, retain significant economic strength in the world economy.

Japan's reservoir of industrial leadership and technicians, well-educated and industrious work force, high savings and investment rates, and intensive promotion of industrial development and foreign trade have produced a mature industrial economy. Along with North America and Western Europe, Japan is one of the three major industrial complexes among the market economies. Japan has few natural resources, and trade helps it earn the foreign exchange needed to purchase raw materials for its economy. In 1997, the country's exports amounted to about 12% of its GDP.

After achieving one of the highest economic growth rates in the industrialized world during most of the 1980s, Japan's economy slowed considerably in the early 1990s. Plummeting stock and real estate prices marked the end of the fragile, so-called "bubble economy" of the late 1980s. As noted, the current Asian financial crisis has shaken Japan's economic stability, although Japan's long-term economic prospects are considered good.

For information on Japan's economic relations with the United States, see "Economic Relations" section under "U.S.-Japan Relations."

Agriculture, Energy, and Minerals

Only 15% of Japan's land is suitable for cultivation. The agricultural economy is highly subsidized and protected. With per-hectare crop yields among the highest in the world, Japan maintains an overall agricultural self-sufficiency rate of about 50% on fewer than 5.6 million cultivated hectares (14 million acres). Japan normally produces a slight surplus of rice but imports large quantities of wheat, sorghum, and soybeans, primarily from the United States. As part of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round, Japan agreed to open its agricultural markets further, including partial liberalization of the rice market.

Given its heavy dependence on imported energy, Japan has aimed to diversify its sources. Since the oil shocks of the 1970s, Japan has reduced dependence on petroleum as a source of energy from more than 75% in 1973 to about 57% at present. Other important energy sources are coal, liquefied natural gas, nuclear power, and hydro power.

Deposits of gold, magnesium, and silver meet current industrial demands, but Japan is dependent on foreign sources for many of the minerals essential to modern industry. Iron ore, coke, copper, and bauxite must be imported, as must many forest products.


Japan has a well-developed international and domestic transportation system, although highway development still lags. Tokyo and Osaka International Airports and the ports of Yokohama, Osaka, Kobe, and Nagoya are important terminals for air and sea traffic in the western Pacific. However, greatly increased traffic in the Pacific markets is putting a severe strain on Japan's airports.

The domestic transportation system depends on a recently privatized rail network. National rail transportation is supplemented by private railways in metropolitan areas, a developing highway system, coastal shipping, and several airlines. The rail system is efficient and well distributed and is maintained throughout the country. The super express "bullet trains" take as little as 3 hours between Tokyo and Osaka, a distance of 520 kilometers (325 mi.).


Japan's labor force consists of some 67 million workers, 40% of whom are women. Labor union membership is about 12 million. The unemployment rate is currently at a record high 4.3%. In 1989, the predominantly public sector union confederation SOHYO (General Council of Trade Unions of Japan) merged with RENGO (Japanese Private Sector Trade Union Confederation) to form the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, also called RENGO, which has more than 7 million members.


Despite its current slow economic growth, Japan remains a major economic power both in the region and globally. Japan has diplomatic relations with nearly all independent nations and has been an active member of the United Nations since 1956. Japanese foreign policy has aimed to promote peace and prosperity for the Japanese people by working closely with the West and supporting the United Nations.

After World War II, the Allies disarmed and occupied Japan. Article IX of the Japanese constitution provides that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained." During the 1950-53 Korean war, a national police reserve force was established. Before the end of the U.S. occupation of Japan in 1952, the first steps had been taken to expand and transform the force into the Self-Defense Force (SDF). At the same time, the Japanese Government accepted Article 51 of the UN Charter that each nation has the right of self-defense against armed attack. This doctrine was consistent with Article IX of the Japanese constitution.

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 its success in disaster relief efforts at home and its participation in peacekeeping operations in Cambodia in the early 1990s. However, there are still significant political and psychological constraints on strengthening Japan's defense.

Although a military role for Japan in international affairs is precluded by its constitution and government policy, Japanese cooperation with the United States through the 1960 U.S.-Japan security treaty has been important to the peace and stability of East Asia. All postwar Japanese governments have relied on a close relationship with the United States as the foundation of their foreign policy and have depended on the mutual security treaty for strategic protection. (Also see "Security Relations" section under "U.S.-Japan Relations.")

While maintaining its relationship with the United States, Japan has diversified and expanded its ties with other nations. Good relations with its neighbors continue to be of vital interest. After the signing of a peace and friendship treaty with China in 1978, ties between the two countries developed rapidly. The Japanese extend significant economic assistance to the Chinese in various modernization projects. At the same time, Japan has maintained economic but not diplomatic relations with Taiwan, where a strong bilateral trade relationship thrives.

Japanese ties with South Korea have improved since an exchange of visits in the mid-1980s by their political leaders. R.O.K. President Kim Dae-jung had a very successful visit to Japan in October 1998. Japan has limited economic and commercial ties with North Korea. Japanese normalization talks halted when North Korea refused to discuss a number of issues with Japan. 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). Despite the August 31, 1998 North Korean missile test which overflew the Home Islands, Japan has repeated its support for the Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) and the Agreed Framework, which seek to freeze the North Korean nuclear program.

Russo-Japanese relations have warmed considerably since 1996, despite the fact that Russia continues to claim and occupy the Northern Territories, small islands off the coast of Hokkaido occupied by the U.S.S.R. at the end of World War II. But recent summits in 1997 and 1998 between former PM Hashimoto and President Yeltsin have accelerated work on a peace treaty which would set settle the Northern Territories dispute and normalize bilateral relations. To further mutual confidence and trust, Japan has pledged about $4 billion to various programs designed to bolster Russian democracy and economic reform.

Beyond its immediate neighbors, Japan has pursued a more active foreign policy in recent years, recognizing the responsibility that accompanies its economic strength. It has expanded ties with the Middle East, which provides most of its oil. Japan increasingly is active in Africa and Latin America and has extended significant support to development projects in both regions. And a Japanese-conceived peace plan became the foundation for nationwide elections in Cambodia in 1998.

After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Japan adopted tough sanctions against Iraq and strongly supported the UN effort against the aggression. Japanese financial support for the Gulf war reached $14 billion. Japan actively supported the Israel-Palestine peace framework. From October 1993, Japan has contributed $300 million to Palestinian reconstruction. Under the framework of the Middle East Peace Process, Japan chairs the multilateral working group on environment and participates in other working groups.

In the 1990s, Japanese military and police forces as well as civilians have participated in a wide variety of UN peacekeeping missions. These have included Cambodia (two Japanese citizens were killed in that effort), Mozambique, the Golan Heights, and relief efforts for Rwandan refugees in what was then Zaire (now Congo). Japan did not send any Self-Defense Force units to Somalia but financed much of the effort there with a $100 million contribution.

Development assistance is a major tool of Japan's foreign policy. Japan has been the world's largest aid donor since 1989, with aid levels of $9 billion. Japanese aid to other Asian countries exceeds that of the United States, and Japan is also a major donor to Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Japan and the United States hold regular consultations to coordinate foreign assistance programs. The United States supports Japan's efforts to open its markets to developing nations' products.


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. As noted, Japan is one of the three major industrial complexes among the market economies, along with North America and Western Europe. 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 for Global Issues," a set of 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

The U.S.-Japan security alliance remains indispensable to the defense of Japan and to U.S. security strategy in East Asia.

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. At the end of U.S. occupation in 1952, U.S. military forces in Japan numbered around 260,000. The U.S. currently maintains over 40,000 forces in Japan, more than half of whom are stationed in Okinawa. Japan's Host Nation Support (HNS) helps to defray about 75% of the costs of maintaining these forces in Japan. In Okinawa, initiatives begun under the U.S.-Japan Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) are returning tracts of military base land to Okinawons, as well as making U.S. military activity on the island less intrusive to Okinawan residents.

Japan's Self-Defense Force has gradually expanded its 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 shared vital interests. These 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 East Asia Strategy Report, published by the Department of Defense in 1995, noted "[t]here 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." 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 former Prime Minister Hashimoto issued a joint summit security declaration which noted the achievements of the bilateral alliance and projected its success into the next century. In September 1997, the United States and Japan issued the Defense Guidelines, which lay out the framework for cooperation between the United States and Japan. Both sides are now working on the implementation of the Defense Guidelines.

Economic Relations

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.

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

The United States and Japan are the two largest economies in the world. 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.

Overall U.S. exports to Japan have grown dramatically since the 1980s. Between 1986 and 1997, they rose from $27 billion to $66 billion. Since 1993, U.S. exports to Japan have risen at a rate slightly faster than with the rest of the world as a whole. The U.S. bilateral trade deficit with Japan declined from $59 billion in 1995 to $48 billion in 1996. It was $56 billion in 1997.

These improvements have come about as the U.S. has pursued broad trade initiatives as well as bilateral trade agreements with Japan. The U.S.-Japan "Framework for a New Economic Partnership" (the Framework) 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 includes the aforementioned "Common Agenda for Global Issues," the highly successful program of U.S.-Japanese collaboration on a wide range of global matters, including health, the environment, and population.

Since January 1993, the U.S. and Japan have signed 34 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. More recently, the U.S. and Japan renewed and strengthened the NTT Telecommunications Agreement in September 1997 and reached an agreement on port practices in November 1997 and on civil aviation in January 1998. The U.S. also settled a WTO dispute with Japan over its distilled spirits regime in December 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 semiconductors. There have been some encouraging trends. 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.

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.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--Thomas Foley
Deputy Chief of Mission--Christopher LaFleur
Economic Minister-Counselor--C. Lawrence Greenwood, Jr.
Political Minister--James Foster
Commercial Minister--Samuel H. Kidder
Defense Attache--Capt. Jeffrey Crews, 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 APO mailing address is American Embassy Tokyo, Unit 45004, Box 258, APO AP 96337-5004. U.S. consulates general are in Osaka, Sapporo, and Naha, and consulates are in Fukuoka and Nagoya. The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan is at 7th floor, Fukide No. 2 Bldg., 1-21 Toranomon 4-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo (105).


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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 202-647-4000.

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-day a week automated system ($.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 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at give 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. 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; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an 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. It is available on the Internet ( and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.

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