Administrative Structures of Japan's Diplomacy
B. Consular functions and measures for the protection of Japanese abroad
a) Protection of Japanese nationals overseas
During 1998, the number of Japanese traveling overseas was 15.80 million, 5.9% down compared to the previous year. As of 1 October 1998, Japanese nationals classified as long-term residents overseas (non-permanent residents staying abroad for three months or longer) rose to a total of 510,915, while the number of Japanese residents classified as permanent residents abroad rose to 278,619. The total number of Japanese nationals residing abroad was an all-time high of 789,534, an increase of 0.9% over the previous year.
As the number of Japanese traveling overseas increases, the number of victims of crimes and accidents is also growing. Responding to this situation, as a measure for the safety of Japanese people abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides a wide variety of information on public security on a country-by-country or regional basis.
In cases when there is a serious deterioration in public security, or other emergency situations such as disaster or civil unrest, or in cases where it is judged that such situations are likely to occur, the Ministry issues "Travel Advice and Warnings" on the security situation in the country or region concerned, ranked in five risk levels: level of security risk 1: "Travel Caution;" level of security risk 2: "Recommendation to defer non-essential travel;" level of security risk 3: "Recommendation to defer all travel;" level of security risk 4: "Departure advice for residents staying for non-essential purposes;" and level of security risk 5: "Evacuation advice for all residents."
Furthermore, as a means of providing information to the public on security situations abroad, the Ministry posts full texts of its Travel Advice and Warnings on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Internet Homepage (Japanese language version) and the information of the Overseas Security Information Center is also available on the Internet Homepage. There are also other media for information dissemination, which comprise a country-by-country overseas security information fax service, an overseas security telephone service, and information provided through Overseas Security Information Touch Vision, and public information activities are undertaken annually in the fourth week of June, the "Week to Promote Safety of Japanese Nationals Overseas." Efforts are also being made to promote dialogue and cooperation between the Government and the public on overseas security.
b) Overseas voting
In May 1998, the Act Revising Part of the Public Offices Election Law was promulgated to enable Japanese residing overseas to vote and from May 1999, registration for overseas voting commenced. From May 2000, overseas voting in parliamentary elections (for seats in proportional representation districts only) is possible. Japanese residing overseas can vote, by registering with the overseas electoral register, at voting booths set up in overseas diplomatic or consular establishments of Japan. Those residing in remote areas are able to vote via mail as well.
c) Strengthening consular functions
With the great increase in the number of Japanese abroad and the diversification of their activities, etc., consular work in diplomatic establishments and consulates abroad is becoming increasingly complex and diverse. To carry out the new tasks for overseas voting along with other consular work smoothly and promptly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is engaging actively in the rationalization of consular work through, for example, office automation and the fostering of consular experts.
d) Measures to prevent passport forgery
In view of the increase in the number of forgeries and illegal uses of passports and other travel documents by transnational organized crime and international terrorists, enhanced security measures to prevent the forgery of travel documents are being emphasized recently in international fora such as G8 Summits as a global issue. From the viewpoint that creating an effective mechanism for cooperation with other countries is vital in handling this issue, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been working to improve technologies for preventing passport forgery and to establish an information network among the Asian countries, by holding such events as a seminar in November on the prevention of passport forgery, which invited representatives of passport-issuing authorities from six countries in Asia and an expert from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Furthermore, on a national basis the Ministry is actively warning against the loss of passports, with activities highlighted on 20 February, or "Passport Day."
From November the Ministry began issuance of an improved type of passport incorporating anti-forgery designs within the country.
e) Responding to generational change in Japanese immigrant communities
Japanese overseas immigrants have a history exceeding more than 100 years and Japanese immigrants and their descendants now number an estimated 2.5 million people, the great majority of whom are found on the American continents, 1.3 million residing in Brazil and one million in the United States. Japanese immigrants are active in various walks of life, including politics, administration, economics, academia and culture and are valued highly for the active contribution they make to the economic and social development of the countries in which they live. These Japanese immigrants also play an important role in promoting mutual understanding and friendly relations between the country of their residence and Japan. The Ministry makes positive efforts to support the activities of these Japanese immigrants.
f) Foreigners in Japan
In 1998, 4.55 million foreigners entered Japan (compared to 4.66 million in 1997), while the number of registered foreigners in Japan was 1.51 million at the end of 1998 (compared to 1.48 million in 1996). Figures are, therefore, on the increase, and there is every reason to assume that these figures will continue to grow steadily as Japan continues its internationalization process. While the number of foreigners who had overstayed their permitted period of stay in Japan and were living here illegally decreased to around 271,000 as of January 1999, down 27,000 from the peak in May 1993, this figure is still large. Many foreigners staying in Japan illegally tend to become involved in crime. The situation not only creates prejudice among some parts of the population against foreigners in Japan, but also seriously undermines the image of Japan in the countries from which the foreigners come, impeding sound international exchanges.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeks as far as possible to prevent people from entering the country for the purpose of illegal work. At the same time, from the viewpoint of promoting interchanges with people from different countries, and as part of a general move toward deregulation, the Japanese Government is promoting simplification and acceleration of visa-issuing procedures. In 1999, Japan simplified visa application procedures, including visa exemption arrangements, for some Eastern and Central European countries.
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