Diplomatic Bluebook 2016

Chapter 4

Japan’s Diplomacy Open to the Public

2.Consular Service and Assistance for Living Overseas

(1) Improving Consular Service

Aiming at providing good consular services to Japanese nationals overseas, MOFA conducts a questionnaire survey every year on consular services such as employees’ attitudes in over-the-counter services and telephone responses, information provision, and Visiting Consular Service (of which survey is only conducted by the missions offering it.) to reflect the voices of Japanese nationals overseas in order to improve consular services by the diplomatic missions overseas. In 2015, the surveys were conducted by 149 diplomatic missions overseas and received about 15,000 responses. The results showed generally high grade of satisfaction with regard to the consular services provided by the diplomatic missions overseas in general as well as over-the-counter services and phone responses. At the same time, there were negative answers, although few in number. MOFA intends to continue its efforts for improvements listening to the voices of the users so as to provide consular services at the diplomatic missions overseas in line with user needs.

(2) Issuance of Passports and Prevention of Illicit Acquisition of Passports

Approximately 3.25 million passports were issued in Japan in 2015. As of the end of December 2015, approximately 30.58 million passports are valid, and the number of ePassports3 accounts for about 99% of all the valid Japanese passports.

The issuance of ePassports is effective for deterring illicit use of passports such as forged or altered passports. However, there continue to be cases of illicit acquisition of passports by means of impersonation4. There were cases where Japanese nationals or illegal foreign residents left and entered Japan using passports bearing the name of another person which had been acquired illegally. Also, passports with false identities were used for borrowing money from financial institutions, opening bank accounts for the purpose of selling them to those who plot to commit other crimes, and subscribing to mobile phone services without the real passport holders knowing it. In order to prevent illicit acquisition of passports that may nurture these secondary or tertiary crimes, MOFA has been making further effort to enhance strict identity examination in issuing a passport, for example, by such means as designating a stringent examination period against illicit acquisition of passports through identity theft at passport offices located in each prefecture.

Results of Survey on the Consular Service (2015)
Changes in the Number of Issued Passports in Japan

  • 3 An Electronic Passport or ePassport is a passport embedded with an integrated circuit (IC) chip which contains a digitized facial image (biometric information) and other information of the passport holder to prevent passport forgery and illicit use of passports by a third party. It was first issued in 2006.
  • 4  The number of illegal acquisitions of passports through identity theft discovered: 43 in 2011, 26 in 2012, 13 in 2013, 12 in 2014, and 10 in 2015.

In the meantime, Machine Readable Passports (MRP) are issued in most countries of the world, in accordance with the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The ICAO determined the deadline for the termination of non-MRP circulation is November 24, 2015. Moreover, as ePassports improved with security, using biometric information such as fingerprints in addition to digitized facial images contained in its integrated circuit (IC) chip, have become widespread, possibilities for more effective use of IC chip are under consideration at the ICAO and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Consignment of passport-related work from the prefectural governments to city/town offices has been possible since 2006, such as application and delivery, and 798 cities/towns had started passport service by the end of 2015. They make up about 40% of all the cities/towns in Japan.

(3) Overseas Voting

The overseas voting system allows Japa-nese voters living overseas to vote in national elections. In the elections after June 2007, it was made possible to vote overseas for the small electoral district election of the House of Representatives and the electoral district election of the House of Councilors (including by-election and recall election), in addition to voting for the proportional representation segment of elections of the both House. In December 2014, the 47th election for the House of Representatives was conducted. In summer of 2016, the 24th regular election for the House of Councillors will be conducted. A referendum concerning the constitutional amendment can also be voted in the same manner.

In order to vote overseas, it is necessary to be registered in advance in the overseas voter directory managed by the election board of the city/town government and to obtain overseas voter identification. Voters with valid overseas voter identification can vote by choosing one of the three methods of voting, diplomatic mission overseas voting, postal voting, or voting in Japan. The diplomatic missions overseas have been making efforts to disseminate the system and to increase the number of registered voters by publicizing this system and carrying out a visiting service for the registration of Japanese nationals living in remote areas.

(4) Assistance for Japanese Nationals Living and Engaging in Activities Overseas

A. Japanese Schools and Supplementary Education Schools

Education for children is one of the major concerns for Japanese nationals living abroad. In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, MOFA carries out assistance for the Japanese Schools (partial subsidy for school building rental fees, rewards for locally hired teachers and safety measures expenses) so that the overseas school children at the age of domestic compulsory education can receive education equivalent to that of in Japan. MOFA also provides assistance (partial subsidy for school building rental fees and rewards for locally hired teachers) for the Supplementary Education Schools (educational institutions established to maintain children’s ability, such as Japanese language ability) mainly in areas where the Japanese Schools are not located. The number of Japanese children living abroad has been on an increasing trend in recent years, and MOFA and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology intend to continue/enhance its assistance.

B. Medical/Health Measures

In order to provide health advices through consultations to Japanese nationals residing in countries where the medical situation is poor, MOFA dispatches medical teams with the support of domestic medical institutions (one country, seven cities in FY2015). MOFA also dispatches medical specialists to regions, where infectious diseases or air pollution become serious, and organizes health and safety lectures (11 countries, 18 cities in FY2015).

In addition, MOFA collects information on infectious diseases outbreak overseas and provides them publicly through the Overseas Safety Website and the websites of diplomatic missions overseas.

C. Other Needs

In order to eliminate the complexity of various procedures for Japanese nationals living overseas (including converting Japanese driving licenses to one of the country of residence and obtaining residence/work permits) and to make living abroad more comfortable, MOFA continues talks with foreign governments.

When converting driving licenses issued in foreign countries to Japanese driving licenses in Japan, all persons with driving licenses issued in a foreign country can obtain Japanese driving licenses without taking certain examinations (written examination and skill examination) if it is checked and recognized that they should have no problem operating vehicles.

On the other hand, it is mandatory to take driving tests when converting Japanese licenses to local licenses in some North and South American countries and states, for example. In such case, MOFA is calling for those countries to streamline the procedures for license conversion as in Japan.

MOFA also supports victims of atomic bomb attacks living overseas in applying for the authorization of Atomic Bomb Diseases and for the issuance of Health Check Certificates, via diplomatic missions overseas.