New book: “Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight” by Hepburn & Simon (Columbia UP, 2013). Includes Japan.


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Hi Blog.  After using the resources and contacts of, the author of the following book, Stephanie Hepburn, contacted me two days ago to say that her research on worldwide human trafficking, including Japan, has just been published by Columbia University Press.  I am pleased to notify Readers as follows:


Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight
By Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simon
Purchase links:

Columbia University Press:
Barnes and Noble:

Published by Columbia University Press, this unprecedented study of sex trafficking, forced labor, organ trafficking, and sex tourism across twenty-four nations highlights the experiences of the victims, perpetrators, and anti-traffickers involved in this brutal trade. Combining statistical data with intimate accounts and interviews, journalist Stephanie Hepburn and justice scholar Rita J. Simon create a dynamic volume sure to educate and spur action.

Among the nations examined is Japan, which has not elaborated a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. Although the government took a strong step forward in its 2009 Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons by acknowledging that sex trafficking is not the only form of human trafficking, forced-labor victims continue to be marginalized. As a result of ethnocentric policies, the government prohibits foreign unskilled laborers from working in Japan. But the disparity between the nation’s immigration posture and its labor needs has created a quandary. With a demand for inexpensive labor but without an adequate low wage labor force, Japan uses the government-run Industrial Training Program and Technical Internship Program to create a temporary and low-cost migrant workforce for employers. The stated purpose of the program is to transfer skill, technology, and knowledge to persons of other nations and thereby play a central role in the economic growth of developing nations, specifically those in East Asia. Instead, it has created opportunities for exploitation and human trafficking.

“I recommend this comprehensive study to anyone wanting to understand the fight against the modern day slave-trade. The book stands apart by augmenting nation by nation accounts of trafficking realities with critiques of existing local anti-trafficking measures and consideration of local obstacles. Supported by diverse sources, the authors set forth clear policy recommendations to combat trafficking.”—Lori J. Johnson, staff attorney, Farmworker Unit, Legal Aid of North Carolina

“This volume demonstrates ways that global migration policies and programs facilitate human trafficking by focusing on enforcement rather than promoting uniform labor standards. Its broad focus help readers compare practices between countries and understand the transnational impact of national legislation and policies on human trafficking around the globe.”—Gretchen Kuhner, author of the American Bar Association’s Human Trafficking Assessment Tool Report

“Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simon demonstrate that economics, geography, civil unrest, societal inequality, and gender disparities play a major role in how trafficking manifests itself.”—Christa Stewart, New York State Office of Human Trafficking, Office of Temporary Disability Assistance

“Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simon delve beneath the surface of policies and legislation within the various countries they study by involving those who are involved at a grassroots level and have come up with a fascinating account of these practices.”—Carol Bews, assistant director, Johannesburg Child Welfare Society

Stephanie Hepburn is an independent journalist whose work has been published in Americas Quarterly, USA Today U-Wire, Gender Issues, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Rita J. Simon is a University Professor in the School of Public Affairs and the Washington College of Law at American University in Washington, D.C.


I have not read the book yet, but it looks to be an important work and am pleased to tell you about it.  Arudou Debito


4 comments on “New book: “Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight” by Hepburn & Simon (Columbia UP, 2013). Includes Japan.

  • Issues like this will not likely surface in Japanese media. But, knowing how Japan works, anyone (assuming the accused trafficker is Japanese) busted trafficking humans will somehow be treated as victims. Having seen the pattern of Japanese media for so long, here is what will happen if Japanese traffickers are busted:

    —> Suspect the human traffickers of being foreigners

    —> Suspects are Japanese? Look hard for something foreign
    to blame. Or create gossip by inserting “maybe linked
    to xyz foreign syndicate”.

    —> Accuse the traffickers of being part of a foreign
    organization (finding foreign elements to blame)

    —> if a foreign syndicate is involved, then forget the
    accused (if Japanese), forget the victim and focus solely
    on the foreign syndicate as the sole and only mastermind.

    —> J-Media fully focusing on trafficked victims of being
    “illegal-aliens” and make
    the victim out to be a criminal.

    —> Put the entire blame on foreign syndicates for creating
    an avenue for trafficking humans to Japan.

    —> accuse the NJ victim of being a member of the trafficking
    syndicate to gain illegal entry into Japan.

    Therefore the Japanese media will modify and change the stories so it will appear along the lines of “if there is no foreigners or foreign influence than this would not have happened in Japan” or “The NJ made me do it”.

    I noticed this in J-media with other crimes too, the authorities are always struggling to find a “foreign link” if someone is charged with crime. And if a foreign link is found, then everyone will focus on that foreign link. The J-media will deny any J-element involved that makes trafficking possible in the first place. (i.e. corrupted J-politicians, corrupted authorities, Japanese Yakuza etc…).

    — As a mild tangent (sorry), I remember when I was sitting down waiting at the local MOFA office for my application for my J-passport to be processed, and I saw a video warning viewers against using narcotics in other countries. Showed the innocent Japanese guy being forced into buying drugs from IIRC very shady (and pushy) Russian-Mafia and Mexican-Bandito types of foreigners. The curious Japanese kid buys some, takes it back to his hotel, and presto, he’s busted in his room because those pushers ratted on him to the cops, and now he had to pay a fine or go to jail. No doubt this sort of thing has happened, but you see, the Japanese kid thus became a victim, not a criminal. And just to make things even more hokey, after he was arrested and carted off to jail, poof, he woke up! It was all a dream! Because, after all, Japanese don’t actually commit crime or use drugs. Way to borrow from DALLAS and make the whole Season Nine into a dream sequence!

  • @Bayfield

    Last weekend (April 13) on Nihon Terebi, the show Wake Up Plus had a short special titled 「技能実習生15万人の闇に迫る!」 relating the trainee program with 人身売買. They discussed the purpose and the program and actual reality, suggestions to improve the situation, and possibly ending the program. Layers and politicians participated in the discussion. It was a good watch, not something I typically see Japan willing to talk openly about on TV. I wish I could point to a link of the video, but cannot find one yet. Below is a preview of the program:


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