Emerging trends and concerns
- The smuggling of methamphetamine is on the rise in Japan, in particular by air passenger couriers. In 2011,185 methamphetamine smuggling cases into Japan were reported, the highest figure in two decades.
- In addition to China, which remains the primary source of methamphetamine seized in Japan, Mexico and several African countries have emerged as sources of methamphetamine.
- The number of arrests involving methamphetamine has remained relatively stable. During the past decade, methamphetamine has accounted for roughly 80% of all drug-related arrests each year in Japan.
Overview of the drug situation
Crystalline methamphetamine remains the primary drug of concern in Japan, followed by cannabis. During the past decade or so, more than 80% of all drug-related arrests have involved methamphetamine. Illicit manufacture of methamphetamine in Japan is rare. Domestic and international drug trafficking organizations continue to smuggle methamphetamine into Japan, due to the large size of its methamphetamine market and the high prices for the drug.
Table 1. Trend in use of selected illicit drugs in Japan, 2007-2011
The use of crystalline methamphetamine in Japan has stabilized of late. Use of ecstasy pills is likely declining, as indicated by the general downward trend in the number of arrests and quantity of ecstasy seized in Japan during the past five years (NPA 2012a).
Cannabis remains the second most commonly used drug in Japan and cannabis use has expanded in recent years. Since 2001, about half of all new drug dependents in Japan have been identified as cannabis dependents (MHLW 2011b). Demand for cocaine, heroin and opium in Japan remains limited. The combined number of arrests related to these drugs has accounted for less than 1% of total drug-related arrests during the past two years (NPA 2012a).
In 2011, 350.9 kg of crystalline meth¬amphetamine was seized in Japan, a 13% increase from the previous year. Since 2007, more than 300 kg of meth¬amphetamine have been seized each year (NPA 2012c).
The 27,187 ecstasy pills seized in 2011 is 49% higher than the number of pills seized in 2010. However, the quantities of ecstasy seized since 2009 are far lower than the quantities of pills seized in previous years.
Whereas cannabis herb seizures showed a 22% decline in 2011 compared with the previous year, seizures of cannabis resin, heroin, opium and in particular cocaine all showed considerable increases in 2011. Almost 29 kg of cocaine were seized in 2011, the highest total reported during the past five years (NPA 2012a).
Table 2. Drug seizures in Japan, 2007-2011
Nearly all of the methamphetamine seized in Japan is trafficked into the country from overseas by drug trafficking organizations. These organizations primarily involve domestic ‘Boryokudan’ organized crime groups as well as drug trafficking groups from the Islamic Republic of Iran and West Africa (NPA 2012b).
China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan) remains the primary source of methamphetamine seized in Japan in recent years and in 2011 it accounted for about 18% of the total amount of methamphetamine seized in Japan. During the past decade, the number of countries and territories of origin of methamphetamine smuggling to Japan has increased, from 10 in 2001 to 38 in 2011 (NPA 2012a).
ARQ 2012 Japan. ‘Annual Reporting Questionnaire for 2011’, Japan 2012.
NPA 2012a. A presentation by the Drugs and Firearms Division, National Police Agency of Japan (NPA), February 2012.
NPA 2012b. ‘Drugs and firearms situation in 2011’, (in Japanese), Drugs and Firearms Division, National Police Agency of Japan (NPA), Tokyo, April 2012.
NPA 2012c. Official communication with the National Police Agency of Japan (NPA), October 2012.
MHLW 2011b. ‘The General Situation of Administrative Measures Against Narcotics and Stimulants Abuse’, Compliance and Narcotics Division, Pharmaceutical and Food Safety Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan (MHLW), Tokyo, October 2011.