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The ICRC in Japan

06-01-2014 Overview

The ICRC Mission in Japan (ICRC-Tokyo) focuses on enhancing humanitarian debate in the country, contributing towards Japan's foreign policy on humanitarian issues and seeking political and financial support from its government. ICRC-Tokyo works closely with the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) on public relations; and together, the two bodies promote the teaching of humanitarian law, organize joint field operations, mobilize support from the public for the international activities of the JRCS and recruit Japanese delegates for the ICRC’s international operations.

ICRC activities in Japan date back to World War I, when the organization visited Austrian, German, Hungarian and Turkish prisoners of war in Japan and Siberia. During World War II, the ICRC established a delegation in Japan (in 1942), visited prisoner-of-war camps and helped the victims of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.

After a 60-year gap, the ICRC opened a Tokyo office in February 2009, as Japan became a key contributor to international aid activities, with the ICRC’s being one of the country’s beneficiaries.

What is the ICRC doing in Tokyo?

Helping people understand humanitarian work

Disaster relief is well known in Japan but humanitarian assistance during conflict and violence is not. The ICRC is raising interest by facilitating media coverage of its operations; holding symposia, workshops and discussions on humanitarian topics; and providing input to think tanks. Subjects include crisis management, staff security, human security, protection and international humanitarian law (IHL).

Fostering relationships with key ministries

The ICRC works closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), enabling Japan to maintain and strengthen its indispensable and highly valued political and financial support to the ICRC. Japan is now one of the ICRC’s largest donors, ranking sixth in 2011, 2012 and 2013. MoFA chaired the ICRC Donor Support Group in 2012, and the ICRC and MoFA regularly exchange views on humanitarian issues and contexts of mutual interest.

The ICRC also works with the Ministry of Defense on interpreting and implementing humanitarian law regarding prisoners of war, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance. The two bodies jointly organize high-level dialogue, briefings, simulations and seminars. Moreover, the ICRC sponsors Japanese military officers to participate in IHL events.

Recruiting more Japanese delegates

As of mid-December 2013, 19 Japanese staff were working with the ICRC around the world. The ICRC maintains its efforts to increase the number of Japanese delegates through recruitment seminars, cooperation with MoFA, presentations to universities, participation in recruitment fairs and online advertisements. ICRC-Tokyo conducts preselection interviews in Japan before referring candidates to ICRC HQ in Geneva.

Working with the JRCS

The JRCS contributes financially to the ICRC and regularly provides personnel for ICRC field missions. In 2012-13, the Society deployed one emergency medical team to support the ICRC operations in the Philippines. The JRCS and the ICRC also work together on communication materials and events. In addition, the two bodies jointly organized a symposium, and photo exhibitions throughout Japan, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the ICRC and of the First Geneva Convention.

Public Relations

ICRC-Tokyo has strengthened its communication activities so that the Japanese public can better understand the ICRC’s response to global humanitarian emergencies. ICRC-Tokyo has built a website and developed its social communication tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, to share information quickly with the Japanese public. The Mission also works with the media to increase public awareness of the humanitarian needs of people suffering from armed conflict.

Disseminating IHL

Together in Japan, the ICRC and the JRCS strive to increase understanding of IHL among academics, government officials, journalists, NGOs, the JRCS staff and volunteers, etc. The two bodies jointly organize an annual intensive IHL course in Japanese to help stakeholders understand the role of IHL in contemporary international affairs. Foreign students from China, Korea and Taiwan attend an English version of the course.


Photos

ICRC president Peter Maurer and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe discussed humanitarian issues and cooperation. 

Kasumigaseki, Tokyo, May 2013
ICRC president Peter Maurer and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe discussed humanitarian issues and cooperation.
© ICRC / Jeff Cooke

A five-day IHL intensive course, in the Japanese language, took place for the third time. Similarly, there was an IHL course in the English language for participants from Taiwan and Hong Kong. 

Osaka, September 2013
A five-day IHL intensive course, in the Japanese language, took place for the third time. Similarly, there was an IHL course in the English language for participants from Taiwan and Hong Kong.
© ICRC / Takanori Hosokawa

The ICRC Tokyo mission organized a symposium on South Sudan; guest speakers represented, for example, government, media, academia and the ICRC. 

Ichigaya, Tokyo, July 2013
The ICRC Tokyo mission organized a symposium on South Sudan; guest speakers represented, for example, government, media, academia and the ICRC.
© ICRC / Kayoko Saito

ICRC director of operations Pierre Krähenbühl thanked the Japanese vice-minister of defense for supporting the ICRC, Krähenbühl also presented the ICRC’s outlook for 2014. 

Ichigaya, Tokyo, November 2013
ICRC director of operations Pierre Krähenbühl thanked the Japanese vice-minister of defense for supporting the ICRC, Krähenbühl also presented the ICRC’s outlook for 2014.
© Ministry of Defense