Japan’s Domestic Ivory Market

While nations across the globe are closing their domestic ivory markets to protect elephants from the trade in ivory, including the United States and China, Japan’s ivory market remains open. Japan is the world’s most significant legal ivory market, with a huge ivory stockpile and thousands of ivory traders. 

Japan has been unable to control its domestic ivory market; its ivory trade controls are ridden with loopholes that enable illegal trade. EIA’s investigative evidence over the years has exposed Japan’s porous ivory control system and superficial reforms. In addition to facilitating ivory laundering, Japan’s open market stimulates demand and makes effective enforcement impossible. Japanese retail industry leaders like Rakuten, Aeon, and Yahoo! Japan have acted to cease ivory sales, and their role in Japan’s porous and problematic domestic ivory market.

In addition to enabling illegal ivory trade, Japan’s legal market is also contributing to the illegal international ivory trade problem. Ivory from Japan’s open market is being illegally exported to other countries, like China. Illegal Japanese ivory exports undermine bans on domestic ivory trade enacted in importing countries and violate the international ivory trade ban implemented under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Japan’s Illegal Ivory Exports

EIA has been documenting illegal exports of ivory from Japan from publicly available sources, with a particular focus on China. Since 2009, more than 5.4 metric tons of ivory have been illegally exported from Japan to China, primarily in small packages.** The vast majority of seizures of ivory exported from Japan to China have been made by Chinese authorities. Between 2018 and 2020, at least 76 seizures of ivory from Japan have been made by authorities elsewhere. These international seizures of legally purchased ivory in Japan make it clear that Japan’s domestic ivory market poses a threat to international efforts to combat poaching and the illegal ivory trade, particularly as others close their own domestic trades and markets shift.

YearNumber of SeizuresLocation
201876 China, 1 Taiwan
20195350 China, 2 Vietnam, 1 Japan
20201616 China
Total7672 China, 2 Vietnam, 1 Taiwan, 1 Japan

EIA campaigns for the end of Japan’s ivory trade by exposing the reality of Japan’s broken domestic ivory trade controls, which are ineffective at preventing illegal trade and export. We advocate for market closure as the key solution and work towards this end with partners in Japan and internationally.

**Data available upon request.

Related Reports and Briefings

Reality Check: Japan’s Legal Domestic Ivory Market

Ripe for Abuse: Japan’s Ivory Market

Last But Not Least: Japan’s Domestic Ivory Market

Willing to Sell: Snapshot Investigations of Ivory Hanko Retailers in Japan

Persistent Problem: Japan’s Domestic Ivory Trade

Japan’s Illegal Ivory Trade: Briefing Document for Delegates to CITES Standing Committee 69

How Ivory Hanko Destroyed Africa’s Elephants and Drives Japan’s Illegal Ivory Trade

Superficial Reforms: An Analysis of Recent Amendments to Japan’s Ivory Control Laws

The Dirty Secrets of Japan’s Illegal Ivory Trade

Japan’s Illegal Ivory Trade and Fraudulent Registration of Ivory Tusks


Related Press Releases, Blogs, and Letters

日本が象牙取引について法改正か ― ついに、市場閉鎖の時来たり

Japan is Revising its Law on Ivory Trade – Time to Finally Close the Market

Letter: Appeal for Closure of Japan’s Ivory Market

Still Open for Business: Stop Japan’s Ivory Trade

Is Tokyo Ready to Step Up to Protect Elephants from Ivory Trade?

Japan’s Elephant Ivory Trade: Where Are We Now?

Letter: NGOs Urge Action from Tokyo on Ivory

Japan Prime Minister Urged to Commit to Japan’s Ivory Market Closure

Letter: NGOs Appeal to Japan’s Prime Minister for Ivory Market Closure

Japan Targeted by Zimbabwe as Future Ivory Buyer

Letter: NGOs Urge Tokyo to Implement Advisory Council’s Recommendations on Ivory Trade

Tokyo Ivory Assessment Process Closes, Includes Consideration of Legal Measures to Address Ivory Trade

Letter: NGOs Appeal for Specific Recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Regulation of Ivory Trade 

Letter: NGOs Make Recommendations for Tokyo Ivory Market Closure

Still Waiting for Action: Tokyo’s Ivory Trade Assessment

Tokyo Fumbles Short-Term Ivory Trade Action

Letter: NGO Appeal to the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Letter: NGO Appeal to Tokyo for Urgent Measures on Ivory

Japanese Retailers Willing to Sell Ivory Hanko for Illegal Export

Tokyo Urged to Resurrect Ivory Trade Assessment

Letter: Appeal to Tokyo’s Governor Koike for Ivory Market Closure

Thirty Years Since the International Ivory Ban, Say Goodbye to Ivory Hanko

End of an Era: Yahoo! Japan Ceases Ivory Sales

Japan’s Ivory Trade Faces Intensifying Opposition at Home and Abroad

Decision by Yahoo! Japan to End Ivory Sales Celebrated by Elephant Advocates

One Year Out from 2020 Tokyo Games, NGOs Appeal to Tokyo Governor to End Ivory Trade

Japan’s Latest Tokyo 2020 Supporter Leads the World’s Elephant Ivory Sales

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asks Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike to support a ban on Japan’s ivory trade

Legal Markets Like Those in Japan Enable Traders to Launder Illegal Ivory and Frustrate Enforcement

EIA Calls on Japan to Urgently Close its Ivory Market: Government’s New Proposed Measures Fail to Protect Africa’s Elephants

Investigation Reveals Hanko Demand Drives Japan’s Illegal Ivory Trade

In Japan, the Ivory Commerce Times are a Changin’

EIA Applauds Japan’s AEON for Elephant Ivory Phase-out

Japan’s Internet Retail Giant Rakuten Ichiba Ceasing Ivory Sales

Ivory Traders Linked to Yahoo! Japan Exposed in Illegal Ivory Activity

Fraudulent Tusk Registration Fuels Ivory Trade in Japan

Exposed: The Dirty Secrets of Japan’s Illegal Ivory Trade

Japanese Traders Offer Ivory Tusks to Chinese Buyers for Illegal Export

EIA Condemns Japan’s Ivory Tusk Registration Campaign

Japanese Wildlife Official Promoted Illegal Ivory Trade

EIA Demands Closure of Japan’s Ivory Market Following New Evidence of Illegal Ivory Trade

On Eve of Tokyo Wildlife Symposium, Environmentalists Call on Japan to Ban Domestic Ivory Trade

Japan’s Plan to Increase Ivory Trade Poses Threat to Success of China’s Domestic Ivory Ban

Global Conservation Coalition Appeals to Japanese Prime Minister to Ban Domestic Ivory Trade

Environmentalists Commend China for Closing Ivory Stores and Factories, Urge Japan to Take Similar Steps to End Ivory Trade

LETTER: U.S. House Of Representatives letter to Japan Regarding Ivory

Blood e-Commerce: Rakuten’s profits from the slaughter of elephants and whales

SoftBank refuses to stop selling elephant, dolphin and whale products on Yahoo!Japan

LETTER: To SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son

LETTER: Coalition Urges Japanese Prime Minister to Ban Domestic Ivory Trade


Related Resources


Still Open for Business

Japan is currently the world’s most significant open ivory market, but the government has the opportunity to change that status. EIA will continue to advocate for the end of all legal ivory trade, everywhere and at every level, in order to protect elephants.


National Ivory Action Plan Process

The National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) process is an important elephant conservation tool and framework. While we commend the progress made so far, EIA provides a brief analysis and recommendations to address some concerns and effectively tackle ivory poaching and trafficking.