The number varies significantly depending on which types* of nonprofits are counted as nonprofit organizations and whether unincorporated grassroots organizations (for which there is no accurate statistical data) are included.

*For the number of different types of nonprofit organizations, please refer to “Size and Scope of NPOs” page.

Japanese nonprofits are generally small in size; according to one study, it was estimated that the domestic production output of Specified Nonprofit Corporations and unincorporated grassroots organizations (nonprofits according to a narrow definition) was 694.1 billion yen in 2000, which only accounts for 0.08% of the production output of the whole Japanese domestic industry (*1). Only 5.8% of Specified Nonprofit Corporations exceed 100 million yen (roughly US$1 million) in income (*2).

More information on the budget size and internal structure of average Specified Nonprofit Corporations can be found in “Size and Scope of NPOs” page.

*1 Source: conomic Evaluation of NPOs Using Inter-industry Analysis (in Japanese) (Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry
*2 Factual Survey on Specified Nonprofit Corporations 2013 (in Japanese)

As far as Specified Nonprofit Corporations (so-called “NPO corporations”) are concerned, most are organizations that support the lives of the elderly and the disabled through health and social service accounts. The top four activities promoted from a list of 20 are: “health, medical care, or welfare”, followed by “community development”, “the nurturing of youth”, and “social education”.

According to a survey conducted by the Cabinet Office (2015), Specified Nonprofit Corporations’ average income structure is as follows:

  • membership fees (6.1%)
  • donations/contributions (11.1%)
  • subsidies/grants (17.3%)
  • earned income (63.6%)
  • other (2%)

The main reason why the earned income accounts for more than 60% is that many social welfare-related nonprofits charge fees in exchange for the provision of care services, and this pushes the percentage up.

Around the time of the passage of the NPO Law in 1998, the leadership of Japan’s nonprofit sector posited that service provision must go hand-in-hand with policy advocacy and public awareness-raising as the two pillars of nonprofit activities.

After almost two decades, many who are working in the sector feel that Japan’s nonprofit organizations have been able to establish “NPOs” in the minds of Japan’s general public as groups that provide necessary services to communities in a caring and efficient manner. At the same time, however, they feel that “NPOs” have not achieved very much in the realm of policy advocacy and public awareness-raising. Many nonprofits are constrained by the fact that they receive more than a majority of their funding from government sources, which causes them to feel that they cannot speak out too loudly on policy affairs.

JNPOC believes that an autonomous and independent nonprofit sector which can raise its voice when needed is a fundamental cornerstone of robust civil society, and it is working to make both nonprofits and the public aware of the role of “NPOs” in policy discussions and advocacy.

The terms “social enterprise” and “social business” have gained popularity, especially among the younger generation, as a way to solve social issues as well as to gain profit. Social enterprise can take the form of different corporate entities, from Specified Nonprofit Corporations to for-profit stock corporations. According to a 2008 study done by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, about half of social enterprises are registered as Specified Nonprofit Corporations; it is estimated that in Japan there are about 8,000 social enterprises with a market size of 2.4 billion yen and 32 thousand employees.


Yes, major international NGOs such as Plan, World Vision, Greenpeace and Amnesty have Japanese offices with their own corporate status as Japanese nonprofits. There are also Japanese “domestic” nonprofits that engage in international development. A well-known network of this kind is the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), which has nearly 100 members.

There are online database of nonprofits available in Japanese (we couldn’t locate ones in English), and most databases list organizations with a specific legal entity or corporate status. As for Specified Nonprofit Corporations, JNPOC’s NPO Hiroba (Japanese) and the Cabinet Office’s database list all the corporations of this type. Public Benefit Corporations can be found in the Japan Association of Charitable Organization (JACO)’s NOPODAS and the Cabinet Office’s database. The Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health provides an online directory for Social Welfare Corporations located in Tokyo. The Nippon Foundation’s Canpan is a self-registering nonprofit database for different legal entities. JANIC offers the NGO Directory exclusively for Japanese international development NGOs.

Your donation to a nonprofit organization is tax-deductible in Japan only if you live in Japan and if the recipient nonprofit is included in one of the following categories:

Nonprofit category Japanese term Donation is tax-deductible
General Corporation (nonprofit type) Ippan Hojin (Hieiri gata) No
General Corporation (other) Ippan Hojin No
Public Benefit Corporation Koeki Hojin Yes
Specified Nonprofit Corporation Tokutei Hieiri Katsudo Hojin No
Certified Specified Nonprofit Corporation Nintei Tokutei Hieiri Katsudo Hojin Yes
Social Welfare Corporation Shakai Fukushi Hojin Yes
Private School Corporation Gakko Hojin Yes
Consumer Co-operative Shohi Seikatsu Kyodo Kumiai No
Unincorporated Organization Nin’i Dantai No

Methods of influencing government policies (writing petitions, organizing mass demonstrations, lobbying legislators, engaging with government officials, etc.) and business practices (all of the above, plus boycotts, attending shareholders’ meetings, etc.) do not differ much between Japan and the rest of the world. It can, however, be argued that the Japanese public today is not used to recognizing the value of nonprofits working in this realm. Indeed, although Japanese citizens and civil society have a rich history of influencing policy, the role of nonprofits in this regard is generally under-valued today.

One can construct different arguments, but most people would agree to the following:

  1. Japan is an industrialized country but not one of the Western nations, and as such can offer a unique perspective on matters of global concern, such as poverty alleviation, social development and climate change.
  2. Along these lines, Japan’s civil society/nonprofits can play a significant role in highlighting a path to economic growth without compromising the value of sustainability, promoting horizontal peer-to-peer learning and mutual exchange, providing models of people-led community development, etc.

Every prefecture/city has a nonprofit management support center and/or volunteer center, which are familiar with nonprofit organizations in the region and can provide information. For better communication, you might want to go with a person who speaks Japanese. The Tokyo Voluntary Action Center has an English resource on how to find volunteer opportunities in Tokyo.

Each prefecture and major city has an NPO section/office which authorizes Specified Nonprofit Corporations. These sections/offices provide a guidebook that gives information about what paperwork and processes are needed. The list of NPO sections/offices can be found here (in Japanese). The guidebook is written in Japanese, so you might need to bring a Japanese-speaking person if you don’t speak Japanese.