1. What is the four-island exchange program?
When President Gorbachev visited Japan in April 1991, the Soviet Union proposed “the expansion of exchanges between Japanese citizens and Soviet people living on the four northern islands, and visits by Japanese to the four northern islands without passports or visas.” Exchanges began in 1992 with the aim of deepening mutual understanding until the issue of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan could be resolved.
2. Why don't we need visas to visit the Northern Territories?
The Northern Territories are inherent parts of Japanese territory, and we should be able to travel freely within Japan. Unfortunately, the reality is that the Northern Territories are under the special situation of unlawful occupation by Russia.
If a Japanese citizen were to go freely to the four northern islands, receive instructions from the Russian police and civil servants, and act in accordance with Russian law, it would be as if the Northern Territories were recognized as Russian territory. It would weaken Japan's position on the Northern Territories.
Therefore, the Government of Japan has urged Japanese citizens not to travel to the Northern Territories in a manner that follows Russian law (i.e., by arranging for a visa to go there).
- Japanese territory:
- Japanese territory that had never been held by another country
3. What kinds of exchange activities are conducted?
Former residents of the four northern islands, irredentists, young people and educators go to the Northern Territories, check the current state of the Northern Territories, and interact with Russians living on the four northern islands. In addition, Russians living on the four northern islands are invited to Japan to experience Japanese culture, visit industrial facilities, and interact with locals.
Here are photos of the main exchange programs.
Japanese and Russian people visit each other’s homes to deepen exchanges while eating together.
Japanese culture is introduced to deepen exchanges.
Exchanges of opinion
A wide range of opinions are exchanged on the Northern Territories issue, as well as on problems of education, the environment, and garbage.
4. How to get to the Northern Territories
You can't travel freely to the Northern Territories. There are no planes or ships that regularly go there.
Accordingly, in the case of visa-free exchanges, a ship is chartered to go to the Northern Territories.