Consular Relations between Russia and Japan

The year 1855 was a very important one for Russian-Japanese diplomatic relations. That was the year in which a Russian diplomatic mission, led by E. V. Putyatin, visited Japan and established formal Russian-Japanese consular relations. Negotiations led to the signing of the first Russian-Japanese treaty, the “Treaty on Trade and Borders” of 1855, commonly known as the Treaty of Shimoda. The Treaty of Shimoda and the subsequent Treaty of 1858 resulted in the establishment of a Russian embassy and consulate in Japan. The treaty stated in part, “the Russian government will appoint a consul in one of the two ports of Hakodate or Shimoda, and Russian consuls will be nominated for the posts in 1856. The location and housing for the consulate should be allotted by the Japanese government and Russians should reside there in accordance with their own customs and laws.”

One of the members of the mission led by E. V. Putyatin, O. A. Goshevich, became the first Russian consul in Japan and the first Russian consulate was built in Hakodate in 1860. This building, which was later remodeled, is still standing today.

E. K. Byutsov, who had been born into a family of diplomats, became the first consul-general and charge-d’affaires, in 1871. The first ambassador was K. V. Struve.

At the current time, in addition to the Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in Japan, Russian Consulates General are located in Osaka, Niigata, and Sapporo and at a branch office of the Sapporo Consulate, located in Hakodate. Japanese consular services are provided by the Consular Section of the Embassy of Japan in Moscow, and by the Consulates General in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

In terms of the existing allocation of consular districts, between these consular institutions, parity in mutual consular representation corresponds in general to the volume and geography of the existing bilateral ties.

The legal basis for Russian-Japanese relations is the bilateral consular Convention on Consular Relations of 1966. Further building on this international legal instrument, a number of agreements, covering various areas of cooperation with Japan, on the consular track, have been signed.

The initiation of Russian-Japanese political dialogue, as well as the inherent desire on the part of both sides to find solutions to existing problems, in a constructive, mutually beneficial manner, has paved the way for significant advances in our relations in the consular sphere.

Specifically, an Agreement on the issuing of multiple-entry visas to employees of foreign policy departments, accredited in Russia and Japan, or actively involved in Russian-Japanese relations, is now successfully operating; an Agreement to expedite the issuing of visas for humanitarian reasons is now being consistently enforced; and the number of multiple-entry visas issued to members of the business community from both countries is increasing.

Culminating many years of work, on the consular track, an Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of Japan on simplifying the procedures for issuing visas to the citizens of both countries was signed on January 28, 2012. The provisions of the Agreement are expected to come into force soon after the completion of all the required procedures. These will greatly simplify the procedure for issuing visas to various categories of citizens from both countries. The Agreement permits an increase of up to three years in the duration of multiple entry visas, which will tangibly enhance bilateral ties.