Photo/Illutration Japanese passports (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan’s passport is the best in the world for a fifth year standing, according to the annual “passport index” released on Jan. 10 by the British consultancy Henley and Partners.

The index ranks passports from 199 countries and regions based on the number of destinations their holders can access without a visa.

It uses data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to make the comparison.

Japanese passport holders can access 193 of the 227 cities that the index covers without first obtaining a visa, according to the consultancy.

Passports from South Korea and Singapore, which give their users visa-free access to 192 cities, tied for second place.

Then come passports from Germany and Spain, which allow holders to visit 190 cities without a visa.

Afghanistan’s passport sits at the bottom of the ranking, as it only gives its holders access to 27 cities without a visa.

Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley and Partners, said the index provides insight into economic disparity around the world and the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

He said the total gross domestic product of the nations that Japanese passport holders can access without first obtaining a visa accounts for 98 percent of the world’s GDP.

But by contrast, the total GDP of countries and regions that Afghanistan passport holders can visit without a visa make up less than 1 percent of the world’s GDP.

While the ranking shows the high level of confidence given to Japanese passports, only a small proportion of the Japanese population has them.

According to the Foreign Ministry’s statistics on passports published in February last year, the government had issued around 24.4 million passports, including official passports for civil servants and Diet members for their public duties in foreign countries.

The figure is only around 20 percent of Japan’s population of 125 million.