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  • Japan Times Zeit Gist on how NJ can participate in Japanese elections

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on June 24th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  In an article cited in yesterday’s blog post, we had some xenophobe who organizes anti-NJ-suffrage campaigns saying:

    “I’m not prejudiced against foreigners, but the law states that foreigners must not take part in election campaigns.”

    There goes a typical zealot making a typically empty unresearched claim.  According to the Japan Times this week, NJ can indeed take part in election campaigns.  Excerpt:


    Can’t vote? No problem, you’re empowered!
    Sure, we foreigners don’t have the right to vote (yet), but we can still get involved. Here’s how to make yourself heard


    What are you planning to do with yourself this summer? If you’re Japanese, have you given any thought to the country’s upcoming Upper House elections?

    Here’s a more intriguing question: If you are non-Japanese, have you given any thought to the upcoming Upper House elections? Hmm, I can just imagine many of you readers out there thinking, “Intriguing?! What’s so intriguing? I don’t even have the right to vote!”

    Well, okay, you’re right — you don’t. But haven’t you learned by now that it’s often better to look at the positives of a situation instead of the negatives? As you’re about to see, the wide range of roles Japan’s foreign residents are allowed to play in the country’s political activities and elections offer a surprisingly good opportunity to practice what we fondly refer to as “glass half-full” thinking.

    We CAN get involved!

    Although foreign residents may not be able to actually cast votes in elections, there are quite a few other things that we can do to involve ourselves in Japan’s political “machine” — and they are all legal. This tidbit of knowledge may come as somewhat of a surprise to Japanese and non-Japanese readers alike, but I assure you that it’s all verifiable in black-and-white. Well, to be totally honest, you’ll find this truth “told” more in white than black, as the Election Law is much more revealing in terms of what is not written on its pages than what is. The point is simply this: Although the law doesn’t directly state that foreign residents can participate in political and electoral activities, it also does not prohibit us from doing so. You can check it out for yourself; the Free Choice Foundation has posted the election rules in English on its Web site at or you can call the Election Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to hear it straight from the powers that be. The bureaucrats will be happy to tell you that, other than not being able to make political donations, residents of Japan are immune from discrimination of any kind — including by nationality — regarding participation in electoral activities.

    Rest of the article at


    COMMENT:  I’ve done it.  It’s fun.  Give it a try.  And get your voice heard that way.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    5 Responses to “Japan Times Zeit Gist on how NJ can participate in Japanese elections”

    1. Joe Jones Says:

      There are Supreme Court precedents which indicate that foreigners have no constitutional rights to participate in politics, but since there are no government rules saying we can’t (other than voting and donation laws) it just means that the government retains the right to shut us out in the future.

    2. crustpunker Says:

      Right! Well, problem solved then no? Looks like we can vote after all! Great news! Also, does anyone know what the constitution says about taxation without representation? I’m being serious. Is there any specific passage that details that ALL foreign workers in Japan are subject to pay income tax on any wage paid by an employer in Japan? Just wondering if that is actually spelled out in black and white too.

    3. Eido Inoue Says:

      The last person in Japan I would listen to for advice on what is & isn’t legal in Japan is the JT article author, Ronald Kessler.

      If you all remember, Ronald Kessler is the man who ran a web site ( which suggested to non-Japanese that you can use FRAUD (changing your registered ward/city by falsifying your residence) so you can buy his gap health insurance (what he calls “private health insurance” to deemphasize that it’s not considered adequate coverage)

      More info here:

    4. Chris B Says:

      I am sure I have read somewhere that NJ are not allowed to take part in demonstrations at the very least, although I thought it said political activities. I suspect this may have been on some literature I received when applying for a teaching visa 10 years ago. Perhaps it was a visa specific prohibition and wouldn’t effect those on spouse visas etc…

      I hope I am wrong, anyone else familiar with this?

    5. Tom R. Says:

      “…other than not being able to make political donations…”

      Well that’s pretty much being excluded from the whole Japanese political process in a nutshell right there. If residents can’t make donations that’s as good as excluding them.

      Flimsy article that positively spins the situation in Japan and in my opinion is like putting ‘whipped cream on shit’. Pardon my French.

      The system still isn’t reformed.

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