JT: The nationality law officially obliges those who have multiple citizenships by birthright to choose one by the age of 22. But in fact, possibly hundreds of thousands have maintained multiple nationalities and to date the government has never cracked down on any of them. In response to questions over the number of dual nationals, the Justice Ministry confirmed to The Japan Times that some 890,000 people were or are in a position to have dual nationality. This figure is based on official family registries maintained by local municipalities between 1985 and 2016, and includes people who have declared or forfeited Japanese citizenship, as well as people assumed to have multiple nationalities based on their birthright.
“If I were forced to decide which citizenship to retain and which citizenship to relinquish, I would view it as which culture and which nation am I to abandon.” According to a survey conducted by The Japan Times of 1,449 people with dual nationalities, 76.8 percent maintain dual citizenship while 23.2 percent decided to forfeit one of their passports. The same survey showed that 39.5 percent of multiple passport holders “always” switch passports depending on the country they enter, while 37.3 percent “sometimes” switch passports. With the government’s official position becoming more divorced from a globalizing society where a large number of people maintain dual nationalities, many have to rely on word-of-mouth for information on what they see as an important, life-changing decision regarding their citizenship.
COMMENT: This lengthy feature from The Japan Times conducts original research on dual nationality in Japan, and gives vital insights into the game of legal chicken played by the Japanese Government to get people to forfeit their dual nationality (and by extension, part of their identity), all for mere allegiance to the fiction that Japan is monocultural and homogeneous. This suppression of diversity must stop, but few are taking notice. That is, until recently, when it’s become clear that “Japan-Claiming” of diverse Japanese such as Osaka Naomi helps with the other thing the insecure Japanese Government craves: respect and recognition for excellence on the world stage.
That’s why it’s worth revisiting this older JT article. The takeaway is this: As the JT has also recently reported, there is no real penalty from the Japanese Government for not surrendering your non-Japanese nationality: “There have been no reported instances of dual nationals by birth having their citizenship revoked.” So as Debito.org has always advised: Declare Japanese nationality and quietly keep renewing your foreign passport. The foreign government will not tell the Japanese authorities (it’s none of their business), and the Japanese authorities cannot strip you of a foreign nationality (or even confiscate a foreign passport–it’s the property of the foreign government). Only you can give one up. So don’t.