Kyodo: Three naturalized Japanese citizens found themselves on the wrong side of a decision that essentially restricts their ability to work as professional rugby players in their adopted homeland. The Japan Rugby Football Union on Friday confirmed that the three, including two who are eligible to play for Japan in the Olympics, will continue to be denied Japanese status within the Top League simply because they are not eligible to play for Japan’s national rugby 15s side, the Brave Blossoms.
The purpose of the rule passed in 2016 to restrict Japanese status to those eligible to play for the Brave Blossoms was, according to Top League Chairman Osamu Ota, to bolster the strength of the national team. The argument that it discriminates against Japanese citizens was not enough to sway the JRFU. The ruling leaves former All Black Isaac Ross, ex-New Zealand sevens player Colin Bourke and former Australia sevens player Brackin Karauria-Henry to be treated in the Top-League as ‘non-Japanese.’ “The JRFU’s motto of ‘One Team’ and the Top League’s ‘For All’ aren’t consistent with their actions,” [ex-New Zealand sevens player Colin Bourke] said.
COMMENT: The line to draw is simple: Do you have legal Japanese citizenship or don’t you? If yes, then you are a Japanese, and you are to be treated as one like everyone else. That’s what the Japanese Nationality Law says. And any further caveats or qualifiers render the status (and the entire point) of naturalization in Japan meaningless. Moreover, it is extremely disrespectful towards the naturalized, who are compelled by the Nationality Law to give up any other citizenships. What is the point of that sacrifice if naturalization performatively does not award equality?
Sadly, this decision is not surprising for the Japan Rugby Football Union, given their long history of outright racism. In 2011, they blamed a poor showing in the 2011 Rugby World Cup on “too many foreign-born players on the team”and then ethnically-cleansed their ranks. Japan JFRU former president Mori Yoshiro, an unreconstituted racist (and extremely unpopular former Prime Minister) who considered the Reid figure-skating siblings to be “naturalized” (despite them having Japanese citizenship since birth) and therefore unworthy to represent Japan, just happens to also head up Japan’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic efforts. I have little doubt he had a hand in this. So once again, we are in a position to award a rare “Debito.org Dejima Award”, reserved only for the most head-spinningly obvious examples of racism in Japan, to the JRFU. This is only our ninth awarded, but it’s the second time the JRFU has received it. And four of the nine Dejimas have been for official racism within Japanese sports.
Might it not be time for Japanese-Haitian-American tennis champ Osaka Naomi (already quite vocal over BLM) to consider speaking up against discrimination against her fellow Visible Minorities in Japan’s athletics? Would be nice.