Dejima Award #9: Again to Japan Rugby Football Union, for classifying naturalized Japanese players as “foreign”, in violation of Japan Nationality Law.


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Hi Blog.  Consider this litmus test of “Japaneseness”:  Are you “Japanese enough” to play for the national team?  Not if you naturalized.  Read on, then I’ll comment:


Japan Rugby Football Union
JRFU rules certain Japan passport holders will be regarded as non-Japanese
Sep. 26 2020 By Rich Freeman. Courtesy of lots of people.’t-be-treated-as-locals

TOKYO (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.’

Both Karauria-Henry and Bourke are being considered for Japan’s Olympics sevens team because the Olympic Charter defines a different set of eligibility conditions for naturalized citizens.

Ota said that the ruling could not be changed immediately as “it was not possible for teams to change their budgets and contracts ahead of the new (Top League) season,” which is set to start in January 2021.

The only thing the union did agree to change, for now, was the names of the player categories to remove any discriminatory terms such as Japanese, foreigner and Asian, and replace them with Category A, B, C etc.

“This does not affect the eligibility of the players and is nothing more than a cosmetic change,” said a source who had knowledge of the meetings between the players and the union.

Ota said the rule would be reviewed before Japan’s new league kicks off by early 2022, but that did not appease Ross. The 35-year-old became a citizen in 2017, having started the process in 2015 before the rule took effect.

The eight-time All Black was recently released by NTT Communications Shining Arcs after nine seasons, in part because his continued status as a non-Japanese means he only got limited playing time.

He is particularly upset that clubs are making use of the “eligible to play for Japan” status, even though many of those to whom it applies have no intention of playing for the national team.

World Rugby regulations state that a previously uncapped player must reside in a country for at least three years before they can play for it. But the JRFU deems anyone who has not played for another test team eligible for Japan.

“We had a player at NTT who was in Japan for just two years. He kept a Japanese player out of the starting team even though he himself was never going to play for Japan,” said Ross. “And yet someone who has shown their commitment to Japan like me has shown loyalty and benefited the Japanese game is being punished.”

Hideki Niizuma, a lawmaker in the House of Councilors, said the ruling was wrong.

“It is unreasonable that a player with Japanese nationality due to naturalization must be registered as a foreign player just because he has a history of representing a foreign country,” he told Kyodo News by email.

The 50-year-old Komeito party member, who played rugby at the University of Tokyo, said he would be seeking the opinion of “specialized agencies and experts such as the Japan Sports Law Association and the Japan Sports Arbitration Agency.”

While Bourke and Karauria-Henry look set to carry on in a league run by a union that, as Bourke puts it, “sees me as a foreigner but at the same time Japanese enough” to play for the hosts at the next Olympics, Ross is forced to continue his career overseas.

“The JRFU’s motto of ‘One Team’ and the Top League’s ‘For All’ aren’t consistent with their actions,” he said.


COMMENT:  All this hair-splitting aside, 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, regardless of whatever career path you take (or how many “real Japanese” get shut out of NTT).

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 Olympic figure-skating siblings to be “naturalized” (despite 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.  Gotta protect the Kokutai of the “Kami no Kuni” (not to mention “bolster the strength of the national team”) from foreign impurities, after all.  (As seen above, JRFU already had the Apartheid system of classifying athletes as “Japanese, foreigner and Asian”, performatively preserved as “Category A, B, C etc.” Phew, that’s much better!)

So once again, we are in a position to award a rare “ 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.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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22 comments on “Dejima Award #9: Again to Japan Rugby Football Union, for classifying naturalized Japanese players as “foreign”, in violation of Japan Nationality Law.

  • What’s more remarkable is that this is the third award in ten months when before that there was a pause of several years. It seems that more racist backlash against the demographic development of recent years built up more or less underground and is coming out of the sewers now.

    • How is a country so racist and so backwards allowed to host an event as big as the Olympics in the 21st century while policies of banning permanent residents and othering their own naturalised citizens are still so rampant? Pathetic.

  • Japan didn’t deserve to host the Rugby World Cup and it doesn’t deserve to host the Olympics (or maybe it does, since the Olympics is a millstone around taxpayers necks?).
    Either way, where are all the international media who gushed over last year’s ‘Brave Blossoms’ rugby team as proof that Japan is ‘changing’ and ‘embracing diversity’?
    They’ve got nothing to say suddenly because Naomi Osaka is this year’s propaganda lie about Japan’s ‘diversity’.

  • @Jaocnanoni – Your point is very well taken. Having lived through all of this my perspective is this really took a big turn when the most recent Abe administrative started and accelerated exponentially.

    What is sad is I have many Japanese friends, colleagues, and employees who I like very much and I hate to see what the government is doing to Japan.

    The people I deal with for the most part are in a technical field with a great deal of international exposure and several of them recognize how destructive these policies are for Japan. It is sad to watch.

  • It’s the old jingoistic playbook, isn’t it? Use ‘foreigners’ when it benefits the wajin establishment (‘foreigners’ defined as anyone who is genetically different or has had any influence outside the main islands) and throw them away at your earliest convenience. Any public figure even advocating for this in a European or North American country would be justly accused of white supremacy.

    As Dr. Arudou pointed out a while ago, Naomi Osaka might meet the same fate if she starts losing (not that I want her to). I suspect she doesn’t want to speak out about Japanese racism because unlike BLM, which has a lot of support in the US and worldwide, even hints at this type of issue in Japan are largely discredited by the powers that be and severely frowned upon by the public. She might lose her sponsors and the support of the wider public which would cast her away just as another troublesome foreigner.

  • Can someone explain to me why Japan even has a constitution? The constitution states that naturalized citizenship is the same as having citizenship since birth and that there is no second class citizenship. Yet organizations like the Rugby and Sumo Federation can just easily break the constitution. And don‘t even get me started on the Abe government and how they broke the constitution by allowing the Self Defense Forces to fight in foreign wars. Why even bother having a constitution if everyone can just do the exact opposite without any punishment? LDP and Nippon Kaigi have even been pretty open about how they view the constitution. They see it as something that has been forced upon them by the US, therefore they don‘t respect it. They can try to pretend how they respect the constitution infront of an international audience, but everyone who‘s stayed in Japan longer than 1 year knows how weak the constitution in Japan really is and that the government isn‘t acting according to it at all.

    • GaijinLivesMatter says:

      FWIW, “The constitution states that naturalized citizenship is the same as having citizenship since birth” is wrong, as there is no reference to either naturalized citizenship or citizenship since birth in the Japanese constitution. This blog correctly identifies the relevant law as the Nationality Law (国籍法 in Japanese). It is true that there is a faction within the LDP who don’t like certain large swaths of text in the constitution (not the entire party, mind you, or the multiple attempts to amend it would not have consistently failed), but hardly any of that has anything to do with citizenship, and the constitution certainly has very little if anything to say about membership restrictions in sporting organizations.

      I really hate having to write this because it sounds like I’m disagreeing with you on the “substance” of the discussion, but I just felt the need to call out such a blatant error as it makes the rest of us look bad when such errors are allowed to stand without correction.

      • Sorry, I probably should have written more carefully. You’re correct the constitution doesn’t state anything about naturalized citizens, but that’s not really what I meant (yeah, I know, it’s my fault for expressing my views badly). What I meant is that the constitution states: “The conditions necessary for being a Japanese national shall be determined by law.” and “The people shall not be prevented from enjoying any of the fundamental human rights. These fundamental human rights guaranteed to the people by this Constitution shall be conferred upon the people of this and future generations as eternal and inviolate rights.”

        “The people” in the second quote being “kokumin” in the Japanese version of course. Therefore according to the constitution, all citizens are equal and should enjoy equal treatment, it doesn’t matter if they’re naturalized or gained citizenship by birth. Sure, the constitution doesn’t directly state that there is no second class citizenship (I shouldn’t have written my original comment like that and I’m sorry), but it does state that all citizens should have equal rights. And according to the Nationality Law naturalized citizens are Japanese nationals, just like everyone who gained citizenship by birth. This isn’t just about membership in a sports organization, naturalized citizens can still be members of the Rugby federation, the point is that the federation counts them as foreigners. This means that while the government of Japan recognizes them as full citizens with all the rights that citizens have, the rugby federation doesn’t. I’m not a lawyer, but this should be unconstitutional and illegal.

        About the LDP, I’m aware that not all members think like that, but the right wing Abe and Nippon Kaigi fraction that has been leading the country for the 8 years do so. They have been very clear what they think about Article 9 and things like human, women and minority rights, especially in education. They see all of this as “western values” which were forced onto Japan after WW2.

        Let’s quote former Justice Minister Jinen Nagase on this issue: “The people’s sovereignty, basic human rights, and pacifism ― these three are the postwar regime itself imposed by MacArthur on Japan, therefore we have to get rid of them to make the constitution on our own.”

        So you have a former justice minister who doesn’t believe in human rights and people’s sovereignty. And it’s not just him who thinks like that of course, but he’s one of the few who says it directly in public. The LDP published a paper on their vision of the constitution a few years ago and it definitely limited some human rights, while giving the government more power, but I’m not getting into that now, because as you correctly stated already it doesn’t have to do anything with citizenship and it would just derail the conversation. The reason why constitutional amendments failed is because the US deliberately made it extremely hard to amend the constitution. You need a national referendum first and after that a 2/3 majority in both houses of the Diet. It doesn’t mean that the current LDP leadership isn’t supporting constitutional change, because most of them do.

        To end this, you don’t have to feel bad for writing that comment, or even disagreeing with me (even though you didn’t really disagree with me). I’m always open for discussion as long as it’s constructive, which on it pretty much always. And I definitely acknowledge that I phrased my original comment very badly. In retrospect I definitely shouldn’t have phrased it like that because it looks like I claim that the constitution directly talks about naturalized citizenship which isn’t true. Hopefully this comment here makes clear what I actually meant. I thank you for the correction on that issue and making other readers of Debito look bad, was definitely not my intention and I’m sorry if it came across that way.

        • Baudrillard says:

          “western values”? Sounds like something the Chinese CP would reject.
          Just the petty “revenge” of an insecure man who thinkks memory of Granpa Nobusukebe has been slighted.
          Fortunately he still couldnt change the constitution..or maybe they think they dont need to as they ignore it anyway, with impunity.

          I feel sorry for Japanese people who think they are ostensibly living in a country with human rights, equality etc. Ie they believe the consitution.
          Stalin wrote a constitution like that too. It was very nice indeed,…in words but not in practice. J. Arch Getty (1991). “State and Society Under Stalin: Constitutions and Elections in the 1930s”. Slavic Review. Vol. 50. No. 1. pp. 18—35.

    • well, some claim the constitution was foisted on them in the first place. It’s window dressing because all of the arms of government work on a basis of Confucianism. The “erai” people dictate what the law is to the commoners. Look at the Glen Wood case about the Canadian guy in Japan who sued Mitsubishi Morgan Stanley in Japan for harassment and lost. The court accepted everything MMS said and nothing that Glen Wood said. MMS was clearly in the wrong, but the court already decided who was going to win. Compare this with the Japanese guy in New York who sued the US branch of the same company for similar harassment and won. Japanese laws are window dressing.

      — Can we have some links to these cases just for the record?

      • Certainly, sorry I didn’t put links in my original post.

        For the whole story of Glen Woods’ alleged harassment (read the story and see that it cannot be interpreted as anything other than harassment) see

        For the Japanese American guy who sued in New York. Glenn mentions him as a supporter in the link I gave above. I’m having trouble finding much info about him, because I guess that means MMS settled out of court with non-disclosure agreements so the story never makes it to the press. Anyway, the gist of it was that he was a Japanese American who was being ridiculed in an extremely contumelious manner by his native Japanese superiors for his lack of perfect Japanese language ability. And this all happened at the New York branch.

        Native Japanese language ability. When it’s the only thing you have, you prize it above all else. amirite?

      • Here is another source regarding the Japanese American plaintiff in New York:

        “More than a dozen supporters showed up outside the court on Wednesday, some holding signs saying, “Zero tolerance for workplace harassment in Japan.”

        Another person who testified during the hearing was Scott, or Shunsuke, Fujii, a former vice president at MUFG Securities, the U.S. arm of Wood’s former employer.

        Fujii has settled his own harassment lawsuit against MUFG. It alleged discrimination based on his race and national origin as a Japanese-American and demanded damages for emotional pain, humiliation and suffering.

        Fujii, speaking in English with an interpreter, said he and his colleagues weren’t informed Wood had gone on paternity leave.

        “We were told things like he went missing,” he told the court.

        After Wood returned to work, Fujii said he noticed Wood was getting cut off on conference calls when he would make suggestions and was generally treated with disrespect.

        Fujii’s lawsuit, filed in a federal New York district court last year, said that despite positive appraisals he was derided for his lack of Japanese language skills and was ridiculed as a “gaijin,” or “foreigner.”

        The company later fired him, saying it needed to cut costs and streamline its operations. But he was the only one laid off, according to the lawsuit. The company denied the allegations.”

  • And while I’m at it, where are all their colleagues, all the Japanese players who played with foreign born NJ to win games?

  • Calling Baye McNeil who is more likely than most of us to be able to contact Naomi Osaka – what does she have to say about this? It is way out of line and it is yes, discriminatory and can be called racist as Japanese citizens are not being treated the same as other Japanese citizens.

    Time for Naomi Osaka to stand up when there is not the mainstream media, social media and a whole array of corporations and organisations on her side plus many of the public. Time for Naomi Osaka to start talking about racism in Japan and this issue specifically.

    However, I think she will do her usual take the easy way out and talk til the end of the world about racism in the USA while ignoring it in the country of Japan as a Japanese citizen. No public speaking out about by this Naomi Osaka – no credibility. ‘Oh but she doesn’t know..’ Well, she should. She is Japanese and she and her family made a big deal out of her being Japanese, ‘She feels Japanese’.

    How about feeling like a brave and fair Japanese person Naomi Osaka even if it might bring you into conflict with corporate sponsors in Japan? We know the American ones think it’s fine for you to speak out – it matters more in Japan as it does take moral courage and a real commitment against the mainstream.

    • Maybe when Osaka says she “feels Japanese” its actually a foreign take on outdated views of what it means to be Japanese? Like that Aussie music agency in Tokyo that don’t do written contracts “because its not the Japanese way!” Needless to say, they always underpaid people, claiming oral misunderstandings.

      So maybe Naomi feels its “not the Japanese way” to criticize racism in Japan? One of those NJs trying to be more Japanese than the Japanese, and putting themselves lower on the hierarchy by thinking they have to be silent and humble in order to fit in?

      I also read something once about how Japanese have had constitutionally enshrined Free Speech but it is not used in practice.
      Ditto the old, “I cant give one month’s notice but maybe my boss will let me resign this year” (wtf). I.e. perceived J-way of doing things trumping their actual legal rights. Or, “Japan doesnt need a jury system, the judge is a good person and will do the right thing” (though I am happy to report the rest of the room loudly and vociferously opposed the naivety of the happy go lucky person who made that carefree comment).

      As Osaka left Japan aged three, she may be viewing Japan through these commonly foreign held out dated cliches, and similarly surrender human rights (other peoples’, not hers of course) to “fit in” as a Japanese.

      — There might be something to that. Case in point: My ex-wife’s aunt (who left Japan around shortly after the Korean War to marry an American soldier) was always “more Japanese than the Japanese” whenever she came back to Japan, fearful of doing anything that might “offend” anyone (including switching on a fan in a hot onsen lounge; I was the one who eventually switched it on, saying to her, “Why do you think that fan is there in the first place?”). And she really enforced that paranoia on her daughter (my former cousin), who approached every trip to Japan like a kitten picking her way through a minefield.

      It’s entirely possible that Naomi’s mother is just as paranoid (even though it’s a generation or more’s difference). We’ll probably never know, but I’ve seen firsthand the immigrant’s parents’ attitude towards “the old country” as either outdated or simply unreflective of reality, and how it affects the next generation.

      • Dr Debito, thanks for the thoughtful comment. Indeed, a study of attitudes (sorry, dont have source) found that female Americans of Japanese descent were in fact the most “traditional” in attitude toward Japan, as opposed to younger Japanese in Japan. I.e. they had retained conservative values in the diaspora. I recall a Japanese American salesman, on being shouted at by the Japanese elder boss, as saying that wasnt “Japanese” behaviour as he had been brought up (in America by his Nissei parents) on the stereotype that Japanese dont confront, don’t shout etc.
        And yet here was a 75 year old Japanese man in Japan telling him off directly. Did. Not. Compute.
        -“the old country” as either outdated or simply unreflective of reality,
        Which dovetails with postmodernist simulacra theories, that the “map” describing the reality is outdated and not accurate of the reality one encounters. Thus, e.g. “We Japanese are never late, keep appointments blah blah” as the newbie sensei sold on the illusions of Japan is wondering why so many of the students no show or Dotta Kyan by cellphone 5 minutes before the lesson.

      • Baudrillard says:

        A metaphor for how Free Speech is there but not used in Japan; the fan is provided, but not used (for fear of inconveniencing someone).

        The facilities are there for window dressing, so that Japan appears modern, western, democratic etc, but everyone still uses faxes and hanko, etc.
        I have seen many signs in Japan which everyon ejust ignores, or are just meaningless decoration. Now that’s Post Modern taken to extremes!

  • realitycheck says:

    Speaking on this Dejima Award 9, I tthink 10 is also deserved by the Abe sorry Suga, seems to be no difference, Government.

    Apparently foreign residents of Japan yet again have to be singled out as possibly not deserving any rights despite being citizens in a relative few cases, being PR, being married to a Japanse person, having kids born in Japan, paying taxes and living here or paying into the system in other ways like paying tuition as international students.

    Check out Japan Today’s website. The story about a Covid-19 vaccination being made freely available in Japan puts the usual racist hedging and ring-fencing into discussion. A representative of the health ministry was asked if ‘foreign residents’ would be included in this plan to provide free vaccinations in Japan. Who asked this question?

    Do other countries ask if resident Japanese are able to receive benefits or be part of programs when they are legally residing there and fulfilling their societal obligations? Nasty stuff from the authorities here and from the dog whistler that asked the question. Don’t tell me they are ‘concerned’ – if they are non-discriminatory they would never have asked that question in the first place.

    The health mnistry spokesperson should have replied that this is not an issue about dividing the population of Japan into Japanese and foreigners as separate entities especially as many non Japanese have PR, J spouses, children here, a relative few are citizens, and other non Japanese who don’t come under those categories are legally working and paying taxes or studying and paying into the sytem as well.

    How much longer will the Japanese Government and the society that enables it persist in these outdated and in fact backwards attitudes? Disgusting.

      • Thanks JK, but unfortunately one month later the article has expired and is no longer available. I’m pasting it here for archival (the Mainichi has the exact same article, it’s from the Kyodo news agency).

        Coronavirus vaccination to be given for free in Japan
        October 2, 2020 (Mainichi Japan)

        TOKYO (Kyodo) — Members of the public in Japan will be given a dose of vaccine against the novel coronavirus for free, according to a health ministry policy approved Friday by its advisory panel, in a bid to curb serious and fatal cases of infection.

        The policy addresses the first dose for everyone amid uncertainty at this stage over how many times a vaccine would need to be administered.

        Whether the policy will cover foreign residents in Japan has yet to be officially determined, a ministry official said, while offering his personal opinion that it would be natural to include them for the sake of public health.

        The Japanese government is trying to secure enough vaccines by the first half of 2021 to administer to all members of the public, having earmarked a budget of 671.4 billion yen ($6.4 billion).

        It has agreed with British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. to receive 120 million doses of vaccine from each company when successfully developed, and is also negotiating with U.S. firm Moderna Inc. for 40 million doses or more.

        In case a vaccination causes serious side effects, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to have the state, not companies, redress patients and pay damages through a law revision at an extraordinary Diet session expected to start later this month, it said.

        “Whether the policy will cover foreign residents in Japan has yet to be officially determined, a ministry official said, while offering his personal opinion that it would be natural to include them for the sake of public health.”
        At a loss for words.
        Didn’t find the press conference’s minutes in Japanese, but the English translation is plain as day.

  • This has been going on for decades. There was a soccer player who naturalized and later we hear nothing from him, no coaching of a national team, happened to Sumo folks also. To naturalize means the goal post is just moved further, your now stuck in the room with no stairs or elevator.


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