Japan Times: “Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional”. Debito.org makes the case for why banning dual nationality is unrealistic, not to mention just plain stupid, with an excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism”.


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Hi Blog. First this article, then a comment:


Fukuoka court rules ban on dual nationality is constitutional
Yuri Kondo (center), the plaintiff of a dual nationality case, speaks during a news conference Wednesday in the city of Fukuoka after the Fukuoka District Court handed down a ruling on her case.
BY ANIKA OSAKI EXUM, The Japan Times, Dec 6, 2023
Courtesy of lots of people, including Dave Spector
Discussion already underway on Debito.org in an earlier blog post Comments section here.

FUKUOKA – The Fukuoka District Court ruled Wednesday that Japan’s law that bans dual nationality is constitutional, rejecting an argument by a Japan-born plaintiff who lost her Japanese citizenship after she naturalized as an American.

Yuri Kondo, 76, had argued that the nationality law — which stipulates that Japanese nationals will lose their citizenship if they become a citizen of a foreign country — undermines fundamental human rights to pursue happiness, self-determination, and identity, as guaranteed under the Constitution.

While the nationality law was deemed constitutional, presiding Judge Fumitaka Hayashi said the wish of the individual who would lose their nationality should be considered as it is part of a person’s identity.

Hayashi also touched on the fact that since the nationality law was last revised in 1984, the number of countries allowing dual nationality has increased from one-third to three-quarters worldwide, reflecting a change in global attitudes.

“It is worth considering allowing individuals to remain dual nationals and giving them a certain period of time to choose a nationality, as proposed by the plaintiffs,” said Hayashi.

Born and raised in Japan, Kondo spent nearly four decades working and raising a family in the United States. She became a U.S. citizen in 2004.

After traveling back and forth between her home countries with both nationalities for years, she was flagged as being a dual citizen in 2017 — first at a passport office in Tokyo, where her passport was confiscated and her application rejected, and then by airport immigration officials when they realized she was exiting Japan with an American passport that had no entrance stamp.

Today, Kondo only has an American passport. She hasn’t reapplied to renew her Japanese one, fearing it would be denied again. However, she still retains her Japanese family registry and she also hasn’t received any follow-ups from the government asking her to formally withdraw one of her nationalities.

Kondo returned in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has remained in Fukuoka ever since. She feared she might not be able to return to Japan if she left and now fears that she’ll face punishment for overstaying while her citizenship status remains in limbo.

During her time as a lawyer in the U.S., Kondo was consulted by many Japanese people living overseas facing similar situations. So, in hopes of advocating not only for herself but for many others too, she filed the lawsuit in 2022 questioning the constitutionality of the nationality law, its lack of procedure and the harm it’s caused to people who have Japanese roots.

After hearing the Fukuoka court’s ruling Wednesday, Kondo admitted she felt a bit deflated.

“In a way, I thought ‘Again?’” she said, referencing a recent ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the dismissal of another dual nationality case filed in Tokyo.

Kondo questioned the part of the ruling where it was stated that Japan permits the opportunity to choose a nationality. Many people — including those from whom she receives emails for consultation — are unaware that choosing another citizenship means they will automatically lose their Japanese citizenship, as in her case, she said.

Japanese law prohibits citizens from having more than one nationality after the age of 20. But when it comes to the requirements and enforcement surrounding those rules, the process is murky at best.

In September, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal on a separate dual nationality case, involving eight plaintiffs currently living in Europe, which questioned the law’s constitutionality.

The Supreme Court rejected the basis of the appeal, upholding the original district court dismissal of the case that stated the law works to prevent “friction” that could arise from having dual nationality. The lower court ruling also noted that Japan still allows the freedom to change nationality.

Lawyers, some of whom are also working on Kondo’s case, said that the Supreme Court’s dismissal didn’t include a sufficient rationale behind the decision and requested a retrial.

With the Fukuoka court ruling though, Kondo’s lawyers felt there was significant progress in the court’s choice of words, as it mentioned the significance of Japanese nationality being the basis of one’s human rights and identity.

“For the first time, (the ruling) clearly stated that an individual’s intention must be respected to the fullest extent possible if they were to lose their citizenship,” lawyer Teruo Naka said. “I believe this is tremendously significant and this verdict signals significant progress in certain areas.”

There are currently multiple ongoing lawsuits against the government concerning Japan’s dual nationality law. Other cases include one filed in Tokyo that involves a child who was stripped of Japanese citizenship after the child’s parents applied for the child’s British passport, and another in Kyoto by a Japanese person who obtained Canadian citizenship. ENDS

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Most arguments made by the Japanese Government dovetail around the idea that people will be somehow confused in terms of national allegiances if they have more than one nationality. For what if Japan went to war with the country you have a second passport for? Where would your allegiances lie?

Crafting public policy merely on the basis of hypotheticals is not the best way to make laws. As noted above in the article, the number of countries allowing dual nationality is in fact increasing (“the number of countries allowing dual nationality has increased from one-third to three-quarters worldwide“), as more people around the world travel, resettle, immigrate, marry, and have multinational children as well as lives.  Forcing them to give up their other nationality is to force them to give up part of their identity — a completely unnecessary and moreover psychologically damaging move just for the sake of bureaucratic convenience.  And that’s before we get into issues of arbitrary enforceability, as discussed below.

The increase in diversity should be reflected in laws to accommodate reality.  Instead, we have pig-headed J politicians who can’t imagine a life beyond their own experiences (with the exception of the LDP’s Kouno Taro, who actually argued for dual nationality, albeit to coat the Kokutai in more glory, not for the sake of the individual’s identity) and refuse to legislate reality into reality.  And that feeds into a hidebound judiciary that claim they can only enforce the law as it’s written (even presiding Judge Hayashi above expressed regret at that).

To finish up, let me excerpt from my book “Embedded Racism” on this topic.  It’ll make the case about why public policy is as stupid as it is as best I can.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.


From Arudou, Debito, “Embedded Racism:  Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books, 2nd Edition, pp 117-122, plus footnotes)

Legal Renunciation/Revocation of Japanese Citizenship and Wajin Privilege

Japan’s Nationality Law also allows for renunciation and unilateral revocation of citizenship, which may happen, for example, because dual nationality is not permitted. According to Articles 14 through 16, if a child has two nationalities, the child must have surrendered one of them with written proof to the Ministry of Justice by age 22). If not done promptly and correctly, the Law states that criminal penalties, including revocation of Japanese citizenship, can apply. Also, according to the Law, kokumin who take out (or choose) another citizenship must also declare it to the Government of Japan (GOJ) and renounce Japanese citizenship.[i]

            However, people who can claim blood ties to Japan’s Wajin majority enjoy significant privilege under the Nationality Law. Notwithstanding the entitlement-by-blood privileges that are the definition of a jus sanguinis system, Nikkei persons of Japanese descent get a faster track for obtaining nationality (Article 6), and even former citizens get special Wajin privileges after renunciation (Article 17, neither of which happen, for example, under United States’ nationality laws).[ii] Moreover, Wajin children of international marriages often keep dual nationality beyond the age of 22 due to unenforced regulations.[iii]

That said, the GOJ has been given more latitude in recent years to put Japan’s international children on legal tenterhooks: In 2015, the Supreme Court creatively interpreted Article 12 to allow the unilateral revocation of Japanese citizenship for clerical errors in cases where Japanese children were born overseas; and in 2021, a lower court ruled that citizens discovered with dual passports beyond the age of 22 can be stripped of their Japanese nationality at the GOJ’s discretion.[iv] Naturally, this incentivizes adults with international backgrounds to suppress their diversity in favor of Japan’s pure-blooded monoethnic narrative.[v]

An Example of Wajin Privilege and Politics under the Nationality Law: The Alberto and Aritomi Fujimori Cases

An instructive case of Wajin privilege under the Nationality Law is that of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori,[vi] born in Peru to two Japan-born émigré Wajin parents. Fujimori was reportedly a dual citizen of Japan and Peru due to his parents registering him in Kumamoto from within Peru as a child (more on Japan’s registry systems below). In 2000, after a decade in office laden with allegations of corruption and human rights abuses,[vii] Fujimori infamously resigned his presidency via a Tōkyō hotel room fax and declared himself a Japanese citizen. Despite holding public office overseas, in contravention of Nationality Law Article 16.2, Fujimori received a Japanese passport weeks later (when most applications can take a year or two to process).[viii] Then, despite international arrest warrants, Fujimori was not extradited, and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle with his fellow naturalized brother-in-law Aritomi[ix] in Tōkyō’s high society until 2005.[x] Although the media assigned cause to political connections, e.g., “favorit[ism] among conservative politicians… enamored with the idea of a man with Japanese ancestry reaching political heights abroad,”[xi] Fujimori’s case is nevertheless one of privilege.[xii] This is in contrast to scenarios under Japan’s nationality regime where even half-Wajin children caught in bureaucratic registration dilemmas (such as being born of one North Korean parent)[xiii]have been rendered stateless due to geopolitical conceits, with legal protections of no country.

Supreme Court 2008 Interpretation of the Nationality Law: Human Rights in Japan Predicated upon having Japanese Citizenship

Other recent developments have made clear that human and civil rights in Japan are connected to having Japanese citizenship. Japan’s Supreme Court, in a landmark decision in June 2008, declared unconstitutional a clause in Article 3 requiring acknowledgment of Wajin paternity through marriage. That is to say, enforcement of the Nationality Law could no longer deny Japanese nationality to a child of a non-citizen woman and a Wajin man who had been born out of wedlock (or else had not been properly registered before birth). The Supreme Court’s express legal reasoning behind declaring this situation unconstitutional was, inter alia, that a lack of Japanese nationality is the cause of discrimination, and that obtaining Japanese nationality is essential for basic human rights to be guaranteed in Japan.[xiv] This systematic linkage between rights and citizenship has also been reaffirmed in pinpoint examples, such as the GOJ’s biased Prime Ministerial Cabinet surveys of human rights in Japan;[xv] and, famously, a police prosecutor in Saga Prefecture bravely admitted in 2011, “We were taught that… foreigners have no human rights” when under police detention and interrogation.[xvi]

At this juncture, it is important to emphasize the embedded discourse behind the Supreme Court’s legal reasoning here: Human rights in Japan are not linked to being human; they are linked to holding Japanese citizenship.[xvii] That is the crux of this research. That means the process of granting, restricting, or denying citizenship to select people is the gatekeeping mechanism any nation-state has over the enforcement of civil and political rights and privileges. However, as will be described below, the systemic granting of special privileges to people with Wajin blood ties also embeds a racialized framework behind equal protection under the law. It is the essential ideology justifying a structurally unequal treatment of non-kokumin at all other levels of society.

Japan’s Nationality Law from an International Comparative Perspective: Becoming An Outlier

Although the gatekeeping mechanism of naturalization is available to any nation-state through its citizenship laws, Kashiwazaki (2000) offers a comparative perspective of structural inequality in Japan’s citizenship rules:

In the 1980s and 1990s, laws regulating nationality and citizenship were revised in immigrant-receiving countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, where nationality transmission was mainly based on jus sanguinis (by parentage). These revisions eased criteria for acquiring nationality by first-generation, long-term resident aliens as well as by the second and subsequent generations. Major types of legal administrative changes include introduction or expansion of the as-of-right acquisition of citizenship [i.e., Japan has no “as-of-right acquisition” system; anyone who was not attributed Japanese citizenship by birth must go through the process of naturalization]; double jus soli, by which the third generation obtains citizenship automatically; and toleration for dual nationality… [On the other hand], there is no unified, coherent policy that could be called the Japanese citizenship policy (436-7).

Kashiwazaki also cites five characteristics of how Japan is distinctive in restricting access to citizenship: 1) Jus sanguinisonly for nationality transmission, with no concession made for former “Commonwealth”-style colonial historical ties, 2) tight border control, 3) strict naturalization rules that only go through the Ministry of Justice, 4) a close relationship between nationality and family registry, and 5) restrictive access to Permanent Residency status (437-47).

Now that we have established the barriers to becoming a kokumin, let us proceed to the second hurdle for national membership as a national: how kokumin are officially registered as citizens, and, conversely, how non-citizens have been officially excluded as residents of Japan.


[i] Independent researcher and translator William Wetherall disputes this research’s interpretation of “renunciation” on his website (www.wetherall.sakura.ne.jp/yoshabunko///nationality/Dual_nationality.html), writing as of 2017 that the converse, dual nationality, is “not forbidden, unpreventable, and tacitly permitted,” because the GOJ works under a “pragmatic recognition of its inability to force Japanese nationals to renounce other nationalities.” He disputes the GOJ’s power of revocation under the Nationality Law between the semantics of “abandoning” (hōki) versus “revoking” (ridatsu) versus “choosing” (sentaku) Japanese nationality. In other words, in Wetherall’s reading, as far as the GOJ is concerned, the only issue is the “choice” or “revocation” of Japanese nationality, not the “revocation” or “abandonment” of foreign nationalities, so the GOJ has no power to force dual nationals to “abandon” foreign and “choose” Japanese.

That said, the Nationality Law nevertheless officially demands the “choice” of Japanese nationality only, and does not allow citizens to “choose” other nationalities without (in principle) “losing” (sōshitsu) Japanese nationality. Parts of this law are backed up by criminal penalties for noncompliance (Article 20), direct permissions and punishment by the Minister of Justice (e.g., Article 16), and recent court decisions mentioned in this chapter further empowering the GOJ’s ability to punish dual citizenship holders. My read is that whether or not the GOJ chooses to enforce the Nationality Law remains at their discretion; as we shall see below in this chapter, Japan’s administrative branch has great extralegal power to “clarify” laws through ministerial directive (see also Asakawa ibid). This enables bureaucrats, acting on behalf of the Minister of Justice, to activate or strengthen formerly dormant sections of the law given the exigencies of current political policy.

[ii] United States Department of State, personal communications, January and March 2011.

[iii] Furthermore, under Nationality Law Article 2.3, babies born in Japan whose nationality is unknown, or whose parents are unknown, are by default Japanese nationals (which leads to a conundrum when Non-Wajin babies are left in hospital “baby hatches” for abandoned children; incidentally, this loophole is the only way Japanese citizenship may be acquired by jus soli. See “Foreign baby left at ‘baby hatch’.” Kyodo News, September 8, 2008; “Akachan pōsto ni gaikokujin no kodomo: Kumamoto-shi no Jikei Byōin.” [Foreign baby left in “baby hatch” at Kumamoto clinic], 47News.jp, September 8, 2008. Vaguely, the media determined the “foreignness” of the baby as due to the unknown parents reportedly being Zainichi. More at www.debito.org/?p=1900.

[iv] “Top court backs repeal of Japanese nationality due to parents’ lapse abroad.” Asahi Shinbun, March 11, 2015, at www.debito.org/?p=13144; “Court rules in favor of Japan’s ban on dual nationality.” Mainichi Shinbun, January 21, 2021, at www.debito.org/?p=16393.

[v] “Dual citizenship in Japan: A ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy leaves many in the dark.” Japan Times, feature undated, mid-2018.

[vi] Sources for this section include: “Ex-President Fujimori should face Justice.” Japan Today, July 16, 2001; “Fujimori dismisses Interpol notice.” Japan Times/Associated Press, March 30, 2003; “Fujimori gets Peru passport, eyes return.” Japan Times, September 15, 2005; “Japan ‘uncooperative’ in Fujimori probe.” Kyodo News, November 19, 2005; “Fujimori tied to $300,000 in ‘hidden’ bank account.” Kyodo News, November 30, 2005; “Ending Impunity: Pinochet’s involuntary legacy.” The Economist, December 13, 2006; “Ex-Peruvian President Fujimori asked to run in Japan elections.” Mainichi Daily News, June 19, 2007; “Editorial: Fujimori’s Candidacy.” Asahi Shinbun, July 12, 2007; “Diet seat eludes absentee Fujimori.” Kyodo News, July 31, 2007; “Fujimori returns to Peru to face trial.” Associated Press, September 23, 2007; “Fujimori convicted.” Associated Press, December 11, 2007; “Peru’s Fujimori gets 25 years for death squad.” Associated Press, April 8, 2009; Debito Arudou, “Fujimori gets his; Japan left shamed.” Japan Times, May 5, 2009.

[vii] See for example “Mass sterilisation scandal shocks Peru.”  BBC News, July 24, 2002; et al.

[viii] The GOJ expedited the process by claiming the “Master Nationality Rule”, an interpretation of Article 4 of 1930’s League of Nations Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws, where a state has the option to recognize a dual national as a sole national if it so chooses, as long as the person in question has the nationality of that state. The Japanese government chose to recognize only Fujimori’s “Japanese nationality,” based upon childhood family registration in Kumamoto from abroad, which is also in contravention of Japan’s Nationality Law. The GOJ also claimed that under the 1985 revision of the Nationality Law, which permitted citizenship to pass through the Japanese mother’s blood as well as the father’s, that children with multiple nationalities had until the end of 1986 to declare or forfeit Japanese nationality; those who declared nothing would be assumed to have retained Japanese nationality and forfeited all others. Since Fujimori had not declared either way, he was reportedly grandfathered in. See “The many faces of citizenship.” Japan Times, January 1, 2009. See also Anderson & Okuda (2003: 334-289). They conclude that Fujimori’s Japanese citizenship was legally binding, as he had never notified the Japanese government of his intent to give it up, and the Japanese government had declined to notify him that he had lost it.

[ix] Anderson & Okuda (2003: 310-8); see also “Fugitive Fujimori relative is shielded by Japan,” New York Times, July 19, 2001, regarding the case of Fujimori’s brother-in-law, and former Peruvian Ambassador to Japan, Victor Aritomi Shinto’s expedited naturalization into Japan. Although Anderson & Okuda conclude that Fujimori’s Japanese citizenship was not necessarily a politically-motivated move (albeit one of government “discretion” not to a priori notify Fujimori of his lost citizenship), since he legally retained it by not giving it up, the authors also conclude that Aritomi’s example was of dubious legal standing, since it was a naturalization procedure (not a latent holding of Japanese citizenship). Moreover, a) it took only six months, much less time than average, and b) it was awarded despite an outstanding international arrest warrant, in violation of the Nationality Law’s abovementioned requirement for “upright conduct.”

[x] See for example “Author Sono calls for racial segregation in op-ed piece.”  Japan Times, February 12, 2015, which mentions Sono opening her home to Fujimori. There is an even more curious epilogue to the Fujimori Case. Reportedly bored with his Tōkyō lifestyle (Sims, ibid), Fujimori renewed his Peruvian passport and flew to Chile in 2005 to stand for election in absentia in Peru, whereupon he was immediately put under arrest pending extradition. He lost the Peruvian election, but was able to run for election in Japan in absentia in 2007 (where he lost again). Then Chile extradited Fujimori to Peru, where he was ultimately sentenced to prison in 2009 for 29 years for human rights violations, including abuses of power, murder, and kidnapping. After being pardoned by the President of Peru in 2017, Peru’s Supreme Court reversed the pardon and put Fujimori back in prison in 2019.

[xi] Ibid, Associated Press, March 30, 2003.

[xii] This is not the only case of an alleged criminal facing extradition for criminal charges overseas taking refuge in Japan’s naturalization processes. Delfo Zorzi, aka Hagen Roi, despite accusations of neo-fascist terrorism and mass murder by the Italian judiciary for allegedly taking part in a massacre in Milan in 1969, was also granted Japanese citizenship even though government officials had been aware for years that he was a convicted criminal under extradition proceedings. The GOJ refused extradition, and Zorzi currently directs an import-export business in Aoyama, Tōkyō. See“Zorzi got citizenship despite criminal past”, Mainichi Daily News, June 2, 2000.

[xiii] “24 defectors from DPRK still stateless: Prejudice rife in Catch-22 situation”, Yomiuri Shinbun, June 13, 2007.

[xiv] “Top court says marriage requirement for nationality unconstitutional,” Kyodo News, June 4, 2008. See alsoIwasawa (1998: 303), and Bryant (1991-2). Bryant’s discussion of how the very definition of “Japanese citizenship” (official koseki family registration) creates discrimination towards children born out of wedlock or insufficiently registered is particularly informative.

[xv] More on this below, but the abovementioned Bureau of Human Rights survey asked leading questions casting doubt on foreigners’ grounds to have human rights, and consequently got responses indicating that a majority of the Japanese public “does not believe that foreigners should have the same human-rights protections as Japanese.” See “Human rights survey stinks: Government effort riddled with bias, bad science.” Japan Times, October 23, 2007.

[xvi] Debito Arudou, “For the sake of Japan’s future, foreigners deserve a fair shake”, Japan Times, December 6, 2011; Colin P.A. Jones, “Schizophrenic Constitution leaves foreigners’ rights mired in confusion”, Japan Times, November 1, 2011; “‘Yakuza to gaikokujin ni jinken wa nai to oshierareta’, moto kenji ga bakuro shita odoroku beki ‘shinjin kyōiku’ no jittai” [“We were taught that foreigners have no rights”: A former prosecutor confesses how new entrants are educated in surprising ways], Niconico News, May 23, 2011.

[xvii] Dōshisha Law School Professor Colin P.A. Jones (ibid) concurs: “[T]he Japanese Constitution speaks of defining equality and ‘fundamental human rights’ as being conditioned on nationality rather than being human.”

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