LDP’s Kouno Taro submits J dual nationality proposal to Diet


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Morning Blog.  Good news.  Followup to yesterday’s post regarding granting Japanese citizenship to people in uncertain parentage circumstances:  Granting dual citizenship to people in international family circumstances.  Thanks to Kouno Taro, LDP Dietmember, for submitting a proposal to the Diet, after a good think about dual nationality following the paradoxes of Japanese-born American citizens winning Nobel Prizes. Let’s hope the proposal goes somewhere.  It’s about time the unnecessary identity sacrifices of enforced mononationality are resolved.  There is no need in this day and age to force multicultural people to legally deny themselves the existence of international roots.  (And note the caveats in the proposal below to make sure people like Alberto Fujimori don’t abuse their possible J citizenship for political purposes.)  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

LDP panel mulls easing law on dual citizenship
Mixed couples’ kids could have two nationalities
The Japan Times: Friday, Nov. 14, 2008
Courtesy of Sendaiben and Mark MT

Liberal Democratic Party member Taro Kono said Thursday he has submitted a proposal to an LDP panel he heads calling for the Nationality Law to be revised to allow offspring of mixed couples, one of whom being Japanese, to have more than one nationality.

The panel will scrutinize the proposal, but there is no time limit to formalize it as “this is not something that needs to be done anytime soon,” he said.

Under the current system, Japan, in principle, requires Japanese nationals who also hold citizenship in another country to choose one or the other before they turn 22.

However, there is no punishment for violators, and the Justice Ministry does not search for or even request people who publicly proclaim possession of multiple citizenship to choose one.

“The current law works unfavorably for honest people and those exposed to the media,” Kono said. “If we think about Japan’s future, we should establish a system as a nation to secure necessary human resources.”

The proposal calls for Japanese who hold other nationalities to report to local authorities. Those failing to do so would be subject to a fine and possible loss of their Japanese citizenship.

While the proposal allows for multiple nationalities, the government will not let Japanese hold nationalities of countries or regions that Japan does not recognize as nations, including North Korea.

Also under the proposal, foreigners would be able to obtain Japanese citizenship without giving up their original one. But the proposal does not say whether those who had had multiple nationalities and gave up one or more to retain their Japanese citizenship can regain other nationalities.

The proposal would also affect babies born in countries that grant nationality to those born there regardless of their parents’ nationalities, including the United States, Brazil and Australia.

Royalty, Diet members, Cabinet ministers, diplomats, certain members of the Self-Defense Forces and court judges can only hold Japanese nationality.

If holders of more than one nationality take such positions in other countries, they will lose their Japanese nationality, the proposal says.

To avoid granting citizenship to those with a limited connection to Japan, the proposal stipulates that those who have not lived in Japan for a total of 365 days until their 22nd birthday will lose their Japanese nationality.

The Japan Times: Friday, Nov. 14, 2008

18 comments on “LDP’s Kouno Taro submits J dual nationality proposal to Diet

  • Mark Mino-Thompson says:

    This proposal, even if it takes a long time to see it come to fruition (and judging by the article, the government is in no hurry to make it happen) will be welcomed by many if it is accepted.

    One of the proposals is somewhat disappointing though:

    “The proposal calls for Japanese who hold other nationalities to report to local authorities. Those failing to do so would be subject to a fine and possible loss of their Japanese citizenship.”

    Seems that even if the government is up to facing the reality of allowing for dual nationals, they still appear to have strong doubts and misconceptions about them, hence their idea requiring dual nationals to report their status so that those with “divided loyalties” can be recorded and identified.

  • “Also under the proposal, foreigners would be able to obtain Japanese citizenship without giving up their original one.”

    I would love to hear more about this. This would truly be a dream come true if it actually materializes.

  • Good to hear that this is at least being considered. The law as it is affects too many ‘international Japanese’, and so there’s probably a good amount of pressure from such people to change the status quo.

    I would imagine that at least some long termers would take J citizenship if they didn’t have to give up their own.

  • Debito, Do you think this has a chance at passing within a year or two? Has this been formally proposed before and shot down?

    — Frankly, no. And no.

  • i agree with debito, there is not a snow balls chance in hell that this will become a new law in a year or two! it may pass when japan elects a black prime minister..

  • Looking at Mr. Kono’s profile I think it’s no surprise that he spent some significant time overseas (and working in American political campaigns as well). While this law may not pass in the near future, I think the increasing number of internationalized Japanese citizens like Mr. Kono will eventually lead to a dual nationality law being passed in Japan.

  • even taro doesnt seem to be taking his own proposal very seriously

    “this isnt something that needs to be done anytime soon”


  • Mark Mino-Thompson says:

    While Mr. Kono’s comments do suggest a “go (very) slow” approach, I do think it’s worth suggesting the possibility that it could be his way of warming the hardliners of the LDP this idea (in that there is no rush to implement it) in order to not have the proposal rejected outright.

  • It’s great to hear that somebody in the government is thinking about rectifying the ridiculous situation with dual natonalities in Japan at the present time. A law professor at a certain private university in Tokyo explained to me back in 1984 that although the letter of the law says that people with dual nationality must choose either nationality before they turn 22, there is no measure in Japanese law which enforces this (although this was before Japanese nationality was automatically given to children of a mother with Japanese nationality and a father of non-Japanese nationality). Obviously, the government cannot take away the foreign nationality, neither, as a democracy, should they be able to rescind the Japanese nationality if given as a natural birth-right.
    Another wee story that I is about a good friend who gained Japanese nationality. On receiving his Japanese nationality, he was duly told by the officials at the Miistry of Justice to go without delay to the embassy of his original nationality to renounce his that nationality. When he got to the embassy, the officials there kindly told him that renouncing his first nationality is not possible, because once a person is born a national of that country, they are a national for good. So he still has dual nationality.
    Frankly, it seems to be the case also for people who have obtained Japanese nationality, the government does not acutually check up whether they have renounced their original nationality. (Debito, as you have already gone through this process, could you confirm whether this is right?)
    Once again, we seem to have a catch 22 situation here, where the Japanese government makes it a condition of acquiring Japanese nationalty that the original nationality has to be renounced. However, that cannot be done beforehand because it would cause the awkward situation of having no nationality, which I would think has to be avoided even for a limited period of time. Therefore, it can only be done after the Japanese nationality has been granted, after which time there is no way of cancelling it. (I cnnot fnd any law for this. Please correct me if I’m wrong.)
    Concerning the write-up in the Japan Times, I am of the same opinion as Mark Mino-Thompson above. What is the objective under the new proposal of requiring people with dual nationality to register with local authorities, other than to find out which people may be “perceived” to have divided loyalties? And what will happen in times of crisis? Would the fact that a person happens to have dual nationality per se be used against them?
    Additionally, if a person does not report their dual nationality, the proposal envisages a possible measure of cancelling their Japanese nationality. How can it be possible in a democracy for a state to cancel the nationality of its own nationals?
    Finally, the write-up above in the Japan Times uses the 2 words “nationaity” and “citizenship” for the same concept in Japanese “kokuseki/国籍” for which I believe, “nationality” is the correct word in English. Citizenship is generally translated as “shiminken/市民権=citizens’ rights” in Japanese, but as far as I am aware, there is no law covering citizenship or citizens (as opposed to the “residents”) in this meaning.

    — You are correct. The GOJ does not check if you have renounced. And they cannot force you to renounce. It’s not your NJ passport to surrender. It is the property of the foreign government and you must give it to them, not the GOJ. Also, if you naturalize, you WILL have two nationalities for a time (you get the J, then give up the NJ, if you so choose; you should never be stateless). And you do not have to give your original passport up (as long as your original govt of citizenship doesn’t mind dual nationality) — just keep renewing the original passport. There is no real communication between governments to suss out the duals –so it’s none of the GOJ’s business. The proposal would merely legalize what is happening anyway.

    I have the feeling that if we give the GOJ the benefit of the doubt, registry of second nationality is for bookkeeping purposes — we have no exact figures of how many international J children there are out there. I doubt it will be used against them if holding dual is legal (how can it be?) But I’m in a charitable mood this morning…

  • on debitos comments above,
    well if it isnt going to be used against them for what purpose is it being kept?what is the bookkeeping purpose?

    also,though i doubt whether this law about dual nat will happen anytime in foreseeable future,the question of what happens to couples surnames is sure to come up(at the moment only japanese married to foreigners can have separate surnames from partner)..
    if the foreigner becomes a japanese what happens then?
    would they and partner have to take same name just because theyd become japanese??

  • The article said:
    Royalty, Diet members, Cabinet ministers, diplomats, certain members of the Self-Defense Forces and court judges can only hold Japanese nationality.

    I may be wrong, but I believe security guards must also be Japanese citizens.

    For myself, I have no interest in obtaining Japanese citizenship (much to the surprise of an ojisan I was chatting to in the park the other day). But for my Japanese-Mothered kids, I have been quite annoyed that they have to choose at 22 which country. Albeit they could work around it by not telling they would be keeping the non-Japaense passport. However, it’s the principle of the thing: Just because you turn 22 doesn’t mean you can erase half yourself.
    The bitter part of all this is that I expect that if anyone of my blood benefits from this, it will be my great-great-great grandchildren.

  • this is the first long-term glimmer of hope for long term / permanent residents in quite a while…

    i could never give up my european passport (unless the english go their own way and leave the union), and feel an intense anger at being singled out for harassment and discrimination at the borders. dual citizenship would allow things to return to some kind of balance… but i’m not holding my breath.

    permanent residents really suffer in the political system due to lack of any representation / lobbying. it’s difficult for an organisation to precipitate out such a diverse and shifting community, but unless it does, change will always be extremely slow, and never with our interests at heart. in theory a cohesive and influential group, in practice fractuous and willful. together we stand, etc.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Royalty, Diet members, Cabinet ministers, diplomats, certain members of the Self-Defense Forces and court judges can only hold Japanese nationality.

    I may be wrong, but I believe security guards must also be Japanese citizens.

    Kakui Kujira, I think you might be confusing “people who must be Japanese citizens” with “people who must be citizens only of Japan”. All those people above are presumably forbidden from holding any other nationality, but there’s also another class of people who, despite not holding high-security jobs, are required to have Japanese nationality (even if they also hold another one). Does anyone have a list of such professions? I’ve seen various jobs mentioned from time to time and have been surprised that you had to be a citizen to have it, as they hardly involve national-level security clearance.

  • All those NJ citizens getting a J citizenship will be subject to pay tax on their foreign income also.

    Has anyone estimated how much extra tax revenue it will bring to Japan or is it still up in the air?

  • I think the law does need reforming, not least because it is widely flouted anyway and so would be discriminatory against anyone it was applied to. I do think it needs some thought as to the detail though. People taking citizenship should have to show that their existing nationality was not at odds with their Japanese one. Certainly North Korean citizenship would be inappropriate, but so might very authoritarian countries such as Saudi Arabia. At the end of the day though, a real “spy” would just lie anyway.There could be economic benefits to Japan having some more citizens with joint nationality and it is wrong to criminalise people just for holding dual nationality.

    Broadly I think allowing dual nationality in almost any situation is fine, but I don’t think they should relax the law too much on obtaining Japanese citizenship in the first place, the UK and France for example have naturalised a fair number of people who are committed to the overthrow of the state and the current way of life (wholesale), surely it can’t be appropriate to hand over citizenship in these cases.

    I am glad to see the unusual amount of thought being put into these proposals.

  • I’m surprised noone has mentioned how this might affect the Zainichi Korean population. Over the decades a percentage of them have naturalized as Japanese, but a desire to maintain their heritage has kept the majority from doing so. However, the North Korean nationality Zainichi (Japan does not technically recognize them as DPRK citizens, but as “Chosen” citizens, a term which dates from the period when it was a colony of Japan)have been slowly converting to ROK (South Korea) citizenship for years, mainly so they can get real passports and go abroad without issue. Allowing them to acquire Japanese nationality while maintaining ROK citizenship could, long term, POSSIBLY put the nail in the coffin of the DPRK-affiliated community in Japan by prompting a wave of conversion from DPRK to ROK citizenship, following by acquisition of dual-Japanese status. I certainly wouldn’t assume this will happen, but it could very well be one reason for anti-DPRK conservative politicians to consider support for it.

  • We have witnessed ex peruvian president Alberto Fujimori during his “exiled” years in Japan, claim more than once that he continue to be peruvian and even tried to run for peruvian presidency again even after granted japanese nationality in record time and nobody questioning that bizarre legal situation here, I guess that is the real spirit of the law in Japan, applied “case by case”.


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